Meet Our Inaugural Kickstarter Class

Seven standout students designers from leading jewelry and design schools are making their trade show debut in a platform most starting jewelers would dream of, the Design Center at JCK. The Kickstarter program is a platform to launch the next generation of designers to the industry. Kickstarter will be the first step for the lucky few who know their passion and are actively pursuing it at the novice level. The program, led by a Design Advisory Board, selects seven designers from participating schools based on their applications and predicted viability in the current marketplace. The prize, an opportunity to exhibit in the Design Center at JCK as part of the first Kickstarter Class, includes a complimentary showcase space and mentorship from the larger design community.

If you really want to discover what’s new and what’s next in the fine jewelry market, you’ll be at the Design Center at JCK. (You can register to attend JCK Las Vegas here.) Until then, class is in session; meet our seven Kickstarters!

Dannenberg1. Katherine Dannenberg, Rochester Institute of Technology

Despite growing up in Philadelphia, Dannenburg spent much of her childhood outdoors exploring and learning directly from the natural world. Kate studied metalsmithing and jewelry Design at the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology, here she fostered her skills and creativity in the medium, as well as studying the history and its applications in wearable art. At the core of her work is a belief in the importance of the handmade and thoughtful craftsmanship. While her work is highly sculptural, wearability, comfort, and functionality are key to her designs.

  • Materials used: Forms are inspired by nature and executed primarily in silver and brass, occasionally incorporating gold and copper. Doesn’t often incorporate stones into her work but is careful in choosing the right stone for a given piece.
  • Design philosophy: Inspired by the processes of growth and change in nature and by the processes of making. In nature, function alone determines form. Evolution presents the seemingly contradictory ideas of infinite possibility under limiting conditions, this constrained infinity fascinates and inspires her designs.

Untitled-12. Olivia Shih, California College of the Arts

Born in the United States but raised on the subtropical island of Taiwan, Shih has lived a dual life since childhood. Her insights into the varied nuances of the two cultures led her to pursue a BA in creative writing at Columbia University. The search for a sense of belonging brought her to the West Coast, where she was accepted into the fold of metalsmiths and earned a BFA in jewelry and metal arts. Attracted to both matters of the mind and hand, Shih currently works as a bench jeweler, furniture gallery assistant, and freelance writer for Art Jewelry Forum.

  • Materials used: Sterling silver, gold-fill materials, ultralight acrylic. Commission jewelry materials: gold, sterling silver, diamond, sapphire, freshwater pearl, opal. Techniques used include metal fabrication; each acrylic piece is hand carved, sanded, and polished to create the illusion of gemstone translucency and facets.
  • Design philosophy: Sculptural jewelry for the independent thinker. Her current collection, Glacier, takes the form of ultralight gemstones constructed from hand-carved, reused acrylic. Strikingly bold yet classic, each piece of jewelry is sculpted to draw out the translucency of gemstones and the texture of industrial city life.

3. Vicky VickyLewLew, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London

A native of Kuala Lumpur, Lew graduated from Central Saint Martins, London in 2014 with First Class Honours in jewelry design. Lew’s design house is based in London, where she has lived for seven years and now considers home. Experience
with industry giants Cartier and Swarvoski during her time at university have honed her skills and enabled her to grow and develop as a designer. Her collection, Light, is inspired by the transient moment of a bird before takeoff, frozen in time.

  • Materials used: Precious metals of 18k gold and palladium  finished with micro-pavé-set birds using sapphires, topaz, rhodolites, spinels, and smokey quartz. Handcrafted in England, this collection’s attention to detail inspires a second  glance. At the intended angle the gem-set bird is revealed, enhancing the viewer’s experience as the illusion of a bird in flight is subject to the wearer’s movements.
  • Design philosophy: Rooted in the classical Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, that beauty can be found in imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion. A rose on the vine and a fallen rose on the ground are equally beautiful. Each piece of jewelry is crafted with a traditional Eastern sensibility with Western design concepts, delivering strong narratives and intricate interplay between organic shapes and geometric forms.


LizzRoberts4. Lizz Roberts, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)

Born in Austin, Texas, to parents in the lumber business, Roberts grew up around construction, architecture, and all the elements it takes to create something great from raw materials and simple geometry. After relocating to Los Angeles, she turned to her lifelong passion for jewelry, cutting her teeth as a sales associate at Me&Ro, an experience she reveres as having solidified a true working knowledge of her craft and business. She then pursued a post-grad degree in jewelry design from FIDM and shortly after started loading her designs onto


  • Materials used: Sustainable materials including sterling silver, bronze, copper, and gold. Each piece is unique and easy to wear.
  • Design philosophy: All about simplicity. Wearing jewelry should be effortless and comfortable. Accessories should make people feel confident and polished, and sculptural and architectural best describe the LZZR line.

SophiaChai5. Sophia Chai, Georgian College

Sophia Chai is a newcomer to the vast jewelry and design industry. As a recent graduate from the two-year jewellery and metals program at Georgian College, she has continued on to attending the post-graduate goldsmithing and silversmithing program to refine her skills as a goldsmith and jewelry designer. Majority of her time is spent in the studio working on upcoming projects and experimenting with techniques to add personality such as etching and filigree.

  • Materials used: Sterling silver with accents of metals such as bronze or gold. Enjoys using stones such as labradorite, tigereye (of any color), and rainbow obsidian because of their vibrant colors when angled at the light in a particular way.
  • Design philosophy: Influenced most by her love for music and nature but that doesn’t dissuade her from making pieces that are geometric or less organic. Aims to make it functional while adding a twist of uniqueness to it.

6. Lisa Krulasik, Pratt Institute

Lisa Krulasik, a native New Yorker, hLisaKrulasik-1as been honing her craft at Pratt Institute for the past several years. Her BFA jewelry thesis collection embodies her passion for jewelry and reptiles. Krulasik chooses each piece to have a sense of independence, but the collection stays connected through the use of materials and aesthetics. Each brooch is one of a kind and captures a part of each animal’s being and essence. Individually, the brooches have a sense of danger and delicacy.

  • Materials used: Hand-covered exotic and domestic wood elements, fine and sterling silver fabricated elements, bearded dragon and snake skin sheds cast in fine silver.
  • Design philosophy: Focused on juxtaposing the way many people see reptiles as dangerous killers, and how the designer sees them as loving creatures.

7. Maneli Sarmadi, Savannah College of Art & Design

Maneli Sarmadi was born in Tehran, Iran. She has worked as a professional industrial designer since 2009, but her lifelong fascination with jewelry in addition to successful watch design experiences led her to pursue her passion and move the United States to study contemporary jewelry. She has a BFA and MFA in industrial design from the University of Tehran and is currently seeking an MFA degree in jewelry from SavannahManeli-S College of Art and Design.

  • Materials used: Steel, concrete, resin, gemstones, silver, natural materials.
  • Design philosophy: Collection is about the contrast and duality. By juxtaposing both industrial materials such as concrete and steel and perfect polished surfaces, she highlights the conflict between the nature and the industry, handmade and machine-made, soft and hard, neutral and color.

For more information about the Design Center, visit our website. Keep up with designers and retailers in the Design Community with the Design of the Times series.

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