Tristan Dunn

2nd Place – Emerging Jewelry Artist 22 Years of Age or Younger


To say that Tristan Dunn is passionate about wire wrapping is an understatement. This technique embodies his art, his life, his goals, his beliefs, and his entire being. And he can take it wherever he goes. He just puts his work and his needle-nose pliers into a small pack, and he is ready. And his creative process often begins with him literally sitting in a tree to start each new piece.

Artist Interview:

Where did you get the title for this piece?
My aim was to create a piece that felt truly alive. I combined the symbolism of the seed fertilizing the egg and creating life with the imagery of a water droplet falling onto a flower and sustaining life, to express both stories in one design. The title, “Flower of Life” came to me. Then “amulet” came to mind to reference the magic I hoped to convey, as well as the alchemy of taking inanimate materials and creating the feeling of life from their secure union.

How long did it take to make the piece?
100 hours.

What obstacles did you have to overcome in making this piece?
At a certain point during its construction, there were more than 200 loose ends of thin wires that all had to be secured into different places to set all 42 gemstones within the circle. I finished the piece as quickly as I could without compromising quality or durability, even having two sleepless nights back-to-back before I finished it. I got to the post office to ship it overnight within 10 minutes of closing time, to get it postmarked by the last possible date of the deadline.

What did you feel when you heard?
Incredibly grateful. Three and a half years ago, I dropped out of a jewelry and metalsmithing program at an art college when I realized the program would actually inhibit how much wire wrapping I would be able to do over the next few years. I found within myself that pursuing the endless possibilities of this art form was more important to me. Receiving the news that I won this award was the most significant affirmation of that for me yet.

Who did you tell first about winning?
My friends who I was with at a café when I got the email, and then my parents.

Name fun facts about yourself.
I like to climb trees before I start a piece and work up there, especially when I make Tree of Life jewelry. I leave technology behind, so that I can better focus on what is important to me. I also meditate before getting into my daily flow.

Describe yourself.
Thoughtful. Very intensely motivated. I wish to bring forth shapes which have never been seen before.

Of all the arts and crafts, why did you choose jewelry?
When I was 13 years old, I began living in Little Falls in upstate New York where Herkimer diamonds are found, and I also saw wire wrap jewelry for the first time at Fall Hill Bead and Gem shop there. I was so inspired to try the art form and mine my own crystals to create with.

What was the first thing you ever made?
It was a wire wrapped pendant made from one foot of thick, scavenged copper wire and a cheap stone, as simple as can be and messy and not secured well.

Who do you think has been the strongest influence or inspiration on your work?
Alex Grey. He is a visionary painter.

In such a competitive industry, to what do you credit your longevity?
When I feel that I have gotten as good as I can at a specific pattern, design or setting, I make sure not to settle into just staying where I know I won’t have difficulty in trying to innovate.

Do you have any advice for those starting out in the jewelry world?
Don’t think you need a wide variety of tools or valuable materials to begin. Buy a couple of different gauges of copper wire and some pliers, and just experiment. Instructions are not necessary; creativity comes from within.

What do you want your legacy to be?
Innovation. Not repetition.

What artist, dead or alive, do you most admire?
Leonardo Da Vinci.

 What is your favorite quote in either business or art?
“Inspiration is God making contact with itself.” -Ram Dass

What do you want people to know about you and your art?
That I come from a pure place of passion in creating these pieces. I also wish others to know that anyone can create similar pieces if they just put in much practice.

What makes you passionate about metalsmithing/design?
The infinite potential yet to be discovered.

What was the biggest challenge you have faced in your business?
Maintaining a smooth flow of custom orders and getting all pieces to my customers on time, while balancing my business expenses and time effectively. But it has all taught me how to be a better businessperson.

What is the best advice you received?
Not to skip any steps, and that there are no mistakes in art.

What is your definition of “success”?
Happiness and balance in creativity and life.

Why do you think you have been successful?
I think my success has to do with following my bliss, trusting my intuition, and striving for authenticity.

How have you learned about running a business?
My father is an excellent salesman and really knows how to engage and connect with people, and my mother is a freelance writer, so growing up around their influence helped me develop a good business sense. I also volunteered at a pet store under an amazing business woman/mentor for several years when I was pretty young, and the endless availability of free education online has helped, too.

What is your favorite tool?
Flat-nose pliers.

Is the product or the process more important to you?
They are best in a harmonious and even balance.

What is your favorite type/piece of jewelry?
Pendants. They allow the most room to play.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the jewelry world since you have been around?
Wire wrapped jewelry is being taken more seriously, and there are so many more artists who make it now.

Describe your studio.
All my materials and tools fit neatly into one briefcase I have. I take it everywhere from cafés to car rides to treetops, and also into my bedroom.

Interview by Marlene Richey