Get to know our artists: Todd Reed Q&A
In anticipation of our upcoming Todd Reed Trunk Show, we were lucky enough to sit down with Todd himself to learn a little more about the man behind the jewelry. An uncompromising talent in jewelry design, his penchant for raw diamonds is probably a hold over from his time dealing with another rawness– stitching roadkill into high fashion. Read on to discover how he got his start, what inspires him most, and his commitment to honoring natural beauty.
You’ve been designing and creating jewelry for quite some time now. In fact, you’re celebrating your studio’s 25th anniversary this year! How did it all begin?
I started making things at a really young age. As a little boy, rather than communicating with words, I’d often times give somebody a gift to convey my ideas. That’s how the first jewelry pieces really started.
I was making leather clothing with a designer named Eric Hodges, where we’d actually find roadkill and turn it into high end fashion clothing.. Through that, I got to make silver ornaments and objects that would go on the pants, coats, pullovers, and other things we were making at the time.
So, I’d say my jewelry got started as a means of communication and as a more intimate way than what I thought words could do, and from the actual direct way of starting to put silver buttons on a leather jacket rather than an antler button, and that morphed from making buttons to turning them into earrings or barrettes for girlfriends or friends.
Your work with raw, untreated, natural diamonds has challenged the world of diamond jewelry and its traditional beauty ideal. What draws you to raw diamonds and what inspires your vision of raw elegance?
When I was in high school, I took a geology class and it was probably my favorite thing. When I thought about college, I thought that I’d major in geology. One thing I loved about the rocks, which is what I still love, is the curiosity, that every one is going to look a little different, there are unique and special strengths and powers, almost like some kind of greater knowledge that rocks have…spiritual wisdom, universal wisdom, I don’t know what it is, but I believe in the rocks very much. I have always been particularly drawn to diamonds in general, for one reason or another. Not necessarily sparkly white ones, but just diamonds…energetically.
I started paying attention to how diamonds were used and how value was measured, and I thought it was interesting how we as a society glommed on to this concept of a cut, polished diamond while I found that most things were more beautiful and special in their raw state.
In 1992, I started to think about how to really glorify rawness. I realized I myself was raw and I wasn’t getting any cleaner, no matter what I wanted to do or however I wanted to buffer my emotions, sensitivities, or high level of passion for certain things…I couldn’t do it, it wasn’t me. I realized people didn’t like it, and I didn’t like it. So I thought, maybe other people are like this, maybe other people will appreciate something that’s raw, still beautiful and still valuable but it’s totally natural, and every one is a little bit different…so I started trying to buy raw diamonds at that time to put into jewelry.
We hear that you lived in Portland, Oregon! Tell us a little bit about your time there.
I moved to Portland to go to culinary school. I finally graduated high school, but I already had the jewelry thing going. I didn’t go to college but I kept working away, and one of the jobs I had was a pot washer, which is different than a dish washer, believe it or not. I had a great experience doing this job. I got well versed in different aspects of working in the kitchen, including banquets and in terms of making fruit carvings and ice block carvings. At a certain point, the executive chef and I discovered I had a knack for it and a passion for it, so he thought if he sent me to culinary school I could come back and be a sous chef.
So I took him up on that opportunity and moved to Portland, Oregon, and I moved my little jewelry studio and kept it in my bedroom, at my apartment. And I made jewelry and taught myself more and more about jewelry by going to a jewelry shop at the Willamette building after culinary school, hanging out over there, getting to meet other artisans and started getting jobs doing jewelry repair. Then, I made jewelry for the chefs and I had a little stall down under the Burnside Bridge at the Saturday Market…I eventually grabbed a spot at a studio of a well known glass artist out of Swan Island.
As my skills developed and got better, although I was still in culinary school, I started to think that I could actually do this to make a living, making silver and gold art. That was the first hit that I knew it was going to happen, was while I was in culinary school in Portland. Going to culinary school, I learned a lot about balance, texture, and color, but the bigger training was in business and I was able to later apply that to the jewelry business.
How has your creative background influenced your work today?
I’ve always addressed everything I’ve done in life through design. I’ve always loved beauty, I’ve always loved building things, and I’ve always loved putting my own innovative spin on things from a pretty young age- I started this when I was 17. I thought a lot about that story The Little Prince, something to the effect of, “it’s beautiful because I say it’s beautiful; because I love it, it’s love.” That’s always been my design ethos. I take a craft approach to how I cook. I like everything I do to have some element of design integrity. I like to have fun with it; that’s really important to me. I never turn on work or off work, it’s just the way things get done. I don’t go to work to design, I just go from one space to another, but it’s all the same stuff.
What’s next? How do you envision the future of your studio?
I feel limitless. It’s the fall…there’s a new air toward exquisiteness and uniqueness. Sixty-eight percent of what I make is one-of-a-kind. I’m totally committed to making the best art that I could possibly make. That starts to look more like objects, sculptures, more bowls, baskets, spoons. I just bought nine beautiful stones for a set of boxes to make for the holidays. My jewelry is best focused on one-of-a-kind work, and I want to focus less on reproducible…We reproduce the top designs, 20 or so, but everything else is one-of-a-kind. There’s an air toward exquisite – upgrading our materials, displays, communication, and the commitment to making one-of-a-kind work.
Explore Todd’s amazing collection, including engagement rings, wedding bands, and exquisite one-of-a-kinds, at our upcoming Todd Reed Trunk Show. Please join us for this special event this Friday, September 29th from 3-7pm, in-store and online.
Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity. Photos courtesy of Todd Reed.