Karin Jacobson Design | Episode 7

Karin Jacobson Design | Episode 7

Name: Karin Jacobson

Business Name: Karin Jacobson Design

Creative/Artistic Categories: Jewelry Design

Website: karinjacobson.com

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Shop Karin Jacobson Jewelry
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Karin Jacobson, Jewelry Designer
Karin Jacobson of Karin Jacobson Design, photo by Jen Simonson

Five Questions with Karin Jacobson Design:

What is your favorite art venue?

Because I love watching live dance performances (and because it would be too obvious to say my own studio building – the Northrup King Building), I’m going to say the Cowles Center – but honestly – we have so much good art and so many great venues, it’s really hard to choose!

What are your favorite MN art/creation resources?

Springboard for the Arts; American Craft Council; Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association

What favorite MN restaurants/take out spots help keep you fed during your creative sessions?

I’m in Northeast and eat a lot over here where there are SO many good options! Young Joni; Northeast Social; Sen Yai Sen Lek and Dipped & Debris (same owners); Union Hmong Kitchen (loved their foodtruck – brick and mortar coming soon!); Centro; and Alma (technically SE Mpls, but still very close!)

Is there a local non-profit organization you’d like listeners to learn about?

This isn’t art related, but I volunteer with Literacy Minnesota and I think more people should know about this great organization! They have free English classes (and citizenship and GED classes), have classes for volunteers and educators who want to teach English, and advocate for adult basic education – and a whole lot more.  

I had been an English tutor at one of their Open Door Learning Centers for about 4 years before the pandemic hit.  Then everything came to an abrupt halt, of course, and they ended in-person classes. But they quickly adjusted and started offering Zoom classes for tutors to learn how to teach our English students remotely. I’m getting ready to start tutoring again, only now it will be distance tutoring via Zoom! I plan to start again next week. 🙂

Please give a shout out to three other local artists/creators you respect and admire:

  1. Lindsy Halleckson | Instagram: @lindsyhalleckson

2. Jennifer Simonson | Instagram: @jensimonsonphoto

3. Judith Kinghorn | Instagram @judithkinghorn

Podcast Transcription with Karin Jacobson Jewelry:

Remarque Consulting Logo White

The TCDS podcast transcription is sponsored by
Remarque Consulting.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (00:16):
Hello, and welcome. My name is Jennie Eukel, and this is Twin Cities Design Scene, a podcast featuring conversations with Minnesota artists and creators about their work, career, and inspiration. Today on our show is Karin Jacobson. Karin is a jewelry designer who runs her own business called, Karin Jacobson Design. She focuses on ethically-sourced materials in her different jewelry lines and strives to create pieces that are unique, beautiful, and fun.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (00:43):
Be sure to visit twincitiesdesignscene.com to view photos of her work as you listen to this episode. Welcome to the show, Karin!

One-of-a-kind Anise Wing Necklace by Karin Jacobson Design

Karin Jacobson (00:50):
Hi Jennie. So good to be here.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (00:52):
Yeah, I’m happy to see you again. Let’s first talk about what you do at Karin Jacobson Design and how you got to where you are today.

Karin Jacobson (01:00):
Well, I can tell you how I got started, which is I actually attended the Perpich Center for Arts Education back the first two years it was open, and I took a jewelry class both years and really enjoyed it. And the second, my senior year, I took a class with a woman named Cheryl Rydmark and we really got along, and she was not so much a jewelry teacher, but a working artist. And I just asked her if I could apprentice for her over the summer, which I look back now and I think that was kind of a ballsy move to just ask. But it didn’t hurt to ask, and she actually said yes. So I started just working for her for free over the summer and it wound up turning into a job that lasted almost seven years.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (01:44):
Oh wow.

Karin Jacobson (01:45):
So I learned a lot from her just by doing and doing a lot of things that were repetitive, doing things over and over and over again, which is I think a great way to learn a craft.

Karin Jacobson (01:56):
So I worked for her for quite a while and then did a stint at a repair shop for a little while, which was very educational, but really helped me learn that I enjoy the design process a lot which I wasn’t getting to do there. So I went off on my own and started my business.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (02:14):
So as far as you have Karin Jacobson Design and you also have the Super Karin line. Could you talk a little bit about how you approach both those lines, what sort of pieces are within each of those?

Karin Jacobson (02:27):
Sure. So actually my first collection was more the Super Karin collection, which is it’s all sterling silver and the stones are lab-grown. So they’re quite a bit less expensive but they’re still pretty durable, but you get really big bright colored stones. I wanted it to be in a reasonable price range and to just be fun and happy and sparkly and just kind of big and wild, that’s Super Karin.

Lunar Ring by Super Karin

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (02:57):
And Super Karin, also kind of the branding that you have behind it too is almost like a comic book hero, which is really fun.

Karin Jacobson (03:05):
Yeah. I really really lucked out with that. So I met a guy named Sean Tubridy who used to be an independent illustrator and web designer who worked in The Northrup King Building where I am now, and I hired him to design my first catalog. So I don’t even know why I chose the name Super Karin for my first email address. I think I just thought it was funny, and so I had this email address that was Super Karin but without the idea that it was going to be a comic book character, and I wanted him to do my catalog because I liked his illustration so much, so I knew that I wanted there to be some illustration in the catalog. And he said, “What if we do a superhero named, Super Karin?” And I was like, “That is brilliant!”

Railroad Cuff Bracelet by Super Karin

Karin Jacobson (03:57):
And so the branding really came together and it was really Sean’s kind of brain child and then we worked together talking about kind of how we wanted it to look. But he came up with the idea and did the catalog and it was just brilliant.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (04:10):
I mean the overall aesthetic, I think that’s so fun as far as you as the jewelry designer as kind of the superhero and, as you mentioned, with the sort of aesthetic that the Super Karin line has is really fun, really bright, really whimsical. And we’ll be putting pictures, you’ve been doing some new photography lately that’s been really fun as well, and we’ll put the pictures up on the Twin Cities Design Scene web page.

Ring by Super Karin

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (04:33):
So also with your Karin Jacobson design page as well, so talk a little bit about the aesthetic that you have for that.

Karin Jacobson (04:42):
You know I’ve been doing Super Karin for a number of years and I really just wanted to start doing some pieces that could showcase a little bit of a different style of design and more pieces that were one of a kind pieces. I wanted to work with some natural gemstones, some diamonds. I wanted to do more work with a combination of silver and gold. That collection is really sort of based on the idea of origami, and I had this idea that you could take metal, which often comes in a flat sheet, and fold it up and make a 3D form with it.

Karin Jacobson (05:16):
So in that sense it’s like origami and in other senses it doesn’t really work like origami, but I wanted to be able to take these flat pieces and just kind of fold them up into three forms. And one nice thing about that is because they start out, the material’s really thin, it’s usually sterling silver, and there are cutouts so you can make these pieces that are really big and have a lot of visual impact but they’re not very heavy. Which, if you’re somebody who likes to wear big earrings like I am, it’s really nice if they’re not heavy.

Moonstone Earrings by Karin Jacobson Design

Karin Jacobson (05:49):
It is kind of fun to work with that too, and I’m really getting a chance to explore a very different style of design and hopefully something that, like Super Karin, people haven’t really seen anything quite like it before. So it’s more serious and it’s definitely more art jewelry, but I still think it’s pretty fun.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (06:09):
Yeah. I mean as far as just as myself, who’s been looking at your jewelry for years and seeing the sort of evolution, it seems like you had a line early on where you’re looking a little bit more at the sort of origami shapes as well, and I think that was under the Super Karin line and it’s been really fun to kind of see that evolution of those sorts of almost like soft, geometric patterns that you add into the elements.

Alba Necklace by Super Karin

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (06:36):
But let’s talk a little bit about the process of that too, because with your fine jewelry line it’s so intricate with everything that’s cut out there. It looks like these beautiful, modern, abstract flowers that are kind of curved in and then you infuse jewels into some of those, and it looks like also you’re using sterling silver for some of them. But some of the pieces are dark, but rubbed off and have gold elements as well.

Kirigami Fan Earrings by Karin Jacobson Design

Karin Jacobson (07:05):
Yeah. So what that is actually is sterling oxidizes, which is tarnishing, only it happens really fast and you do it with the chemicals. So it puts on a really nice flat, black patina on the outside of the sterling silver. And with those pieces where you see the gold on the edge, what I’ve done, and this is a really fussy, fussy process, but I’ve taken these shapes that I’ve cut out and then I take gold wire, which is not round. It’s a flat gold wire, and I bend it so that it fits the edge of the curve of the silver flower, and I solder it in place. I do enjoy that small, intricate, fussy work though.

Karin Jacobson (07:44):
Yeah, so you solder gold along the whole outer edge of one of those pieces, and then you fold it up. And then when you oxidize it, the oxidizer does not change the color of the gold, but it turns the silver black. So you end up with this bright, poppy line of gold.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (08:02):
So when you created that sort of imagery of the sort of flower and the origami, where were you taking your inspirations from to build upon that and make that sort of, it’s a very unique piece of jewelry line that definitely when I see it I think immediately of you?

Karin Jacobson (08:22):
You know, sometimes when I’m trying to think of a new collection I like to go to an art museum, various places and see art that isn’t necessarily jewelry, but just kind of soak things in and get inspired. And for that collection, one of the things that I did was went to the Asian Collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and there were moments where I would just sit in a room and kind of, especially the Chinese ink paintings because they’ll have a varied shape line but sometimes it’s just one line can show exactly what a thing is. Like it’ll be a bird or a rabbit or something, and it’s like one amazing line that just captures the form.

Karin Jacobson (09:13):
Again, the pieces that I’m creating are not really anything like that, but the idea that I’ve got a sort of a black outline that just kind of shows this stark form, this is kind of inspired by that. And then again, even before I went to the art institute, just kind of thinking about, “Okay, folding things up. How am I going to fold things up?” That’s kind of the background of that collection.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (09:36):
Are you cutting out the negative spaces all by hand or using a specific tool for those in those pieces?

Karin Jacobson (09:44):
Sometimes I cut them out by hand, and sometimes I’m able to cast them if I’m going to make a piece a number of times. So if it’s a really one of a kind piece and I’m never going to make it again, I will take a sheet of silver and I’ll print the pattern out that I’ve drawn in Illustrator, I’ll print it out on a piece of paper and just glue it onto the silver, and you take a drill and you drill holes for all the interior cutouts and with a regular little handsaw you sit there and just saw out the piece. And for pieces that I’m going to make more than one time, that’s what I do with the prototype but then I’m able to make a mold and have the piece cast. So then I can make multiples.

Karin Jacobson (10:27):
And the piece, they’ll still need a lot of work after I get the pieces back, but then without cutting out laboriously each and every singly piece I can have multiples that look the same.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (10:39):
That definitely will help your hands out in the long run too I’m sure.

Karin Jacobson (10:43):

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (10:43):
And eyesight. You have to get so close to that I’m sure to see the itty bitty parts of them.

Karin Jacobson (10:50):
Oh yeah. I wear a visor with magnification. So, and sometimes if I’m doing something super tiny I will be wearing glasses and a visor at the same time.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (10:58):
Oh my gosh.

Karin Jacobson (11:00):
And sometimes I use a microscope.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (11:02):
Yeah, yeah. As I said, I’m just amazed at how small in detail you’re able to get. Let’s talk a little bit about your custom commissions too, because that’s actually where I personally first met you is my wedding ring. I commissioned you to do my wedding ring about a little less than a decade ago and I first saw your work at the Walker Art Center and that’s how I first discovered you. And then I learned you did custom work as well in addition to your collection work. I’ve seen a fun variety of different projects that you’ve profiled on your social media, not only from engagements and weddings but some other multi-generational pieces that are meaningful to customers. So I’m hoping you can talk a little bit about that aspect of your business as well.

Karin Jacobson (11:51):
I’ve always had a wedding collection and have always done custom wedding design, which is most of what my custom work is. That’s, I think just because that’s what people usually if they’re thinking about getting a custom piece made, that’s usually what they’re doing. Although I definitely have clients who come to me with things other than wedding rings, and one really common thing that I get is people who are maybe repurposing a grandmother’s wedding ring. I recently did a series of I think… Oh gosh, there were maybe five or six projects that came out of one grandmother’s wedding ring because it was this incredibly complicated, fully encrusted ring with many many diamonds that turned into I think a pair of earrings, a necklace, and maybe seven rings? We did some little stacking rings, all of which came out of the same original ring.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (12:47):
That’s amazing you can make a whole line out of it.

Karin Jacobson (12:50):
Yeah. It was two sisters, and it involved pieces for themselves, pieces for one of their daughters.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (12:57):
How special though, to have that sort of memento and be able to repurpose that into pieces that the kids can all end up wearing and the sisters can end up wearing?

Karin Jacobson (13:07):
Yeah, because yeah, and if you’re getting a ring from your grandmother and it’s going to two sisters, I mean unless you want to time share that you’re not going to really enjoy it that much.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (13:18):

Karin Jacobson (13:18):
So you are able to kind of split everything up and get a lot of pieces that they really loved out of it. So that was really fun.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (13:25):
You bring up a good point as far as with repurposing and one thing that I’ve noted even in our process working together is that you use not only natural gemstones, but you also use recycled diamonds, ethically sourced gems, and I’m just curious as far as if there’s an element that if you’re thinking about from an eco purpose of how that kind of affects the environment and how your role as a jewelry maker kind of plays into that?

Karin Jacobson (13:54):
Yeah. So the jewelry industry kind of has, in some areas, a not very pretty history when it comes to the effects of mining and the diamond industry and even colored gems, gem cutting, which can be, if it’s not done properly, can be very dangerous for the people who are cutting it because they are inhaling particulate and getting sick from that. So there are a lot of ways you can try to do better, and it’s a constant process of learning where to get the best source materials and what the best practices are. And so right now what I’m doing is all the metals that I use are recycled, but I’m also looking into getting some fair mined metals. It’s a process where smaller miners are able to support their families and their communities, but do so in a way where they’re getting paid fairly and they’re not doing practices that are as polluting with mercury and things like that.

Karin Jacobson (14:58):
So that is a little bit. Getting recycled metals is very easy because nobody throws away gold and palladium, and silver because they’re expensive and valuable. And so there’s always metal going back into recycling and that is wonderful. So that’s what I do all the time now, and I’m looking to maybe introducing other ways that are more proactively supporting mining communities. And so the same is true with diamonds and colored stones. Right now I use almost entirely recycled diamonds. And again, a diamond does not go bad so you can just take it out of one thing and as long as it isn’t damaged or chipped you can put it into something else and they don’t get stale.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (15:41):

Karin Jacobson (15:41):
Which is great.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (15:43):
Diamonds last forever.

Karin Jacobson (15:44):
Yeah. So, and then there are manufactured diamonds, which are lab grown but real diamonds. And of course there’s a whole school of alternatives that are synthetic gemstones that kind of look like diamonds that are made of different things. So I think there are just a lot of places where you can really do better. So I work with companies that sell recycled diamonds and then also companies that are doing more fair trade practices, where they are going directly to the miners, making sure that they get paid a fair wage, and then making sure that when their stones are being cut that their stone cutters, which may be in a completely different place and maybe in a totally different country, but they’re making sure that the facilities for the stone cutters have things like proper ventilation and masks and things that suck the particulate away from people who are doing the cutting and keeping them safe because silicosis is a problem that nobody in the first world countries really thinks about much anymore that is a real problem for people who are stone cutters in little small factories where it’s not properly ventilated.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (16:58):
And I think that’s something that I really noticed and respected about you, is the fact that you are thinking about all these elements and your role within kind of the bigger ecosystem of both environments, but also within the human community and how to kind of make a positive contribution with the choices that you make in your practices.

Karin Jacobson (17:21):
Yeah. I mean it can be, I think, overwhelming when you think about down the line every choice that you make can have some impact, either positive or negative, down the line. That can be overwhelming but it can also be really empowering to think that you can, at least trying your best to do the most positive thing whenever you can.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (17:38):
I wanted to talk a little bit about the creation process and if you had a favorite part of the creation process, all the way from ideation to handing off a piece of jewelry either at a fair or to a client. So let’s talk a little bit about that.

Karin Jacobson (17:53):
I love almost every part of the process when it comes to actually physically making the pieces. I just love sitting at the bench and making things, but definitely my favorite is designing something where I get the chance to kind of sit down and take the time to experiment. Maybe it’s designing a new way that something hinges or a different type of glass, or just trying to come up with something that I hadn’t seen before. So that I think is the most fun and exciting part of the process. Just you may not even have a visual idea in your head, you just have some sort of vague notion that you want to do something, and then you have to whittle it down and figure out how to solve that design problem.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (18:33):
Do you sit down and assign certain time for you to do this sort of design ideation or is it something that maybe you keep a notebook nearby and if an idea comes into your head you just write it down before you forget it?

