A true artist reconstructs reality. She offers a unique vision, a way of seeing the world so original that it spawns a new creation, projecting a new reality. Sarah Graham is such an artist. Her pioneering aesthetic of edgy, blackened cobalt chrome metals juxtaposed with high karat gold and diamonds opened a fresh take on designer jewelry. Conflating the traditional categories of art jewelry, fine jewelry and high fashion, her raw yet refined look struck a chord, making designer jewelry fresh and exciting. Often imitated but never duplicated, she’s a true trendsetter.
In my recent interview with Sarah she shared the roots of her inspiration. “During my apprenticeship I ran across a suite of jewelry by Marsh, an old San Francisco company that mixed iron with precious metals. I found the contrast so striking I immediately knew this was the direction I wanted to go. I work with cobalt chrome instead of iron as it resists tarnish and is hypoallergenic. My aesthetic’s totally different yet the contrast of metals is the same.”
Sarah’s roots are deep in nature. She draws her inspiration from the natural world, and the well is deep. Currently turning the page on an exciting new life chapter, she’s just transplanted her family and business from San Francisco to Aspen, Colorado, opening new doors to nature’s bounty.
Her excitement is infectious: “We’ve just moved to a 250 acre ranch in Woody Creek, just outside Aspen. Fairly remote, there’s wildlife all around. It’s the perfect place to find inspiration! I’m working on my latest collection, debuting at Elliott Yeary Gallery this summer. I’ve always moved around a lot as there are so many beautiful places to live in the world. I especially love experiencing the extremes. Coming from a small apartment in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill to the mellow lifestyle of Aspen’s quite a change!”
A “hands-on” artist, Sarah’s deeply involved in the craft and technology of jewelry making, exploring cutting-edge techniques such as 3D printing. “After I graduated I took a job managing a small jewelry pawn shop that had a bench jeweler. He allowed me to come watch, giving me some instruction. I was hooked! After a two year apprenticeship I worked five more years as a bench jeweler for a variety of companies.”
Effortlessly combining left and right brain tendencies, Sarah is adept at both business and art, often a challenge for true artists. “My father was a CPA and my mother was an artist, so I had both influences in my childhood. I have a degree in International Business and have always found business to be very interesting. You can do business without art and can make art without business. But if you want to make a living off your art your only chance of success is to understand business! I feel lucky that I understand and really enjoy both.
“I founded my company in 2000 and have always been primarily wholesale through jewelry stores. I started with craft shows and continue to do them, but also do the Couture Show in Vegas. I do about 6-8 Trunk Shows a year, important not just for sales but also for training the sales staff at stores and connecting with my collectors. I learn so much from watching my customers try on pieces and listening to how they experience my jewelry.”
A proven success in the realm of high-end designer jewelry, Sarah offers her tips on the future of the market: “My best advice is to develop a unique look that’s broad enough to allow growth while always being recognizable as your own. The future of the market’s tricky. There will always be a strong market for high end, unique jewelry but the market itself’s changing. The way people buy and the competition for disposable income has evolved. Designers and retailers face a tough challenge keeping up. Technology gives us new avenues for reaching customers but also competes with our product. I would love to just do what I do, design what I love and not worry so much about the market!”
Spoken like the true artist she is, this trailblazer is sure to continue to inspire with her unique vision, depth of knowledge and powerful imagination. We wish her great success in her emerging life adventure and look forward to relishing the new treasures that emerge!
Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 80 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. To add her Collections or book a lecture: www.jeweljewel.com, 877 539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC.