I suppose that being an architect and in the architecture field should have deterred us from pursuing a jewelry studio. Adding to that feeling is the fact that we don't have any experience in making jewelry or casting metals ourselves. Indeed, we have come to learn that this is a very beautiful skill set where experience and know how are very important. One of the great things about our architectural work is that we work on a lot of custom design, and because of this we collaborate with a lot of builders developing details. In many ways, this is a similar relationship that we have developed with our casting studio Craft Sanyuu in Japan to make our jewelry.
Eppich Studio, West Vancouver, Nick Milkovich Architects (Hiroko Kobayashi, Project Manager)
Triangle Park, Vancouver Olympic Village, Nick Milkovich Architects (Neil Prakash, Project Architect)
Before there was Craft Sanyuu though, there was just us! So we began our search to find a casting studio that we could work with. Our search began in Vancouver and we looked locally for a craftsman to work with. Most of the people we spoke with where artisans themselves, and were interested in only making their own jewelry. In Vancouver there are a few additional casting studios, but we found that they were quite busy and it was difficult to get our foot in the door with them having no previous experience.
The first place outside of Canada that we decided to look was actually India. I have family there that is involved in the jewelry industry, and Hiroko and I were heading there for a family Vacation. While we were in the beautiful pink city of Jaipur, we met with a local jewelry company and explored working together. Our working relationship with this company lasted about 8 months and resulted in us developing four different prototypes and a production run of our Q series cufflinks. We learned a lot during that process but ultimately the company wasn't a good fit for us.
Early Study Model for a ZigZag Series Cuff before polishing. One of the first pieces we made in India - which didn't pass our strict quality control requirements.
Why not? Well, there were a few issues. First, Jaipur is known more for gem setting than making silver jewelry. The pieces that we were asking the company to cast were much larger than what they normally make, and so they also needed to go through a learning curve. Having not developed a suitable process for casting our jewelry, there were quality issues in that not all of our pieces had the same weight, strict dimensional tolerances, and the surface finish wasn't completely flawless. There were small black marks that appeared on the surface of some of the pieces, and over time, the pieces tarnished rather quickly. This was due perhaps to the mixture of the .925 Sterling Silver they were using.
We were 95% ready to produce the twist series bangle with this company before we got cold feet! For us, quality level is very important and we didn't want to start our business with a sub-standard product. We feel very strongly that what ever we make it should have the intrinsic value of great materials, great craftsmanship, and (hopefully you will agree with us) great design! Thus began our search in Japan. Part 3: Discovering Craft Sanyuu