Design of the Times: Alex Monroe, Maja Arnold, and Daniel Bass

Get to know some of your JCK Design Center designers!

By: Monica Stephenson, iDazzle

Alex Monroe

If I had to sum up the JCK Las Vegas show with one word, it would have to be “discovery.”  I am so grateful to have connected to Alex Monroe through this series, and if you have not uncovered Alex in his 30 years of making jewelry, I hope that you can see his work at JCK Las Vegas.  A magical convergence of entomology and exquisite metal work and gems, his work tells a story of biology, beginnings and cycles.  This aesthetic taps into the current organic ethos so perfectly, it is as if you’re looking at something plucked straight from the flora and fauna.

Your roots are at the bench, creating.  Do you still do hands on work?  What is your favorite “hat” to wear in your business?

My absolute favorite place to be will always be at my bench. The joy of creating something new, and seeing it come to life always far exceeds looking at profits, figures and spreadsheets – although I do seem to spend most of my time going through my inbox!

I want to visit your boutique in London!  Does multi-channel marketing (website, your own boutique, and stockists) work well for you?

Thank you – we would love to show you around! Our Boutique is a really unique space, but is quite a destination: it is easy to get to, but is away from the main shopping areas of London. Having said that, it has by far exceeded our original expectations, and has really helped us grow our Wedding and Engagement business.

Our web sales are phenomenal – especially around Christmas (Holiday!) but it is essential to us that our website also forms a window into our brand, to support all aspects of what we do and reflect our company ethos.

Historically, we are a wholesale business, and even after 30 years in the business with so many changes in the marketplace, wholesale is still the driving force behind so much of what we do. In addition to being a revenue stream, our wholesale business is in some ways also part of our marketing strategy. So, yes, multi-channel marketing is certainly working for us, but it is essential that each channel supports each other.

Butterflies, Bees, Beetles, Bespoke…do you have a favorite collection or direction in your work?

My favorite collection is generally the last one I have worked on, so I would have to say our new fine jewelry story ‘Plume’. It’s a collection of incredibly delicate feathers in 18ct yellow gold, with champagne diamond details. Feathers have always been quite key to me throughout my collections, but I’ve never made them quite as small—or in 18ct Gold before–so that was great fun!

Your work is carried by stockists all over the globe and at a few US ateliers.  What kind of connections are you hoping to make at JCK Las Vegas? 

For us, a perfect working relationship is a relaxed and friendly one, which grows naturally. Nine times out of ten, the companies who genuinely get excited for our designs, will do really well with them. Last year we picked up a fantastic client, Something Silver, who are a lovely independent business, with lots of stores. This is the perfect type of client for us, very similar to whom we typically work with at home in the UK.  We have been really pleased with how quickly business has grown with them, and all in a very manageable way, so more of the same really!

What continues to delight or excite you after 30 years in the jewelry business?

I still love spotting people wearing my jewelry–which can actually happen several times a day now if I’m out and about!  I love seeing how people put things together, and wondering about the story behind their piece; it always makes me smile.

Maja Arnold

I first met Maja Arnold when she reached out on social media about a year ago.  I was impressed with Maja’s design skills and her ability to put a totally fresh spin on the personalized jewelry category.  Her story of the power of healing through the celebration and expression of jewelry resonates, and her graphic designs allow for a one-of-a-kind experience for the wearer.  Can’t wait to see the whole collection at the Design Center!

You have a philanthropic component of your business: you donate a portion of sales to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  Has that resonated with your customers?

Giving back is very important to me. Since I had a child who passed away and a son who was only 3 years old dealing with cancer, I understand that sharing my story, and the stories of other people can help. I created “Inspiring Stories” on my website to share my client’s stories in a hope to inspire others. I give a percentage from each sale to Seattle Children Hospital as a thank you, and hope to help others who need it.

How does your background inform your jewelry—what makes your story so unique?

I’m from Slovakia with a degree in typography, and I have been artist all my life. I have loved fashion, style, art and design since childhood: I’ve been in fashion industry for the last twenty years. So the idea of blending capital letters, as many as six, to create original, modern, and meaningful symbols came naturally to me. After I lost my baby to SIDS, I felt a need to have all three children with me. I wanted a personal message behind a symbol that was one-of-a-kind, modern and unique. I searched for meaningful jewelry but couldn’t find anything that resonated with me. I sketched my first design with the initials of my three children and I wore the necklace close to my heart as a way to keep my children with me at all times. Soon, people took notice of my design, and asked me about it, and they started talking to me about the initials they would use. I realized we all have a story. My business is about creating every piece using inspiration from each person and their unique story, or designing words that express their feelings. My goal was to design nontraditional, spiritual jewelry using modern, sleek lines: “Bringing letters to life.”

Is this your first jewelry trade show?  

Yes!!

Excited or terrified?  

JCK Las Vegas is my first jewelry show! I’m super excited and super terrified but I hope to meet amazing people and create many connections. I’m also bringing my Collection of Life and My Spiritual Collection and they are definitely conversation pieces. Please, come to see me! I can’t wait to meet you!

What are you hoping to accomplish by joining the JCK Las Vegas community?

I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity. It is a little overwhelming as there is only so much time to meet everybody! I can’t wait to present my brand to the JCK community, tell my story, show my jewelry and create great relationships.

Daniel Bass

Daniel Bass, namesake of his jewelry company, is a bit of a Renaissance Man.  It is not by accident that his jewelry designs, boldly scaled and thoroughly modern, show up well on the big screen: Daniel himself appears in and produces movies.  In his pursuits and passions, Daniel brings a little bit of these varied experiences to his jewelry.  I can’t wait to see his bespoke and colored diamond collections, along with his Rockstar tags at JCK Las Vegas!

With your Rockstar tagline and your film background, I thought you were based in Los Angeles! I would imagine that New York City is a great base for the jewelry part of your business…is it hard to stay connected to the movie business from NYC?

Although I was born in North Hollywood, home has been New York since I was a young child. The jewelry center of the world is in NYC and of course Los Angeles is the center of the movie world. I try to balance my time between both cities. My next film will be shot in LA.

How long have you been designing jewelry?

Designing runs in my family, and I found a passion for creating things at an early age. Although I always wanted to be in the film business, I was brought into the family gemstone business after attending Northeastern University. I decided to become a jewelry designer since selling gemstones lacked any form of creativity for me.

What are you hoping to accomplish at JCK Las Vegas?  What kind of connections are you hoping to make?

I have a nice celebrity following and many collectors of my designs. My main objective to attend JCK is to meet some new retailers who might be “Rockstar” worthy.

Of your different collections—the Rockstar tags, cuffs, fancy color diamonds, engagement—do you have a focus or favorite?

My favorite absolutely would be the Rockstar tags as they make you feel cool, and I always enjoy receiving compliments when I wear them: they definitely make you feel like a rock star.

You wear many hats (recognized chef, actor, film producer, and real estate agent!); how does your varied interests and background influence your jewelry designs?

In today’s challenging business world, jewelry simply doesn’t take up enough of my time. I became a gluten free farm-to-table chef out of my own medical necessity (which saved my life). Real estate was how I paid for college. Jewelry is the day job I hope to quit one day for the big screen!

These days my absolute passion in jewelry is the smile it puts on people’s faces when they wear it. If I can boost their confidence and make them feel better about themselves, I feel like I am worthy of my time on this planet.

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