We are thrilled to be connecting with Erin Trumble again. Erin is a lapidary artist, jewelry designer and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Erin below.
Hi Erin, thank you so much for sitting down with us again. For folks who might have missed our initial interview, can you start by briefly introducing yourself?
I’m Erin, owner and designer at Independent Mountain Jewelry Co. My family and I live in the Rocky Mountains right outside of Denver. I am constantly in awe and inspired by living in the woods. I’m a huge rock nerd, and love learning all about the way that our earth created all of the amazing materials that I work with. Working with stones and metal allows for me to create treasures for my clients.
Let’s talk about your creative process! How do you go from start to finish on a piece of jewelry or custom knife?
There is so much that goes into the process of taking a raw, rough, uncut piece of stone and turning it into a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable or functional art. From the very beginning of a unique jewelry design sketch; to choosing the colors, textures and types of stones to use in each piece; to deciding which metal will best compliment the stones in the finished piece; to consulting with clients and determining their style, tastes, and ideas; to cutting, polishing, and setting the stones in place. Then, lastly, to making sure the final product is just as exquisite as it was meant to be before it is wrapped, packaged, and delivered to begin its journey with its new owner. This process not only takes creativity, passion, and artistic effort, it also takes an extremely keen eye for detail. It requires patience, skill, precision, determination, focus, problem solving, dedication, love, and even sometimes, the clichéd- blood, sweat, and tears.
What kind of custom work do you do?
My designs include a wide variety of necklaces, earrings, rings, pendants, belt buckles, bracelets, cuffs, pocket knives, and kitchen knives.
What are some of the steps in your design and creation process?
When I make a custom-ordered piece, the design process involves interacting with the customer and incorporating their ideas, feelings, personality, and visions. After we decide on the design of the item, the next step in the process is sourcing and selecting the perfect stone, or combination of stones to use in the piece. I have very strict standards for sourcing the stones I use in my work. I try to source American-mined stones or ones from small family businesses and other ethically-minded sources. At this stage in the process, I plan time to consult with my client about the specifics of the custom-designed piece. This is a fun and interesting part of the process for me. I get to interact with my customer. I learn a little bit about the intended recipient of the piece and about the person who ordered it. It allows me to bring their personalities into the process, and ultimately, into the piece. Some clients have specific ideas and visions about what they want. Others are more inclined to let me take the lead and do most of the creative process part myself. I make a point of checking in with clients throughout the fabrication process by sending pictures and updates as the piece unfolds. I feel that this helps my clients connect with the process and the piece in a way that would be impossible for them to do if they just went to a store and bought a piece of jewelry or a pocket knife. I often tell clients that things are usually “ugly before they are beautiful”. The raw chunks of unpolished stones laid out across my workbench look very different than they eventually will in the finished, polished, and ready-to-deliver final product. The final piece will unfold through the various stages of creation and my client will end up with a stunning product that they can be proud to own, wear, or display in the end. Next, I take the raw stones and use the lapidary saw to cut them to the exact size and general shape I need for the design. This work requires patience, precision, and extreme focus. Each stone has to be cut exactly so that it fits tightly together with the others in the piece. Sometimes, the stones break or flake off, and I have to start that one all over again. There is beauty in the imperfection and unpredictability of using raw, natural materials to create my art. I always try to keep extra stones on hand for those occasions, but sometimes, that unpredictability requires me to regroup and try something completely different. That can sometimes be a challenge. But it is also a lesson in the art of the graceful pivot. Sometimes, I have to adapt and change stones or shapes on the fly to find the combination that works best for the project. After the stones are rough-cut, the next step is to shape and polish them. My lapidary machine- which I lovingly call “Bertha”- takes each stone through a six-step process to grind away any cut marks, scratches or imperfections and create a smooth, perfectly shaped, buffed stone. This process can take a long time, depending on the complexity of the stones, the intricacy of the design, and the various cuts required. I have to be extremely focused and “in the lapidary zone” during this process so that as the stones work through the process, they end up just as I have envisioned them for the final piece. I set the stones in place, form the metal tightly around them so that they will be safely secured in the final piece, and step back to admire what all of my hard work and creative effort have accomplished. At this point, the vision I had, and the drawings I made at the beginning of the design process are coming to life in the shape of a nearly finished work of art. From there, the final steps in the process begin to unfold. I perform my final inspection and finely buff out any remaining minute imperfections. I make sure the piece is smooth and secure. Then the piece is finally done. I step back, take a deep breath and admire each piece once it is finished.
How long does this all take?
Creating custom work takes time. Generally, I am working about a month out on custom orders. However, during busier times of the year sometimes I am working two months out at a time.
What is the hardest part of this process?
There are things about my job that are physically challenging. The time spent working on each piece can be a killer on my neck and back and shoulders. The cuts, scrapes, and burns are hard on my hands. But really the HARDEST part is not keeping all the beautiful pieces for myself.
What is the best part of this process?
The best part is when I get to sit back and admire a finished piece and think, “I created this thing, for this person.” I get to give a part of myself to someone who might be a total stranger. With each piece, I get to share a small part of myself through the process of creation. And that, for me, is truly a gift. Once the piece is complete, polished, assembled, wrapped and ready to go, I write a short “About Your Piece” card to include in the package. It includes a picture of the product-signed and authenticated by me, a lifetime guarantee, and a list of the materials that were used in its creation. Each and every piece has its own unique story that gets recorded in this way. Then when I finally hear from my client once they have received the piece! I love hearing their voice when they have the piece in their hands and are about to touch and feel it!
It was so great to reconnect. One last question – how can our readers connect with you, learn more or support you?
The best ways to connect with me are through my social medias and to sign up for my email list at www.independentmountainjewelryco.com! I’m @independentmountainjewelryco on all accounts. Are you interested in learning more about the stones I use in my creations? Follow my IGTV series called “Let’s Get Stoned” where I chat all about rocks! The best ways to support me and all small businesses on social media is to like, follow, comment, and share! If you’d like to learn more about the process of custom designs feel free to email me at email@example.com
- Website: www.independentmountainjewelryco.com
Ashley Tiedgen Photography