Karin Jacobson (18:47):
I do a little bit of all of that because sometimes you have the luxury of time and you are coming up with a new design just because you want to have something new in your collection, and then you might just get inspired anytime or you might, like I said, go to the art museum and just have time to think about it. And then sometimes you have a project for maybe a show and they say… Recently, this summer, I worked on a show where the theme was facets because it was an anniversary show for a blogger who goes by A Thousand Facets.

Karin Jacobson (19:22):
So I had to quickly figure out what am I going to do that fits into the theme of facets and what three to five pieces am I going to make for this show. And then you just have to sit down and force yourself to figure it out, and if I’m really stuck I might leave the office and go for a long walk and just see if I can kind of clear my head a little bit.But yeah, sometimes you just have to sit down and just lug right through it.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (19:51):
Good to get that little bit of extra break before you kind of come back into it. What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received about running a jewelry business or a art business?

Karin Jacobson (20:02):
Well I think this advice works for any kind of business and also just life in general, which is just accept the fact that you’re going to make some mistakes and just don’t worry about it. I think people get really caught up on one or two things that you did that didn’t work or something that failed, and the best piece of advice was when you make a mistake or something fails you definitely want to look at it and you want to learn from it, but then you just want to get over it, move on, and just don’t worry about it and know that you’re not the only person, you’re probably not even the only person that made that specific mistake. But everybody’s going to have some stuff that just doesn’t work out. It doesn’t mean that your business is a failure. It just means that you needed to pivot and try something else.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:53):
Is there any advice that you’d give to anybody else when they’re starting their art career from scratch?

Karin Jacobson (21:00):
If you’re thinking about making a career out of art know that you’re going to have to have a business. And if you hate the idea of having a business, you might want to have a hobby that’s art.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:12):
And do something else?

Karin Jacobson (21:13):
Yeah, and do something so that you fully enjoy your art, because a business is a big part of it. I mean running the business is half of what I do. I do enjoy that, but there are definitely certain parts of it that I enjoy less than others, and-

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:31):
Figuring out taxes and all that? Accounting?

Karin Jacobson (21:34):
Counting your inventory is not very entertaining.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:37):
Yeah. When that’s involved stuff, yeah.

Karin Jacobson (21:40):

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:42):
And then lastly, my last question is what are some of your interests outside of jewelry design? What do you like doing when you’re not in the studio?

Karin Jacobson (21:50):
These days it’s a little different.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:52):
Yes, yeah. During pandemic times is a little different. We all are kind of at home and-

Karin Jacobson (21:57):
Well I love seeing people, which I’m not doing a lot of right now. But I like to exercise. So I like to get outside and go running and go biking and I’m now doing that at home or in the cold. I love to cook and thankfully also love to eat. So I love cooking and baking, and I’m getting to do a lot more of that right now too.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:23):
It is kind of fun to be able to deep dive into some hobbies that you didn’t necessarily have time for before.

Karin Jacobson (22:30):
Yeah, and I used to love to cook for other people, which I’m not doing so much now, but my husband and I cook for each other and we’ve been cooking and eating a ton. So it’s a good thing that we both like to exercise too.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:43):
It balances out.

Karin Jacobson (22:45):
Love watching movies. I love to travel, which again that’s sort of virtual travel right now, thinking about the next place I’d like to go but I’m not going anywhere, but-

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:55):
Also I haven’t been traveling and it’s been nice to pop on YouTube and search for shorter travel videos on YouTube and just dream about the places that one could go when this is done.

Karin Jacobson (23:06):
Yes. Yeah, I see emails from travel websites and I’m always looking up and thinking, “Oh yeah, that’d be so fun at some point.”

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (23:14):
Make your list, make your list. Karin thank you so much for your time today. It has been a pleasure and I hope everyone’s able to visit your website so everyone can see your work.

Karin Jacobson (23:23):
Thank you so much. It was great talking to you.

Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (23:25):
You may view Karin’s work at karinjacobson.com and superkarin.com. I’ll have photos and more links to Karin’s work on twincitiesdesignscene.com. Thanks for listening to today’s podcast. The podcast music is, ‘Your Future is My Future’, by Gigamesh. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We’re on many major streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts. For the latest updates, you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook at Twin Cities Design Scene. ‘Til next time.

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