Design of the Times: Guita M and TK Metal Arts

JCK Tucson is shaping up to have an exceptional lineup of exciting designers. A real community of artists has evolved, and it promises to be a place to discover the best and brightest in the world of designer jewelry. I had a chance to connect with two artists exhibiting at JCK Tucson for the first time—Guita Dovas of Guita M and Theresa Kwong of TK Metal Arts—and they shared their thoughts on balancing business with the creative side, their process, and connecting with the jewelry community in Tucson.

Guita M

Guita M is one of the designers I’m excited to meet, with a rich and varied palette of jewelry. Her collections feature interesting integrations of materials like gemstone carvings and beads, wood and diamonds, minimally finished specimens with fine pavé work. There is a warmth and roundness to her designs that resonates. A certain fearlessness defines her work: Guita does not hesitate to mix the elaborate sparkle of diamond with antlers, for instance. There is a lot of movement to her designs, from swaying tassels to flexible links.

What gets you excited about JCK Tucson?
To me, JCK Tucson is an adventurous venue in that I am always looking for that “one” particular gem that I may find in the middle of billions of other gems.

What can we expect to see from you at JCK Tucson?
The art of jewelry-making is always a work in progress. Each year I have taken my art to the next level—you can’t skip the steps! This year I am bringing attention to minerals I’ve been working with. Due to their formations and exquisite colorations, the possibilities of transforming them into exceptional pieces are endless.

You do both one-of-a-kind and some production pieces. Which do you prefer to design?
They are both my babies, and parting with each one is difficult. I find the inspiration for my one-of-a-kind pieces in my many travels and the production pieces just walking in the streets of New York City, looking at stylish women and their trends.

I see recurring themes of the sun, including representations with faces, and the hamsa. Is there significance in these symbols for you?
Historically, the sun has been worshiped and its light has been calming and soothing…for me it exudes happiness. I enjoy working with hamsa because of what it stands for: protection from harm. It’s an amulet that for centuries, regardless of faith and related conflicts, has been cherished by people of various colors, nationalities, or religions.

What does your process look like?
The process of imagining a piece and finding the right components and colors is the best part. Once that has been conceived on paper, the work and the feasibility of creating such a piece start.

What is your favorite material to work with?
Rare gemstones and shapes.

Is there a jewelry category or medium that you have not explored that intrigues you?
After all my years in jewelry, I am still exploring the infinite alternatives that jewelry offers the designer, and the intensity of its allure that continues to intrigue me and the client.

Is there one thing we should know about you that we probably don’t yet?
That is for you to find out.

TK Metal Arts

You might get lost looking at TK Metal Arts’ jewelry. Theresa Kwong (the TK of the company name) hand-hammers each sinuous shape that she coaxes from sheet metal. But this is not “art jewelry,” sculptural but unwearable. The forms are fluid and accessible, with an exceptional sense of the body. Shapes wrap and curve with textures that flatter, and movement keeps things interesting. You can clearly see her background in architecture in many of her designs.

Since every piece is hand-fabricated, do you make every piece?
Yes, I do, every single piece. By fabricating each piece, I can keep the design light and delicate without compromising on the metal’s strength. I usually work with flat sheets and wires of precious and specialty metals. If I were to cast my work or any element of a piece, it would need to be much thicker to be castable. That would change the way each jewelry piece would look, touch, and feel. It would definitely make my earrings weigh twice as much, which is not what some of my clients want.

Every. Single. Piece. What is your favorite kind of jewelry to make: bracelet, earring, ring, pendant…?
Bracelets seem to be my first go-to canvas. From there, I come up with designs for the rest of the collection. I do have my phases, though—sometimes I am obsessed and make a series of earrings, then a series of pendants, and so forth.

Is that mokume gane I see in some of your designs?
Yes, that’s mokume gane in sterling and copper. It’s not something that is castable, and therefore each piece is hand-fabricated and always unique.

Does your location in California inform your designs?
I suppose so. I studied and practiced as an architect for many years before I discovered goldsmithing. I see both as three-dimensional design disciplines. Jewelry can be a statement defining who you are, allowing you to stand out from the ordinary, expressing your opinion boldly. I’d like to say that in California, we don’t follow traditions as much when it comes to design.

What else functions as inspiration for your work?
Forms—both geometric and organic in the natural and built environments. I take cues from my surroundings and distill them into more geometric shapes.

What is the hardest part of balancing being an artist with having/running a business?
It is not easy to wear both hats, that’s for sure. At least I understand that if I want to be able to buy materials and keep my art business running, I need to take care of the business side of things.

Have you done very many trade shows?
No, JCK Las Vegas 2016 was my first one. It was quite overwhelming but a good learning experience.

What are you looking forward to at JCK Tucson?
I believe JCK Tucson will attract more buyers who are looking for design-focused jewelry. I can’t wait to meet and get feedback from them. The other wonderful thing is, I get to meet other very talented folks in the trade. I always try to learn something from everyone I meet.


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