They say that traveling the world can change your life. For Kristen Robison, it did just that. She had just decided not to go to law school when she took a trip that helped her decide her future. Before this trip, she had dabbled in wire-wrapped jewellery that she managed to sell. However, while in India, she learned how to solder jewellery and made her first ring. This inspired her to open her own shop, Minoux Jewelry.
Minoux Pieces are handcrafted in Portland, Oregon. They are environmentally-friendly, and are made using recycled materials whenever possible. Kristen designs all the products to be minimalist and beautiful. We got the chance to get to know Kristen and ask her a few questions about her craft, jewellery and life.
Lola Who: How do you get inspired to design such beautiful items?
Kristen: For this most recent collection, my intention was to design each piece as something Id personally love to wear. It might seem strange, but Id never actually taken that specific approach for an entire collection. So while I did keep a series of very rough sketch ideas, most of the sketches never made it anywhere. I just sat at the bench, almost every day for about a month, and cut out pieces of flexible wax and laid them over my fingers and wrists, and made shapes out of sterling silver and put them over the top of my fingers, until I came up with designs that felt right and that I knew I would love to wear. Oh, except for Necklace 01! That one was inspired by the shape of a hammerhead shark head. I saw a few of them during a stay in southern Baja Mexico last winter.
Lola Who: Do you have a favourite piece in your collection?
Kristen: My favorites seem to keep changing, but right now I tend to wear some mix of Ring 01, Ring 05, Ring 09 and Bracelet 02 every day.
Lola Who: When you design your jewellery, do you have a specific person in mind?
Kristen: For this collection, I tried to have only me in mind! But sometimes when Im wondering if a design is worth pursuing, Ill ask myself if I could see Jenna Lyons or a young Jane Birkin wearing it. The answer to that question actually really helps with design decisions.
Lola Who: Can you tell us more about your hobbies and how you keep organized?
Kristen: Growing my own food has long been so important to me, it actually feels a little disrespectful for me to call it a hobby, but it probably fits in that category. Lately, Ive been excited about restorative Yin Yoga, which is basically like meditation for beginners with gentle stretching. A friend got me into it, and its a great antidote to the business syndrome we all fall victim to. I also volunteer with a local environmental group called Bark, and we work to protect the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Lola Who: Can you tell us more about your trip to India and how it influenced your craft?
Kristen: I went to India during an exploratory and aimless time in my life. I had just graduated from college with a degree in political science and an intention to go to law school but was luckily realizing that law wasn’t what I really wanted to do. In India, I learned how to solder metal using ancient techniques. It was the first time I had ever soldered or made a ring, and I was incredibly struck by the skill of the artisans I learned from, and the labour-intensive techniques, which required very few tools. I think that ethos has stayed with me to this day.
With 3-D printing and CAD, you can design and prototype a piece of jewelry completely on a computer, without ever touching anything but a keyboard. I may use that technique in the future for certain designs, but in general I find that hand carving and forming prototypes is a very rich experience that for me, leads to better designs and jewellery that feels a bit more soulful.
Lola Who: What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Kristen: Wow, thats a hard question. I do have a few specific achievements that Im very proud of, but I think the honest answer is that I dont really have a biggest highlight. For me, the highlights of my career happen in small ways, almost every daywhen I feel tingling excitement and anticipation about a design idea that pops in my head, the thrill of the mental shift that happens when I feel myself going into design mode, the pleasure of shaping my own schedule. Even the stress can serve as highlights, when Im able take a step back to look at them. Taking all sorts of risks, learning to trust my instincts and be a boss, and allowing myself to be temporarily taken over by my tedious perfectionist tendencies because I trust that they will deliver something that Im happy with!
Check out her products at minouxjewelry.com
By Hillary Loucks