1st Place – Gold/Platinum
Garen Garibian came to the United States from Armenia about 20 years ago. Since then he has given up his career as a surgeon and discovered his passion for making jewelry. If you look at his winning piece, “Mata Hari,” it is easy to see that his skills as a surgeon have not been forgotten. This piece is professionally created and crafted with great precision and with an eye for detail and beauty, the two essentials in his work.
About the winning piece:
What materials did you use in the winning piece?
18K yellow gold, diamonds, red spinel, druzy onyx and 18K rose gold. 18K white gold was used to set the diamonds.
What processes did you use?
I hand carved the piece and then had it cast.
What inspired the piece?
I bought the stone and immediately visualized it as a woman. At the same time, I had watched a special on Mata Hari and felt the piece should be dedicated to her since she was such a dramatic individual, so I named it after her.
How long did it take to make?
A few years ago I purchased the stone and had started the piece then. I set it aside and only finished it recently.
What did you learn from the piece?
You can make beautiful pieces of art jewelry by combining carved gemstones and precious metals.
Are you going to sell it?
Eventually … probably … yes.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
I think so.
Does it reflect your current look/designs?
Not too much. I create mostly traditional jewelry. I also do custom work for jewelry stores and other people in the jewelry industry. This is my own personal creation.
What do you like most about the piece?
About the Artist:
Where do you live?
Glendale, California and my office is in downtown Los Angeles, in the Jewelry District.
Did you study jewelry?
A little bit, but I am mostly self-taught.
Did you apprentice?
Not really. People would show me things when I needed to take the next step.
When did you discover you loved making jewelry?
From my teenage years. Jewelry is an art, and I love art. I started making pieces when I was around 25 years old. Before then, I was a plastic surgeon, working mostly with face recovery in Armenia. When I came to the United States, I was working on getting my green card. At the same time, a friend was working in a jewelry store in Michigan. My friend was moving to California, so I took his place doing repairs and setting stones.
How long have you been making jewelry?
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
I graduated from art school in Armenia.
Do you have a jewelry business?
My regular work is to do custom orders for jewelry stores. I hate to work on the same ring twice; it has to be something new every time, so this is perfect for me. I enjoy what I do, so it is more like a hobby than a job.
What is your company’s name?
What is your artist statement/design philosophy?
My jewelry needs to be impeccable and beautiful both inside and outside.
How do you get the word out about your work?
Word of mouth. I have a lot of clients now, and I am not trying to grow by having a larger quantity of clients but by focusing more on quality. I also get a lot of referrals.
Do you have a staff?
I use people as subcontractors. Casting I don’t do in-house. I outsource that type of work.
What is your favorite material to work with?
Platinum, gold and a little bit of silver.
What do you love about making jewelry?
That I can leave something beautiful for future generations.
Describe the first piece of jewelry you made.
It was a cross I made for my mother.
What is the one thing you most love about your studio?
I am in the James Oviatt Building in LA. The coziness and the location are my favorite things about my studio. When I open up my window, I can see a square in downtown, and when I walk out, there are a lot of restaurants. My building was built in 1920, and everything in it iseverything it is custom made; it is a piece of art itself. I love being in this building. All of the building materials and accessories were shipped from France. People are always shooting movies in the lobby. It is very interesting. The restaurant scene in Pretty Woman was filmed in the restaurant downstairs. There is a lot of art on the walls of my office with no empty spaces.
What is your favorite tool?
My hands. Without your hands, no tool is any good.
One word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry/run a business?
Never give up.
What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?
I would give the same advice both in jewelry and in life. It is very important to never give up.
What work inspires you?
Gaudi because of his architecture. DaVinci is the maestro for me. Faberge as a jeweler.
What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?
The quality of my work.
What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit their studio?
Henry Dunay. I love his work.
About the Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
It was totally unexpected! It was great! I felt that this time my entry was more of an art piece, and I wasn’t sure if that would be a plus.
What made you decide to enter the competition?
I like how the competition is organized and the fairness of the judging. I want to support the organizers and be a part of it. And I tell everyone who is capable of making good work about it and encourage them to enter.
Have you entered before? When?
I was a finalist last year. And in 2016, I won with a piece called “The Queen.”
What other design awards have you won?
I have won the Accommodation Award in the International Pearl Competition.
Interview by Marlene Richey