“People ask me what is it like to be a jewelry designer. Sometimes I call it a curse. Sometimes a blessing. To be an artist is like being assigned a role in life full of hardships which you are addicted to accepting, despite being mentally draining. And then, the reward creeps in.”
How did LUGDUN ARTISANS come to exist?
The answer has a very long story behind it, full of people, places and events. I was born in a beautiful town in Spain called La Guardia, in South-western Galicia, right on the border with Portugal. Little needs to be said about the amount of history that land has to offer. Stepping outside my backyard leads you to prehistoric artifacts, Celtic ruins and castles.
At a very young age, my family and I moved to New York, visiting the motherland yearly and settling down back there once again for a short period of time. The exposure to such rich history always drove an interest to the past. Whether it was the life style of our ancestors, the way they executed their craft or the unique nature of their produced goods (especially jewelry), I was always interested.
My family had their roots in art. As musicians, inventors, painters and sculptors, I was blessed to inherit their genes and talent. I myself am a drummer and have been playing since I was 7 years of age. I would drum to the sounds of Iron Maiden, Europe, Helloween, Dream Theater and many more. But that’s another story for another time. One day back in New York, I was with my friend Jacques. His grandparents from his mother’s side were French Holocaust survivors. We went to visit his grandparents one day, and I remember staring deeply into a picture that was hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a table clock made out of silver and fully embellished with precious stones. I was analyzing every corner, every stone and every joint that I could see. I was fascinated with the piece, asking myself how could such a beautiful clock have been produced. I later learned that the clock had been handcrafted by my friend’s grandmother’s brother. He apparently had been a prominent jeweler and craftsman back in France. That experience caught up to me years later.
After high school, I continued my education and went to Baruch College. At that time, I wanted to be in “Corporate America”. Working in Marketing was what inspired me at the time. During my college years I had met a great and loving woman named Ranae. We shared many passions and travelled the world together. By the time I graduated college, I got my first job working for Verizon. I decided then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Ranae, so I decided that I wanted to propose to her. There was one problem however. Adhering to Western customs, I was going to need an engagement ring. A pal of mine at Verizon one day was talking to me about a diamond ring he had commissioned from a designer in the diamond district. As silly as it sounds, I was surprised to hear that you could have a custom ring so easily made. It shows you how much in a bubble you can be at times, despite your contrary beliefs. His story gave me an idea. I was going to give my love at the time her very own unique ring. But it was I who was going to make it. My “clock story” incident, my love for history, my interest in production, my artistic background and my desire to create something beautiful to be cherished had finally fused together. Unknowing to Ranae about my true reasons, she ended up buying me a book about the fundamentals of metalsmithing after hearing me express interest in wanting to learn the craft. That was the spark that started my destined life. To wrap up this story with Ranae, “too little too late” comes to mind when I think of it, lol. It never worked out after years together. The ring was never made for her. But that led me to meet the next 2 very important women in my life. The one that gave me my precious son. And the woman who I finally married and gifted me with my precious daughter.
It's funny because life isn’t perfect. We all have this perfect plan that we in earnest believe we can execute without flaw. That’s ignorance. What I have learned however is that every person we encounter will shape you in one way or another. It may be their support. It may even be bad times. The circumstances shape you and allow for opportunities. Some of my best creations were during my “worst” of times. It’s funny how jewelry fabrication to me can be such a powerful outlet that can transform the bad to something so beautiful. During my years, I’ve created so many pieces. I played around with enamel, granulation, lost wax methods and even watch making. In fact, I still remember my first silver pocket watch that I gifted. And as far as the precious engagement ring, a design was finally executed and the ring was made.
Is there any advice you would give to those interested in making jewelry or becoming a serious designer?
To all those starting out, I need to point out the truth of things. As a self-taught silversmith, I never had the advantage of having a mentor. I was ignorant to the industry. I didn’t even know where to find suppliers, let alone know how to set up an internet business. Due to tight budgets, I did grass-root marketing appearing at Tattoo conventions to get the word out while juggling corporate jobs in sales, operations and logistics to pay the daily bills. My first work bench were 2 A-frames with a few planks that I scavenged in a cluttered building basement. The couple of tools that I owned hung on some nails attached to a half-cut beam of wood that rested on the A-frames. I moved onto setting a “nomadic” work shop at my kitchen stove, I worked while sitting on floors during quiet hours where my landlord had set up his laundry machines and even endured the 15 degree chills from the view of my apartment balcony before squatting a workshop into my parent’s make-shift “cabin” located in their back yard for a few years. Storage units, kitchens, basements, you name it! My “gypsy” experience was very humbling. Man! What would I have given to have that helping hand to mange my way around the industry. Have the right connections. Meet the right influencers. Have the money to spend on development (both to create jewelry and for my website) or for a nice workshop.
