For Meghan Hubbell Proctor, the experiences associated with jewelry are paramount to her customers as well as to herself.
Her newly expanded and relocated store, Hubbell Proctor Designs of Newnan, Georgia, will demonstrate that philosophy with a couple of experience-friendly features built into the space.
For starters, Proctor has placed a window allowing customers to view the shop where their custom pieces are being made.
“People love the process. They’re always asking, ‘How do you do this?’ They ask often if they can watch. They want to see how the castings are done,” she says. Proctor adds that in addition to the fun and curiosity of seeing the process unfold, customers gain assurance that nothing untoward is being done to their piece.
Another special experience-promoting feature is a men’s area, with the case built to feel like a bar, and offering drinks.
“Customers come in wanting an experience. It’s not just about the piece itself,” she says.
Hubbell Proctor Designs is Proctor’s new direction for her late father’s store. Richard Hubbell, who died last year, established Hubbell Jewelry Design and began teaching her the craft when she was 6 years old.
“My dad was Navajo, and he learned to make jewelry on the reservation in New Mexico, where I’m from,” says Proctor. “He did other things, but he always had a passion for jewelry, and always returned to it. When we moved to Georgia, he worked for Georgia Power, but he got the calling and set up shop in the basement.”
Meghan took an interest and learned to cut waxes and do layouts early on and continued to work with her dad through high school. Her mother, Lee Ann Hubbell, did string work, stringing Mikimoto cultured pearls.
“She thought there’s nothing conventional about jewelry, and there should be no rules,” Proctor says. When her mother died five years ago, Proctor began transitioning to take over the business.
Like her father, Proctor focuses on custom design almost exclusively, and customers come from out of state to have pieces made.
“We rarely advertise, most of our business is from word of mouth,” she says. During the initial days of the pandemic in 2020, Proctor found herself as busy as ever, juggling scores of custom orders while major jewelers in nearby Atlanta saw their orders diminish drastically.
Proctor’s Navajo heritage is a significant influence on her jewelry designs and fabrication techniques.
“The difference (from other processes) is in the way a piece is cast. The designs – there’s a lot of sand casting. And how you get the stones. You know where the mines are, where you’re getting the stones. And the fabrication: instead of by machine, a lot is hand done. Whereas now, young jewelers go to college and learn CAD right off the bat. There’s a lot of carving, a lot of hand stamping. …
“And being aware of your culture and history.”
Proctor’s unique creative approach and thought processes stood her in good stead when she competed in the Atlanta Jewelry Show’s CAD-CAM Challenge and won first prize in 2019 and again in 2020.
In both two-part competitions, jewelers spent Part 1 creating a piece from a painting by New Mexico-based French designer Rémy Rotenier. The 2019 design was a challenging red-and-green ring, and the judges watched the jewelers work on screen.
Proctor met Rotenier then, and they clicked when she mentioned Navajo tacos and green chili burgers. They still keep in touch, and she has made pieces for him.
One of the things that made her stand out and win the competition that year was Rotenier’s appreciation for her thought processes and attention to “little things,” such as figuring out how much to adjust to account for shrinkage that occurs when casting a piece in CAD.
During the 2020 competition, Part 2 involved meeting with diamond cutter Maarten de Witte and a mock client to develop a ring for the client’s wife using a stone de Witte brought in.
“The idea was to see how we take in a job,” Proctor recalls. “They really liked the questions I asked. I asked things like what the wife did, which finger she would wear it on, when it would be worn,” such as an everyday ring versus a cocktail ring.
It turned out, the wife played piano, and Proctor, who plays piano herself, often removes her rings to play because they can be top-heavy.
“I made the shank wider at the bottom to counter the weight at the top,” Proctor said.
Whether she wins or not, Proctor finds the competitions beneficial for a variety of reasons.
“I like different experiences; I love to learn different things. I love making pieces and thinking outside the box. … It makes me more a part of the industry. And I am a competitive person! I like to push the boundaries.”
Her new location – expanded from 1,500 square feet in the previous store to about twice that in the cozy downtown spot affords Proctor the opportunity to hire a staff of two as well as erect a shop window and build a bar-like men’s area.
As for the joy of the experience, her favorite part of the jewelry business might be sharing in her customers’ experience.
She recalls the time a man came in wanting to use his ring to make wedding bands for his two daughters and didn’t have time to go through a long process because he expected to die in a month. Proctor had to gather her emotions to work with him, and later one of the daughters thanked her for being such an important part of the process.
It’s one of the reasons she wouldn’t go anywhere else but Newnan, Georgia.
“I’m grateful for my community,” she says. “I cannot imagine a better place to be.”