When people describe your jewelry design, what do they say?
No doubt they use words like “beautiful” and “fashionable,” but are they able to articulate the particular way in which your designs stand out from the crowd? The best designers don’t just make beautiful jewelry, they have a recognizable aesthetic that’s as unique as they are. It took me many years and lots of trial and error to finally hone in on my vision as a designer, but once I did I was able to transform my business. All it took was stopping and looking around.
Falling for Savannah
I first fell in love with Savannah, Georgia, as a wide-eyed freshman at SCAD with her heart set on studying architecture. Walking the cobblestone streets of my new city, I took in the Spanish Baroque and Gothic Revival buildings with relish. I was enamored with the many cultures and nationalities I encountered every day, the vibrant art scene, and – most of all – the natural beauty. Mossy trees, sweet azaleas, and rolling water filled my imagination. I also quickly realized I was in the wrong major.
During a Jewelry 101 course, which I took because it filled a general requirement, I fell in love with jewelry as well and decided to make a switch. Four short years later, I graduated with the Outstanding Achievement in Jewelry Award. I opted to stay in Savannah and founded my own business, Kristen Baird® Jewelry.
Everything to Everyone
The first few years of running my business were all about the hustle. If you run a small business, I’m sure you can understand. I knew that I loved making pieces inspired by nature, but I was also eager to take on any project that came my way. If a client came to me with an idea for a custom piece, I made it happen, no questions asked. The plus side of this was that my business was growing and becoming successful, but the downside was I still didn’t know exactly what separated me from other jewelry designers.
A Little Tough Love
Everything changed for me in 2016 when I applied for the Halstead Grant and lost. It was the best thing that ever happened in my career. This may seem like a contradiction, but sometimes a little tough love is exactly what is required to get you back on track. The grant committee let me know that my business seemed to be split. On one hand, I was crafting some exciting pieces in an asymmetric, organic style. On the other, I was crafting custom engagement rings in any style requested. Suddenly, I found myself at a crossroads. What kind of jewelry did I want to design? What did I want people to think of when they heard the name Kristen Baird?
Back to the Roots
After a brief moment of disappointment, I looked around the city I’d come to love and realized my path was clear. I was enthralled by the rolling river, crashing ocean waves, and bubbling streams, so I began to create more pieces that echoed the shape, form, and texture of water. Savannah became my muse and, just like when I was a college freshman, I was suddenly wide-eyed, taking everything in and allowing myself to dream and create.
I experimented with reticulation, melting, and shaping metal until it resembled flowing water caught in time. This technique came to epitomize my signature style, and the Ripple Ring and Splash Cuff became my most recognizable pieces. The following year, I applied for the Halstead Grant again – and won!
The first time I said “no” to a project was definitely scary. It’s not in the nature of a go-getter, “people pleaser” like me to turn down business. But before long, I began receiving calls and emails from clients all across the country who had seen my work and wanted pieces in the Kristen Baird® style. Now, the clients who come to me do so with a specific look in mind. I’m able to be upfront about what to expect from my work and the effort that goes into it. Because there’s more of an identity behind my brand, clients are also willing to invest more in my work, because they know that what I create is high-quality and cannot be found anywhere else.
I still craft plenty of custom pieces, including engagement rings, but they are more of a collaboration between myself and the client. The biggest win: I love every single piece I make.
Craft Your Own Vision
Your source of inspiration might not be the same as mine. In fact, it shouldn’t be! The important thing is to be your most authentic self in your designs. This can be a bit nerve-wracking in an industry with so much competition, but there is no real success without a little risk. Jewelry making is an art form, and if you treat it as such people will notice and respond. So, if you ever find yourself stuck in your business, turn back to what inspired you in the first place. That’s where you’ll find the magic.