Karin Jacobson

1st Place - Jewelry Collection Fashion/Bridge


Karin Jacobson has woven her handcrafted jewelry into her lifestyle, as well as a deep concern for ethically-sourced materials. This well-rounded approach has resulted in finely-crafted jewelry and a designer who is truly happy with her studio, her life, and her business. And it honors the ancient art forms of Origami as well as Kirigam, the inspiration for her First Place in Jewelry Collections.

Artist Interview:

What/who was your inspiration?
Origami and Kirigami, the Japanese art forms of folding and cutting paper. I tend towards symmetry, but this collection is a little freer. It is more organic and flowing. The pearls look great against the black of the metal.

How long did it take to make the collection?
Two and a half to three weeks altogether. I had already been doing similar work but without the pearls.

What did you feel when you heard you were a Saul Bell Design Award Winner?
Excitement! I had on my calendar the day that the judging took place. I was at the ACC Baltimore show. But I didn’t hear anything there.
I had returned home from Baltimore, and I woke up when the phone rang!

Have you won other awards?
2002 AJDC New Designer. A design award, 2004 City Pages. A grant in 2005, from the Minnesota State Arts Board. 2018 MJSA Online Design Challenge.

Name some fun facts about yourself.
I studied martial arts for 15 years and entered Thai boxing competitions. I am a volunteer English language tutor to new immigrants. I just bought a skateboard and am learning to skate.

Of all the arts and crafts, why did you choose jewelry?
I fell into it. I took a jewelry class in high school. I thought it would be fun, but I really fell in love with it. I love the precision and the fussiness and the small details. The passion was more about the making and the process.

What was the first thing you ever made?
A little brass box about an inch high. The top had a cloisonné enamel cover.

Who do you think has been the strongest influence on or inspiration for your work?
As someone to look up to, it is definitely George Sawyer. He is right here in Minneapolis and has been extraordinarily generous with advice. I want to do something different just like George did with his beautifully crafted mokume gane. I want people to look at any piece I’ve made and say “Oh, this is Karin.”  George is always continuing to learn more about jewelry techniques and is an extremely kind person. He was the one who suggested I apply for the AJDC award.

In such a competitive industry, what do you credit your longevity to? What is your advice to new designers?
Actually, hard work is the obvious answer. But also, you don’t have to compete with other people. No one needs to fail to make room for your success —instead, you can help each other. And most importantly, avoiding competition with other designers also means creating designs so unique that there is nothing to compare them to, nothing to price check them against, and nowhere else to get them.

What would you say you know now about living a happy and successful life?
You have to look forward to what you are doing and plan your life as well as your business. I decided to keep my business small; I always want to be hands-on with making. Experimenting and making things myself. This is all part of having a happy life.

What do you want your legacy to be?
At the end of my career, I would like people to look at me the same way I look at George: Helpful to other people and always learning new things.

What artist do you most admire?
The Munsteiners. Zobel Atelier. Barbara Heinrich. Petra Class. So Young Park.

What is the best advice you received?
From Cindy Edelstein “…when you are working on a collection, make sure that everything looks like you. Go wide and go deep but make sure that everything is still your look.” This was a defining piece of advice for me.

How have you learned about running a business?
Trial and a lot of errors! Follow advice from people you trust. Take advice and keep it in your pocket until you need it.

Who has been most supportive in helping your business grow?
My parents because they never questioned this business I wanted to go into. One time when I owed some money my mom said, “Listen, Karin, business has debts. You are investing in your business, not buying shoes.” She was right. And having them believe in you is invaluable.

What was your training/academic background in metalsmithing?
I have a degree in history. I didn’t go to art school. I had an apprenticeship with Cheryl Rydmark for almost seven years. I worked part-time for her all through college.

What is your favorite tool?
My saw. It feels like an extension of my hand.

Is the product or the process more important to you?
It is close, but it is the process. I love how it makes me feel in my heart.

Describe your studio.
I am lucky to live in Minneapolis. I am in a large studio building with about 100 other designers and artists. High ceilings. I face east so I get morning sun. I have a lot of space - there is showroom space in the front, and you can look back to where I work and see the tools and equipment.

What metals, gemstones and processes are most important to you?
Gold 18k. Montana sapphires. Diamonds because they don’t break—you have freedom to work with them.

Interview by Marlene Richey