Judith Kaufman, Her Beginnings and Aesthetic

Fun and spontaneous, Judith Kaufman applied her inherent love of crafting and business to start her impressive journey in the fine jewelry industry. She speaks about her effective crafting process and what she’s drawn to currently.

How did your interest in jewelry grow all the way into being your career?

When I was sixteen years old, I heard that my mom’s friend wanted to try teaching silversmithing. My mother volunteered me as a student. After a while, I was fortunate enough to create my own jewelry to wear. While in high school, many of my friends and acquaintances would notice what I was wearing and ask if they could purchase some from me. One of my good friends in another school, in another town, wore my jewelry to her school. She had the same reaction from her friends, and they ended up ordering what she was wearing. I would come home each day and make what people requested. I was very busy filling orders, and had to make sure that I was getting my homework done as well, which was not always easy. I believe that I was born with an entrepreneurial and creative spirit…it’s in my DNA. Weekly, people would place orders and I would be busy in my basement studio filling them. After a while, I heard about local craft shows where you could sell what you had made. In the spring and summer, I would travel on most weekends to different areas of Connecticut with my booth in the back of my van and my dog in the front. I really enjoyed meeting people and talking about my work. I still attend about seven juried shows per year, including private invitational exhibitions as well.

Opal Brooch, by Judith Kaufman. Featuring Ethiopian opals and diamonds, set in 18K green gold and 22K yellow gold.

Was there a particular moment that you associate the beginning of your jewelry designer career with?

There were two local clothing designers who their own store in my town. They developed edgy fashion shows and requested that I create jewelry for their line of clothing. I enjoyed the challenge very much.

What inspired you to pursue the technique of harmonizing colorful gemstones with texture, with gold? When did you start creating pieces in this style? Can you tell us about your first work?

My first work included brass, copper, and silver. I liked the complimentary look of tone on tone. For many years, I didn’t work with gems. I began to incorporate textures of reticulated silver to earrings, bracelets, rings, etc. After a while, it felt like a natural progression to begin incorporating gemstones into my jewelry. Everyone loves color and it became a luscious addition to my collection.

Sapphire Brooch, by Judith Kaufman. Featuring sapphires, diamonds, set in 22K yellow gold, 18K green gold, and 14K rose gold.

What is the process of starting a new piece or collection?

The process is kind of messy, definitely not a straight line. I don’t sketch anything or have any idea what I’d like to make until I start fooling around with the elements that are in front of me. My designing area has hundreds of stones lying about. In addition, there are leftover elements from previous pieces. I pick up what’s in front of me and try to coalesce a feeling or an idea. It’s very loose, a bit like working on a collage. When something speaks to me, I begin joining the elements together with heat, using solder and a torch, to create a finished piece then setting the stones at the very end.

What is one of the most memorable pieces or collections that you have worked on?

The Sapphire Brooch is one of the most memorable pieces I have worked on recently. This piece has won awards, has been on billboards and on the cover of Metalsmith magazine. I remember the day I made it. It was one of those times that felt like I was not getting in my own way and just feeling free to let the enthusiastic process take over. It recently went to a good home. The collector has many other pivotal pieces of mine.

Can you describe the feeling and process of having your pieces feature in art museums?

Ruby Necklace, by Judith Kaufman. Featuring rubies and diamonds, set in 22K yellow gold and 18K green gold.

I feel honored to be included in the collections of the Museum of Art and Design in NYC, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Describe your relationship with your materials. What are you most drawn to working with? What has inspired your most recent collection, or piece?

I am fond of using different colored golds to enhance the beauty of whatever gems I am using. Certain colored golds work extremely well with certain gemstones. Lately, I am drawn to opals. The variety of colors and forms is inspiring alongside 22 Karat gold. I’m exploring that pairing with small cultured pearls. I’m thinking of aquatic life of some sort.

In a few words, how do you describe yourself and your jewelry?

I am good humored, easygoing, spontaneous, unconventional, and like to have fun. I love taking in the beauty of all kinds including in art, nature, architecture, birds… I especially find beauty in balanced asymmetry. I think this describes my approach to my work as well.

To check out more of Kaufman’s work, click on this link.

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