My fascination with Brandon Holschuh began when I spied an incredibly unique bead he made on Instagram. I vividly remember I was sitting in my hotel room in Edinburgh, Scotland, and my jaw about hit the floor. I was thrilled when I found out he was showing in San Francisco in August when I returned to California, and I got to meet him in person and check out a similar bead. I love everything about it, from the clearly hand-fabricated texture to the diamonds and variation in metal colors.
You told me that you’ve had a life long fascination with beads. Is this what got you going in jewelry design?
Yes, I began collecting ancient and ethnic beads as a teenager. Everything started as a collection. I began collecting beads, artifacts, coins, bones, parts, gemstones, rocks and any small object that had a story. I love learning about the history of the object, the provenance and I equally love the retelling the [object] story as well.
I learned to work with metal as a vehicle to help present the object or artifact. So making a metal armature or a mount to hold the objects began the evolution to jewelry. Copper turned to silver… silver turned to gold… and little by little diamonds creeped in. Our current work still pays homage to beads, but they are diamond beads. They are still strung on wire, but it’s now platinum. The forms are still present but they are also raised in platinum, gold and palladium. We have stayed consistent with the aesthetic throughout the evolution, but the materials are precious, the designs more complex and the whole feel is more refined.
Your pieces have such a raw, organic, yet luxe aesthetic. What’s your inspiration for your designs?
It seems to silly to even say this, but it’s the absolute truth — we honestly let the metal tell us what it wants to be. We process the material in such a way that we have a unique and intimate understanding of its properties, its working capacity and its ability to change shape. This working relationship is how we push the metal to its limits. We get asked a lot about our process and it’s sometimes shocking to hear that our forms, shapes and designs are entirely hand-fabricated. We do not carve wax or cast anything. Each piece incorporates so many processes and various techniques it’s entirely a product of process. We do a lot of fusing, reticulation, forming, raising and sinking. We experiment a lot and we welcome unexpected results. We integrate those into the designs. We make a lot of parts. With those parts we make small objects. With those objects, we decide if it’s going to be a brooch or a ring or a necklace. Once in a while we stumble upon two parts that are similar. Those usually become earrings or cufflinks. The whole design process is organic, as is the work.
What do you find are the most challenging and rewarding things about being a jewelry designer?
I’m an artist. My medium happens to be jewelry. I make small wearable sculptures. Even though I’m a jeweler, I’m still an artist who has a voice. I use jewelry to communicate an idea. Just like a painter makes you feel a certain way when you view their painting, I use jewelry to evoke a certain emotion. More importantly our work still has a conceptual component. Actually, it has three main components that must be met to consider a piece complete. Here they are, in order:
A finished piece must be immediately beautiful. It must be accepted by the general public as an object of beauty. It must exude luxury, refinement and sheer beauty in design and material. This is for the client, the customer and the collector.
Next, it must be well made. It must gain accolades and admiration from other makers, jewelers and craftspeople who appreciate the vast and dynamic processes that go into each piece. We must trigger the question of how it’s made, what processes were used and what the complexity of the design is. This is for those who make and our counterparts. It’s also for the critics, jurors, judges and masters of the craft.
The final component is conceptual. We make work that communicates an idea. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s expertly crafted. But it also has meaning. We excel here. We challenge the design to communicate a concept or to tell a story without words. Sometimes the viewer creates their own connection to the work. This interpretation is personal. Mostly it’s an emotion. Sometimes it’s literal. We have made pieces that are purely conceptual. This is for the sentimental, the heirloom seekers. This is also for academia and those who want a deeper connection with the objects in their lives. We love to tell the stories. Remember, it’s always about the story.
If you weren’t a jeweler, what would you be doing?
Nothing. I can’t imagine a life where jewelry isn’t in my thoughts and actions in every minute of every day. My time is spent equally between my loving and supportive family and my studio. I have two amazing daughters and between my duties as a husband and father, there isn’t any time for much else.
OK, and now I have something VERY special to share with you. This is the debut of Brandon’s off-the-charts gorgeous emerald and diamond ring.
If you’d like to contact Brandon about his work, you can reach him at [email protected] or 216-577-6365. There are also links to his website and Instagram at the beginning of this article. I have a feeling there are more than a few future Brandon Holschuh collectors reading this article…