Where Creativity and Inspiration Meet: Part Two

An interview with Chuck Bowman, Stuller's Senior Product Designer

In part one of this two-part series, I talked to Chuck Bowman, Stuller’s Senior Product Designer, about how he got his start in the jewelry industry and what his job entails. Today, Chuck shares his design process, sources of inspiration, and tips for bench craftsmen and jewelry designers.

When you are designing, where do you start?
Once the project has a defined objective or directive, I think it all over and begin to form mental associations that kick-start the first few sketches. The initial scribbles don’t have to be very good – and often aren’t – but they set things in motion. At that stage it’s not really design, per se. It’s more like very loose exploration and visual explanation of the assignment. As the sketches come, I try to identify the ones that seem to be working and those that aren’t, and make it a point to mentally articulate to myself why. The ebb and flow of that process leads to more disciplined, strategic thinking and I gradually grow more deliberate.

Where do you draw inspiration?
Countless things, people, events and concepts inspire me – including the process itself.

In any given collection, for example, there are many interdependent elements in the product development puzzle. Early in the process those elements often don’t play well together and at that stage, the collection rarely constitutes a well-oiled machine capable of efficiently serving its purpose. Over the course of the project you find the strong points and the weak ones; diagnose what’s working and what’s not; and revise, tweak, refine until hopefully the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Pursing that optimal medley and seeing it come together is hugely inspiring.

Why a BIC pen?
Paper Mate, actually. At the conceptual stage, erasing is an unnecessary waste of time, and you lose your mistakes. I learn a lot seeing how, when, and why a poor line turns into an elegant one; how, when, and why a clumsy design begins to rock. Consequently, I prefer to keep the mistakes and “history” very present. That means I sometimes lay down a lot of ink. If it was pencil it would smudge, diffusing the essence of what’s working. Ink scribbles can be messy, but for me they’re still decipherable.

What’s your design philosophy?
Brevity.

What advice or tips would you give to fellow bench craftsmen or jewelry designers?

  1. Take beauty, the artistic element, the nuance very seriously – it’s the soul of what we do.
  2. Understand and respect the creative process and your need to be able to replenish your mind.
  3. Know your craft and be a business person first. Know the market, your customers and what they need from you even before they do.
  4. Understand that pretty and creative isn’t enough. Every detail of every piece and every piece in a collection should be smart, strategic, and purposeful.

Where do you derive your inspiration? Share that and any tips you might have for up-and-coming jewelry professionals here.

Image credit: Dan Jones

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