Los Angeles-based designer Claudia Endler has been making jewelry for over decade, creating some of the finest custom pieces in the industry. In 2009, she was awarded the Phyllis Morris Award in Design. Her works have been featured in countless publications, and you’ll find her pieces in the collections of cultural leaders, including entertainment stars, museum curators, architects, gallery directors, artists, and other jewelry designers.
Claudia was kind enough to do a Q&A with The Pursuitist, talking about her work, trends in jewelry and design, and much more.
Q. Tell us about yourself, including what you do and how you got there.
Claudia Endler: I started my career as a jewelry designer a bit later in life and it was a journey. I always loved jewelry and fashion since I was a kid. You could not drag me away from the windows of every jewelry store in the mall. So after working as a sales representative in the fashion business, I wanted to pursue something of my own. I went on an exploration of what would make me happy and took many classes ranging from writing to graphic design to drawing, and considered interior design and architecture. I kept coming back to jewelry. Somehow I could not deny my love for carving and creating what I feel are little sculptures which you can wear. The road was very grass roots. Taking classes at night and on the weekends while working full time, building my collection one piece at a time on my kitchen table, before acquiring the right tools and equipment. To gain experience I also worked part time for another jewelry designer who had a retail store, joined professional jewelry organizations, entered design contests and talked to a lot of people.
It has been about 10 years since I first launched my company. My works are shown at design shows, art galleries and clothing boutiques and I do custom designs for my clients. A good portion of my business is creating wedding and engagement rings alternatives to the traditional fare. I would call myself a boutique jewelry design house. Since I love modern design and contemporary art, we are in the process of combining those two passions. While building out a showroom for my work, near downtown Los Angeles, it will also be a curated art gallery where we will represent other artists.
Q. Tell us about your design style. What makes your collections unique in the industry?
C.E. My design style is minimal, clean and elegant. Minimalistic in details; geometric forms; contrasting elements, like color texture and finishing; asymmetry because I love something a little unexpected. And above all elegance is the primary design principals. My work is usually substantial in look and feel. That is not to say heavy or clunky. I feel my work has masculine and feminine qualities and many of the shapes can be worn by either. It is often a matter of the right proportion. The slightest difference in thickness of line can change something from feeling elegant to too heavy. I noticed that the slightest difference in line shape like a happy face can create a smile or a frown with the slightest change in curve. There are not many American jewelry design companies that work in this style. It is mostly the Germans and Europeans. My hope is to convey a sense of harmony and peace by experiencing something calming.
Q. What kind of person wears your jewelry?
C.E. Both men and women who usually want something a little different, know they have their own style.
They want to feel it reveals something about their taste and themselves rather than following the crowd, a label or a trend, and they usually are pretty sure about what they like. They like clean lines. Many like contemporary art, modern design, and often are creative people themselves who understand the nuances of proportion – such as graphic designers, artists, architects, interior designers and the person that just enjoys those mediums. They may have other modern design objects in their home like furniture or home décor. They are usually well travelled, well educated, open to diversity and like to have their own expression.
Q. As a designer, where do you draw your inspiration from?
C.E. Many visual details and experiences influence my work. I am inspired because I am attracted to certain things – not necessarily that I want to emulate them. I love Gustav Klimt and his work. I would pick out certain details from one of his very ornate portraits and be influenced by the shapes. I love the art deco period. I sometimes look at something from that period and see what I can take away and still have something wonderful. I describe my own work as minimal yet these ornate works inspire me. My stackable rings “Streamline” collection is inspired by this deco period. Yet it is pared down into single elements that can be combined into little sculptures on your hand – it looks more modern and minimal. The stackable idea was also because of a versatility factor – much like a wardrobe you can add on and take away. This was influenced by some of the clothing lines I used to represent. I love Mies van der Rohe and his Barcelona Pavillion at the 1929 World’s Fair. It is perfect minimalism where simplicity of line and contrast of materials are what stands out. Much of my work is reminiscent of architectural elements. My friends who are architects inspired the Cantilever Ring because many of their building designs incorporate a cantilever element.
Q. What’s it like to see someone on the street wearing one of your creations?
C.E. Happy. Wonderful! Once I get over staring! I love to make people happy and feel good with what I do. It is a tremendous satisfaction and a great honor.
Q. What are upcoming trends in the jewelry design industry?
C.E. There are several. I see fashion and fine jewelry merging and the lines will continue to blur. One influences the other with the uses of gold and gemstones on the fashion lines and the uses of alternative metals and materials in the fine jewelry industry. Right now gold is very high so I see more things made out of silver, brass and aluminum. Or mixing precious metals with not so precious materials like plastics or resins – this helps with the big, bold, layered and colorful style trends that are fashionable right now.
The use of CAD CAM programs has really brought jewelry design to another level. Designs you could never have made by hand or that were way too expensive are now possible and will only continue to be important. GREEN awareness is a trend. Hopefully it will just be incorporated into what we normally do. What most people do not know is that most gold jewelry is already made from recycled/refined gold. Reducing the carbon footprint, I see a bit of a backlash from shipping manufacturing overseas to wanting to buy US made goods or local goods.
I see a future changing in how we buy things. The internet, social media and the mobile capabilities will change the jewelry design industry just like it will continue to change how we buy things in general.
Maybe one day we will not even need to press a key board – we will just say what we want and it will appear…credit card on file of course.
Q. Who are your favorite designers?
C.E. I admire many designers for their creativity and their technology, like Niessing, with how their gold becomes silver in one ring. And Sarah Graham’s metalsmithing. I admire the house of Munsteiner, which excels in combining two sculptures. The unique cutting techniques paired with jewelry design, color and execution precision is amazing. I admire Coco Channel who broke the boundaries of women’s fashion at the time. Claude Chavent, George Sawyer and Breuning – just to name a few.
Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the jewelry design business?
C.E. If you want to have your own company, get experience on the business end as well. Have a plan. Half of your job is creative problem solving. The other half is managing your business, production, marketing, development. So not only do you need to be creative in your designs for them to stand out, you need to embrace the business aspects, or delegate them. Be persistent, be open there is a way, create relationships and dream big.
Q. What is your favorite piece you’ve ever created – and what made it so special?
C.E. Oh that is a hard one. I would say that the ones that were the most difficult design challenges were also the ones that stayed with me the longest. I created an elliptical ring with suspended 2 carat diamond in the middle for a woman who inherited the diamond from her mother. The finished piece was so much more than I anticipated while making it. To me it was such a sculpture that changed when looking at it from all sides.
I was commissioned a cross for a catholic deacon, in which the symbolic stole that went around the cross in the same manner the deacon actually wears his stole across his body. This was a very difficult project in concept and in its execution. The idea of making a cross look special and also the way that I decided to make the stole be the connecting point between all the other parts of the cross so that they looked floating. That project sat on my work bench for a long time and I had to come back and revisit it over months. Again, the finished piece felt like such an accomplishment with so much more dimension than I had anticipated. Even now when I see it on the person it makes me feel good – and that he is still so happy with the end result years later.
Check out some of Claudia Endler’s work below, and visit her website at www.claudiaendler.com to see all of works.