Karin Jacobson began adorning jewelry lovers in 2000 with the launch of her flagship collection at the world renowned Walker Art Center. Within two years, she was selected as the Grand Winner of the the prestigious AJDC New Talent Competition, establishing her jewelry as a national brand. Today, Karin runs a thriving business from her sunny studio in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District – the epicenter of a vibrant community of makers.
In partnership with her retailers, Karin is committed to meticulously crafted, beautiful art jewelry and wedding rings. Each piece is hand fabricated in her studio in Minneapolis, and focuses on ethically sourced materials, such as recycled metals and gemstones that are fair trade, recycled, domestically sourced, or purchased from gem buyers who have direct relationships with miners from small, artisanal mines.
See Karin's work at the upcoming American Craft Show at the St. Paul RiverCentre April 20-22! Put on by American Craft Council, this event consists of more than 230 top contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home décor artists from across the country. More details about the show here!
What drew you to jewelry? What do you find special about working with metals and gemstones?
What first drew me to jewelry was my love of making things with my hands. I’ve been making jewelry for over 25 years—since I became an apprentice right out of high school, so it kind of feels like my whole life. But when I think way back, the first thing I loved about jewelry was that making it felt like making tiny sculpture, and that the act of doing the work had a very meditative feel to it. I could get into a place in my head where I felt real focus.
And I think that the second biggest draw for me was my love of design and of the process of creating new work. It can be challenging and frustrating to try to convince the materials to do what you want them to, but really exhilarating when things work—and sometimes even more fun when things turn out differently, but even better than expected.
When I first started making jewelry I was fascinated by metals, because at the time it hadn’t even occurred to me to imagine how a person might work with them. I had the simplest of questions, like: How do you cut gold? (Turns out, a hand saw will work perfectly well!) Now, years later, I really love the medium. And gemstones… well, those are a whole world of amazing—there are so many more types of gemstones than I think people realize and so many more cuts and shapes than people often see in a typical jewelry store. It’s a really interesting world to get to go to the gem shows and see all of the variety. And I always have a hard time sticking to my budget when it comes to buying stones to use in my work!
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
I have! Even as a little kid, I wanted to grow up to be an “artist”. I put that in air quotes because at the time I had absolutely no idea what it meant to be an artist, but I loved to draw and paint and figured that seemed like a pretty good job to do when I grew up. I don’t come from a family of artists, but I do come from a family that very much encouraged my creativity, and valued all types of artistic and academic curiosity.
As I mentioned, I have been making jewelry since the summer after I graduated from high school, so jewelry has been my main creative outlet since then. When I was in school, I also loved drawing (I still do!) and making paper sculptures, which I think is something that has very much influenced my current work.
How do you integrate your artistic voice and style into your work?
That is probably the easiest thing I do, because in considering this question, I couldn’t imagine how I could not integrate my artistic voice and style into my work. It took a while to develop my own style (and I’ve definitely developed more than one style over the years that I consider mine), but these days I think it’s second nature that designs coming out of my studio look like Karin Jacobson Design work.
In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place? Why is local important?
I’ve lived most of my life in Minnesota and I do not think I would have ended up being the artist that I am—or maybe an artist at all—had I not lived here. When I was very young, in grade school, there were “arts in the schools” opportunities that gave me a chance to try out all kinds of mediums. Then, in high school, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Perpich Center for Arts Education, which is where I met the artist for whom I apprenticed. And now I have a studio in the Arts District in Northeast Minneapolis. The Twin Cities is really supportive of the arts of all kinds, and I feel lucky to have ended up here!
As for the importance of local makers, I think there are some obvious important things about buying local, including the fact that money kept in the community really builds the community, and that you know the working conditions of people who are making things locally because you can see them, right there, in their studios or local shops. But I also think that one of the real benefits of buying local goods is in getting a chance to meet the maker. I truly feel that it makes a piece more special. Clients who come to me for custom design work (especially wedding rings) very often tell me that is one of their favorite things about having worked with a local designer—they get to come to my studio, see the tools with which their rings are made, and get to share their story and their design ideas with me.
What do you see for the future of your business?
Honestly… more of the same. I love where my business is at right now, and if I continue on with even modest growth, I’ll be perfectly happy. I am not interested in growing so quickly that my main occupation becomes managing other people who get to make all of my work, because my favorite time is that spent at my bench, making the work myself. (That being said, of course I’ll admit that I’m always hoping to see my sales tick upward year after year!)
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
Yes, definitely! As I mentioned earlier, I think that the arts community here in the Twin Cities is vibrant and incredibly supportive of the arts and of local artists, and I absolutely love being a part of that!