Spotlight: Karen Karch
January 16, 2018
by GRACE WILCOX

We’re thrilled to announce that ESQUELETO is now carrying Karen Karch in our Oakland location and online! Karen has been designing jewelry for 25+ years. From Karen’s website:

“Karen Karch’s sensibility is inspired by contradiction: glamorous & gritty, feminine & masculine, opulent & restrained. Then, filtered through her fashion forward sensibility, additional inspirations include a range of historical influences from Gothic to Victorian.”

We sat down with Karen to discuss how technology has impacted her latest line, her favorite combination of stones, changes she’s seen the industry throughout her career and more!

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Grace: Your latest line explores how to best use cutting edge jewelry technology with your aesthetic of the handmade, could you elaborate on the type of technology you’ve been experimenting with and how it has affected your design process?

Karen: The evolution to CAD and 3-D printing. When I began my jewelry business I was at the bench, hands on, creating the pieces. I developed our signature “weathered” texture by using numerous tools and stamps. Over the years, as the business grew, I stepped away from the bench and taught my assistants how to duplicate the look. Many years later, we began using CAD to perfect the formation of the settings, especially for our signature tiara ring designs. We would then print them in wax, and cast them into a silver model. When I worked with our first model makers, they said that our weathered texture could not be duplicated with the CAD technology. The pieces were created flat and square. Once the wax was cast into silver, we then rounded the edges and gave the pieces their organic surface with added texture. Years later, with a new assistant who was clever with CAD, I saw that we could mimic our textures by creating a number of different profiles that are then pieced together. Sometimes they still need some hand texturing and sometimes the CAD makes them just right. I love the juxtaposition of the precision (with the settings) with the organic of the metal surfaces. With this technology we are also able to create tiny pieces with so much detail, best illustrated in our KarchWolfe Collection, a collaboration with my assistant, Deme Wolfe-Power.

G: You have been designing and creating your unique jewelry for almost 30 years which is incredible! Can you describe a favorite piece (or pieces) that you’ve designed?

K: I love rings more than anything. It’s so hard to choose, but these are some of the designs I wear daily:

The vine designs have been signature for years. About 5 years ago I decide to go for it and to create “Gladiator” Rings with them, crisscrossing the vines and making them stretch from knuckle to knuckle. From there I realized that I could take them further, to reach the length of the whole finger!

Another favorite is our Floating Star “Tiara” rings stacked with our Belgian Tiara Rings, whether for a bridal set or for something colorful.

 

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G: As someone with deep roots in the industry, how would you say it’s changed since you began your career in jewelry?

K: There is so much more creativity in fine jewelry now. Years ago it was shocking when I proposed textured designs and black diamonds for bridal. I was a pioneer of the alternative bridal movement. I also love that fine jewelry has stretched its definition to include decorating previously ignored body parts and has become much more aligned with fashion!

G: You use such a unique and interesting combination of metals and colored stones. What are some of your favorite combinations and why?

I have an eye for unique diamonds in different natural colors and cuts but also I love brighter more earthy gems. I’m known for my Turquoise and Ruby pieces.

G: As a longtime resident of New York, how would you say the city impacts and inspires your designs? Has that wavered with the ever-changing pulse of Manhattan?

K: I’m obsessed with fashion and street style and New York is one of the best places for that. You cannot beat the creative energy and inspiration. I have always been inspired by duality and contradiction.

Over the years my appreciation for the landscape of the desert in the Southwest (where I grew up) has taken a bigger hold on my creativity and has infused my work with an urban/organic vibe. Our international travel, including recent trips to Japan and to Rio, has also influenced more recent pieces. Actually, I’m currently in Australia and will be planning a collection based on being here as well!

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