When I first began designing jewelry nearly three decades ago, all layout work was done on paper or vellum with pencil, ink, and watercolor. Drafting was, at that time, not part of my skill set, and I found myself in the awkward position of being an artist without a means of expression. Knowing I needed to improve in that area, I sought out a master of the process, Robert Ahrens, former lead designer for Van Cleef & Arpels. Under his brief tutelage I began to learn the techniques associated with the art of jewelry design.
Fast-forward twenty or so years, and I found myself in exactly the same position, only this time with respect to an entirely different set of skills. The industry had adopted CAD/CAM technology as its new standard, and there is no way to translate freeform watercolor technique into the precise, step-by-step procedures required for 3D computer modeling. Once again there was simply no alternative but to start at the beginning and learn all I could about this new, digital environment.
It took some time to master this radically different way of working, but there are many benefits to designing digitally. The files I create as part of the design process are used to create the models that eventually become the finished pieces. Any adjustments can be made with a few keystrokes, and those alterations can be rendered out as photo-realistic images for immediate review by my clients. Speed, accuracy, and communication are all greatly enhanced via the use of these new techniques.
Still, almost every design I make, whether it’s a custom, client-driven design or one of my travel-inspired originals, begins with a simple sketch. There’s no substitute for the feeling of a pencil in the hand or the sound of its finely honed tip scratching across paper when it comes to the spontaneous act of creation.