We recently caught up with designer Karen Konzuk, founder of Konzuk Jewelry, to talk about the process and inspiration behind her architectural concrete and stainless steel creations.
When did you first know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
I had always had ambitions of being an architect throughout high school but didn't pursue it after graduation. I eventually ended up at art college with no idea of the final outcome. It was just a whim to take a jewelry course as I loved working with metal and it stuck.
When did you first get the idea to create architecturally inspired jewelry?
My first creations were very industrial, inspired by ball bearings and cogs. After a couple of years I minimalized the line and started creating pieces based on architecture which had inspired me from various trips taken in the past. Places like the Contemporary Museum in Montreal and St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco were huge influences in the start of my concrete collection.
Do you see any current trends in jewelry you admire?
I am not a fan of any trends in jewelry, although I am seeing a huge increase in the amount of concrete jewelry out there now. I have always been a huge admirer of German jewelry. They are always so innovative and contemporary.
What do people most look for when they are shopping for jewelry?
Individuality, simplicity (at least our customers), and wearability.
What are some of your most memorable experiences with Konzuk so far?
I have had several interactions with customers and enjoy creating custom pieces for them. I can't recall any specific experiences but most are hearing about their weddings and finding out things like they got married in concrete churches. I love it when they send on pictures from their weddings or tell stories about how they give a piece of jewelry to their wife for the birth of their children. It's such a great feeling to know someone has chosen your work to celebrate such momentous occasions in their life
What are the challenges in working with concrete? How is it different?
It is a very challenging material to work with. Things like curing time time effects the turnaround for a piece. We have to cast several of each item at a time to ensure we always have stock for orders. Our typical lead time for shipping is 24 hours, so we need to keep on top of stock.
The casting is also an issue. It's very difficult to get a perfect cast each time. It's taken a lot of experimenting to get the technique perfected. The hardest part is trying to create new pieces. It's frustrating to have to wait 3 days before you take the concrete out of the mold to see the final result just for it to be a bad cast.
Concrete dust is also hard to deal with. The ventilation required for the studio is pretty intense as to inhale the dust would have pretty bad consequences. Concrete dulls tools very fast so we go through a lot of files, saw blades, grinding disks.
Do you design in other disciplines?
My husband and I have designed a lot of the furniture in our house to suit our needs. We are very particular about what we would like and have a hard time finding anything anywhere. I would say my jewelry influences what I design rather than the other way around. I have often though a lot of my jewelry designs would make amazing lighting, but I just haven't followed that route yet.
Your line is noted for being affordably good design. What was the decision process in creating an accessible line? Would you ever incorporate more luxurious materials or more unusual materials?
Because my designs are more simplified and minimal, I feel that to keep the work accessible is important. Most of my audience are architects and designers who appreciate this aesthetic and price point. I do have plans for more high end items - diamonds, platinum, and concrete perhaps. More one of a kind or limited edition pieces.
What architects influence your work most?
Mies Van der Rohe, because I love his use of large plains of material that seem to just float. And Le Corbusier - I just love what he was able to do with concrete. Also Eero Saarinen - the same for his use of concrete. And I love the sculpture of Donald Judd.
The Konzuk range includes seven lines, including a new line, Sway. Click through our slideshow for a look at some of Konzuk's pieces.