“The Pursuit of Happyness” by Chris Gardner says it all. That story is so true! The advice and stories told in it are so relatable and truthful to my own personal experiences. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people. Especially those who keep you motivated! Those are the most important. I never found that mentor, that influencer, that easy opportunity. But I didn't sit around waiting. It’s important to keep pushing forward. In this day in age full of materialism and falsehood, things are not appreciated like they used to be. I can’t complain. If I die tomorrow, I know I have spread my legacy throughout the world. I’ve made many people happy with my creations. At the end of the day, that’s what counts.
How do you go from idea to execution of a finished piece?
To be honest with you, I refuse to use computer technology in any way such as “CAD”, and I’m a horrible drawer. My sketches are so basic. I mean, they are like drawing directions on a napkin. But the ideas are in my head. I close my eyes and my hands begin to cut and solder. It’s like improvising, and as I build on, the piece changes to how it was meant to be. Not necessarily how I envisioned it at first, but how it was meant to be. This is especially true with my wax carved pieces. I definitely consider myself more of a sculpture than anything else. It’s funny how that thought of myself wasn’t there years ago until I finally acknowledged my talent. A vast majority of our pieces come from lost wax methods. I start out with a wax design. It is later placed into a casting investment mix where a mold is made. The wax is then melted out to create a cavity that is later filled in with Sterling silver.
For production pieces, a rubber mold is then made so we can copy the piece over and over again. The original prototype is a one-size piece. So every time we cast a ring, our artisans get to work by resizing the piece to the customer’s request and give it the final finish. That’s where the ring, bracelet, necklace or earring gets its “life”.
People need to understand. Our designs are created by hand. From start to finish. They are not perfect. And that’s the beauty of them. They are not perfectly done by robots. They weren't printed out. We didn’t use computer software capable of designing cars. We are “old school”. Done the old way like our ancestors did it. Each piece has its own imperfection. Its own slight variation of patina. Its own personality. Like twins, pieces may look alike, but they are unique.
How do you describe your jewelry. The LUGDUN ARTISANS product line?
We produce rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings for both men and women. The pieces are real. The pieces are organic. Each piece has a story. A reason. Each piece is intimate. Whether it was originally meant as a birthday gift, or an expression for a loss. A moment of creativity during a bad time, or an inspiration from something great, my creations have always been personal. I never created something because it was in “style”. I have always respected other artist’s creations. Never copying their innovations. Instead, I’d be inspired by them as a small group of creators should be.
We still use the same tools today, including my 1st anvil. Each strike on it leaves an imprint of the story of LUGDUN ARTISANS.
I hope that each individual who owns a LUGDUN ARTISANS piece can understand the beginnings of this Brand. The history of our company and the unique story each piece carries with it (whether told or not). A handcrafted piece is connected to its creator. To the artisan in his workshop who breaths life into each piece while adjusting to the challenges of every day life. Everything leaves a fingerprint. Our humble story is imprinted in our creations.
Handcrafted in the USA, we use only quality Sterling Silver as our main medium. We’ll continue to create as we continue our story. One day, perhaps my great grandchildren will see something of mine in a museum. That will be the dream. But if it ends up in a pawn shop, oh well. I guess it’ll be going back to the basics!
What's the company logo all about?
Oh? Well, that's "Lugh" or "LUG". He's the inspiration. Being a Spaniard with Celtic heritage (yes, Celts were in fact in Spain), I thought he would be a perfect symbol to represent me and the brand. Galicia even has a province called Lugo named after him. The historical association, as well as him being a craftsman, made his name and character ideal. I had the word "dun" added to the name to give him a castle for a workshop. That's where we get LUGDUN. A hammer and an anvil was added and the logo was finished. Everything we stand for was symbolized. My background, and the craft.
Any last words?
Definitely! If you are looking for something authentic, and with a unique story, you need to try us out. We are designers and makers of quality jewelry for men and women. Drop the big brands. I guarantee, you won't be disappointed with LUGDUN ARTISANS !