E. DougLAS Wunder
2nd Place – Alternative Metals/Materials
Douglas Wunder’s whole approach to making jewelry is non-traditional. He uses alternative materials such as titanium for all of his work; it is his favorite metal. For Doug, jewelry is not about precious metals. If you look at his pieces, they are miniature sculptures, three-dimensional, layered, lightweight. All the parts are cold connected; a torch is seldom used. Doug’s jewelry is truly a remarkable experience. He strongly believes, “Go with your heart, go with your head and use your hands.” And it shows!
About the winning piece:
What materials did you use in the winning piece?
I use sheet metal, tubing and wire in my work. Sheet titanium is the main metal, along with 22K bi-metal and silver.
What processes did you use?
The pendant part of the piece is all hand-cut and fabricated. The individual links of the chain are laser-cut and handmade.
What was the inspiration for the piece?
I was so inspired by simply looking at an orchid and other florals that I had to capture them. I am always amazed by the detail in flowers. They can be interestingly foreign looking. I did my own version of an orchid with a twist.
How long did it take to make?
About 14 months off and on. I had to do sample prototypes along the way to test different looks and techniques.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
In a lot of ways. Absolutely.
Does it reflect your current look/designs/brand?
It does. It is a much bigger piece than I have created before. More flowing lines and more parts and pieces. My designs tend to be geometric.
What do you like most about the piece?
There are so many things I like about it. I was able to use the same technical aspects I use in my other work. I like that I was able to make it out of titanium and use my skills in cold connecting, piercing and hand-cutting with a hand saw. It actually turned out the way I planned it, which was a reward because many projects don't.
Did you try it on?
I tried it on, and I put it on my daughter and wife. In fact, I put it on anyone who walked by. There were many people who tried it on.
About the Artist:
Where do you live?
Did you study jewelry?
No, not as a means to get an academic degree. However, I took three college jewelry classes, a total of seven credit hours, in school.
Where did you study?
At the University of Iowa. I have spent 46 years of my life in Iowa.
When did you discover you loved making jewelry?
I think it came originally when I was taking metalsmithing in college. I have always liked small objects with lots of detail. My interest in small sculpture and good design were a perfect match. Creative endeavors to make a piece of jewelry work so that it is interesting looking were also reasons I feel in love with the medium. I have never looked back.
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
Yes, I would say so. Any time something is done right, it inspires me. A great experience inspires me; anything done well is an influence. The original passion that led to my career in jewelry was making plastic models when I was younger, that is the direct link to jewelry.
The seeds for jewelry design began at an early age and took form in college. When I was 5 years old, I began making plastic models. I focused on science-fiction related themes and subjects of World War II.
Who is your design/jewelry mentor?
H.R. Giger of Alien fame is a huge influence on me and my work. Also Syd Mead, who is the “visual futurist” and creator for such works for Blade Runner. And Roger Dean, who designed stage sets and album covers for such rock groups as Yes, is my secret mentor.
What other types of work have you done in your life?
Jewelry. This is the only professional job outside of college and high school part-time jobs I have ever had.
When are you most creative?
In the later part of the evening. I am a vampire. My wife gets in front of her computer or book for her evening academic work, and I go to my workbench to make jewelry.
What is your company’s name?
E. Douglas Wunder. www.edouglaswunder.com
What is your artist statement/design philosophy?
When designing jewelry, I incorporate geometric influences of human and naturally made objects. These combined visual patterns and shapes help stimulate the creative process. The end results are graphic representations of sweeping curves, upward perspectives and overlapping alignments in detail. The goal is to establish images in miniature that go beyond the mundane and predictable, which establish a unique vision.
How do you get the word out about your work?
I have been doing it for a long time. I don’t do a lot of advertising, but I do travel extensively throughout the U.S. exhibiting in shows and selling my work. I have established regular customers. My website. Jewelry that has been represented in galleries. Word of mouth.
Do you have a staff?
A staff of one … me. I do have an intern who works with me every semester; it is more of a mentoring experience on how I work and make jewelry.
What is your favorite material to work with?
What is your differentiator from other designers?
There are more dimensions to my work than other designers in many cases. The titanium also makes a difference. My pieces are large but very lightweight. My focus is on design and not precious materials. I also focus on cold connecting pieces, which provides a unique perspective and concept.
What do you love about making jewelry?
The challenge of making a miniature sculpture, how something goes together and how it functions are parts of the process that I really enjoy.
Describe the first piece of jewelry you made? When was it?
Before I started making jewelry in college, I made a pair of earrings out of plastic for a friend who was going to a function and needed something to wear with her outfit. I took two pieces of plastic, melted and formed them with a candle, and then painted them with a leopard design.
Are you influenced by trends?
No. I stay away from them. Someone once said I was not a trend follower but a trendsetter. I know that isn't really the case but certainly a nice compliment. I just do what feels right at the time and go after it.
What is the one thing you most love about your studio?
I like it because I know where everything is. After a recent move, I organized my first real workshop. This is the first real studio space I have had. Before, I always used the unusable space in the house, such as a garage, attic or basement. This is perfect. I have everything together in my own space. It is in the carriage house behind our house. I can yell and scream when I need to vent or turn my music way up high. The workshop is my private part of the home. Not a man cave but a "man"sion.
What is the one thing you would change about your studio?
Keep the floor swept.
What is your favorite tool?
My jeweler’s saw connected to my hand.
What do you listen to when you work?
I listen to NPR all the time.
One word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry/run a business?
Do something you love to do.
What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?
Go with your heart, go with your head and use your hands.
What work inspires you?
The living one would be Albert Paley without a doubt. Paley’s work keeps on finding me, and I don’t have to look for it. I do a lot of traveling, so his work finds me wherever I am. He has his sculptures scattered across the country. I own multiple books on him. I have never met the man, but I would love to meet him. He was once a jeweler back in the day. Michael Monroe, when he was head of the Bellevue Art Museum, told me at their craft show that I needed to see Paley’s work, which was on exhibit at the museum. I told him I could only do it on Monday due to my travels, so he gave me a personal tour when the museum was closed that Monday. I will never forget it.
What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?
To be able to help provide for my family by doing something that I love. Being able to make things in an environment without authority.
About the Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
I was very pleased! Surprised! It makes your day that you have done everything right. And I called my mom and dad first! They were really delighted since they know I have been doing it a long time and the recognition is a great perk for what I do.
What made you decide to enter the competition?
It was one of those things that you know about, and I have known about it for a while. It was a nice challenge for me to do it. The Saul Bell Design Award is well known and highly respected. They recently added a category that fit perfectly for me, so it gave me an opportunity.
What other design awards have you won?
I exhibit in a lot of art/craft shows and exhibitions. Part of these events is to give awards to participating artists; I have won many of these, as well as the honor of being juried into these events.
Interview by Marlene Richey