Spotlight: Todd Pownell

Todd POWNELL Rings
Kayla: Welcome to the ESQUELETO family! We’re so proud to represent your work in our boutiques and online. Can you tell us how you came to be a jewelry designer?

Todd: I worked as a junior motorcycle mechanic when I was in high school and really enjoyed working with my hands. Then in shop class I sort of had an epiphany moment when I melted metal for the first time while welding. That experience got me hooked on working with metal and I started making desk lamps and other objects mostly out of steel. One day, I decided to use some copper and once I was exposed to non-ferrous metal, I started exploring making small containers and kept reducing the scale of things. After high school, I found and went to a technical school in Lancaster, PA for jewelry fabrication and stone setting. Afterwards I started working in the field as a bench jeweler and really loved it. Gemology studies naturally followed and from there I just kept exploring.

K: What made you decide to have your studio in Cleveland?  

T: Cleveland has an unparalleled tenacity. My wife Debra and I run our studio together and we actively chose to set up our studio as a live/work loft in an old industrial building. We live an urban creative lifestyle here that has a vibrant and exciting continuum and community of makers. The culture here is world-class and attitude is authentic and un-matched.

Todd Pownell

K: You have such a unique point of view as a designer. Did your work always have such a strong signature?  How has it evolved over the years?

T: Thank you. I think my signature style comes from an understanding of the material and a desire to mix things up to find unique juxtapositions and compositions in finished jewelry. The evolution of my work started with mixing 24k fine gold in layers over silver and setting small single cut diamonds culet up in cloud like patterns and continues with finding very unconventional ways to set diamonds.

K: What inspires you?

T: The Romantic period of the late 18th century has had a considerable influence on my jewelry. I like to emphasize interaction of dark and light and the materials I choose to convey both order & chaos is an important aspect of my work.  The color palette and texture used is a conscious decision on my part to evoke a sense of mystery and a sublime nature.  Diamonds are frequently set upside down to produce an effect of capturing and reflecting light in a succession of broad flashes thus creating an appearance of twilight. Also Poetry has a strong subconscious influence. Reading poetry gives one the confidence to break through all kinds of hierarchies and find incredibly unique juxtapositions of emotions, wit and beauty. It can help dissolve the meaning of things and instead give one a glimpse of the essence of things. I like designs that secede the overt and embrace the poetic.

Todd Pownell Jewelry

K: The textures that we see in the metals in your work are so innovative that sometimes I'm not even sure how you achieved them. Do you invent the processes? Stumble upon them? Remix old techniques?  Tell us a bit about your design process.

T: If I had to pick a favorite tool, I think it would be a hand graver. I really like the idea and action of pushing and moving metal as opposed to cutting. So yes I think much of the texture I create is a kind of remix or mash-up of old techniques like chasing, engraving and even burnishing. It’s labor intensive but I do love touching the material and can get a bit obsessed with texturing, covering or setting on/over a surface. I do a lot of bead setting and micro-hammering and I think this gives a hand worked and warm feeling to the work.

K: Tell me something I wouldn’t guess about you.

T: My main recreation sport that gets me out of the studio is Orienteering. It is not that well known in the US but it has a strong following as an outdoor activity in Scandinavia and Europe. It is a running/thinking sport that involves navigation with a map and compass. You need to balance energy between body and mind while making route choices. A bit like a scavenger hunt race in the woods.

K: Thanks for all of your thoughtful answers, Todd! I'm looking forward to seeing each new design that you create.

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