In this series, I’m excited to bring you three very talented African American jewelry designers I’ve come to know and admire. There are so many skilled designers on the handcrafted jewelry scene today, and the choice wasn’t easy. After much thought, I decided on these three designers because they are special and distinct in their approaches as well as their styles.
I seldom buy my jewelry in stores these days. Sometimes I’ll come across an interesting-looking necklace or bracelet when I shop, but I much prefer to buy handcrafted jewelry directly from jewelry designers. Why? Well, for a few reasons.
First, I prefer the originality and uniqueness that you get with the “one-of-a-kind” or “few-of-a-kind” pieces that indie jewelry designers make. I also prefer to support small business people, especially African American designers, rather than hand my money over to giant corporations.
But mainly I buy handcrafted jewelry from designers because I like knowing a little something about the person behind the piece, like where her studio is located or the details about how and why she crafts. I feel more of an emotional bond to jewelry that is made, piece-by-piece, with pride, love, and care than I do to a store-bought item that came off an assembly line.
It’s true that quality handcrafted jewelry sometimes costs more, but to me, it’s worth it. As a jewelry designer myself, I understand all the hours and back-breaking work involved as a designer hunches over a piece while crafting it to perfection. I decided long ago that I’d rather have fewer pieces that I cherish than to own a whole bunch of shiny stuff that I know little or nothing about.
So let’s get started. You’re in for a real treat over the next few weeks as you meet some truly talented African American jewelry designers.
Tracey Timmons–custom-designed jewelry
Romantic, sentimental, classic. These are the words I would use to describe Tracey’s lovingly crafted, custom-designed pieces. Yes, you are so ready to own one of them.
Got a treasured photo or ornament that holds a special place in your heart? You need someone who can make custom jewelry. Tracey excels in crafting little jewelry treasures out of personal items such as a favorite image of your child or grandchild or a meaningful antique trinket.
Or maybe you’re holding on to a beautiful gemstone or cabochon that you picked up while traveling or shopping online. Tracey will work with you to create an elegant, statement piece of jewelry that will bring out the best of your stone.
“Much of the work I do is via commission,” Tracey says, “and those pieces are the ones that truly excite me.”
Tracey Timmons got her start in jewelry design about twelve years ago when living in Anchorage, Alaska. While working for the state court system, she bought a pair of handmade bead and wire earrings from one of the court clerks.
“I was curious and intrigued about how she could do it, so when I got home, I dissected them to see how they were made.” After teaching herself beading and wire wrapping, she moved on to crafting jewelry using metal clay.
Finally, she picked up traditional metalsmithing with the help of a couple of workshops, videos, and many books. “In my experience, classes and workshops give a jewelry designer the confidence to move on ideas,” she explains.
I have spent time studying metalsmithing and know first-hand how difficult it can be to get good at it, and I can assure you that Tracey’s skills are remarkable for someone with so little formal training. She’s obviously patient, determined, and dedicated.
I ask her how she is coping with COVID-19 and whether it has had an impact on her creativity. “This whole dynamic has been tough mentally,” she says. “I’ve found myself in a creative funk and not very productive creatively.” She says that she’s beginning to get back into the groove by doing small things in her studio in South Carolina, such as working on jewelry components and building her brand.
Tracey is 54-years-old and has plans in the works to leave her job and turn her skills and love of crafting jewelry into a full-time occupation very soon. “I feel like I’m ready to create full-time now.”
In her spare time, she enjoys thrift shopping. “I love finding things and using them in an unintended way. And mixing old with new.” She says she’s a homebody and a fairly private person but she’s working on opening up. I smile when she adds, “My dad thinks I’m the funniest person ever, though, and I can make him laugh to the point of coughing during a conversation.”
Trying to decide whether to have that custom-designed piece made in silver or gold? Check out my earlier post, “Gold and Silver Jewelry Tips for Women Over 50.”