Feature Friday – Adam Foster
I studied metalsmithing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When I finished, I just wanted to return home to St. Louis, Missouri and work for another jeweler. However, when I could not find a job, I started my own company. And so the saga of Adam Foster Fine Art Jewelry began over 14 years ago.
Solving problems has kept me going all these years. I love being able to come at things from different angles to get the desired result. I also like to work. I love to create things. On my own time, I collect specimens from all over the world like taxidermy, bones, fossils, bugs and artifacts. I also have a library of single malt scotch.
In my store, I do a little of everything on a daily basis. But I mostly focus on designing, manufacturing and sourcing material. When it comes to my personal preference, I would rather set stones or engrave. I love my microscope and the tighter the tolerances, the better. I really like finishing a piece and having people ask how I put it together. I don’t do a lot of repair work, and when I do, it is because none of the other jewelers in the area want the job. My repairs are usually time intensive. However, when given the opportunity, I use repairs to learn how extraordinary jewelry is put together and can perform research and development for my work.
I never want to be compared to another jewelry store, as I feel that everything we do sets us apart. I like to think of my showroom as a museum that sells to visitors. I spend a lot of time working on jewelry and finding stones so when a collector makes an appointment to come in, they are completely blown away by what they are seeing. Our pieces of jewelry take hundreds of hours to create. Combine the jewelry with the store environment, company culture, and our way of conducting business — they all make our store unique. Even the whiskey on the bar creates an experience that keeps customers talking.
From day one, I have heavily invested in technology for my store. We do everything from CAD/CAM, 3D scanning, computerized cutting and digital engraving. I typically spend 4 to 5 hours a day on Matrix. I think technology is important in every step when creating the objects that I envision. But, I will say that just as quickly as I am acquiring new equipment, I am also going to great lengths to learn and become proficient at old-world techniques. I believe that these are important to maintain, so we hold on to them as the industry strives to make jewelry faster and cheaper. Ultimately, there are a lot of finishes that are just better by hand.
Once, I had a customer that lost her baby and she asked me to make a pendant to hold some of her ashes. I designed something very wearable and tasteful. The piece was made in two parts so we could add the ashes and put it together permanently and discretely. The customers came in and were here for over an hour. It was very hard for everyone in the studio but all in all, we had a great time. They told us stories, and I asked questions as well. Then, she placed some of the ashes inside in pendant and I had them spend time in the studio while I finished the piece right in front of them as we talked. Now they have some new memories and a unique and priceless piece of jewelry.
I have little advice to offer others, for I am still figuring it all out myself. However, I do have a bit to share about the jewelry industry. I view the international market as a rewarding opportunity. When the selling day ends in the United Sates, the rest of the world is waking up, and I would love to make them something! My hope for our profession is that jewelers become friendlier toward each other. We must remember that there is enough business to go around for everyone. The jewelers I’ve befriended come from all backgrounds and types of stores. We work together to make sales. A lot of stores need help with the technology, for example, and when I need help with a contact or finding something they always come through for me. It is this type of cooperation and comradery that makes our work so special.