Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 22, 2011
Kristen Baird, from Richmond, Virginia, is working toward a B.F.A. in jewelry and objects from SCAD Savannah.
The skill and loving attention to detail evident in Kristen Baird's jewelry pieces may make it hard to believe that she ever considered any other field besides design, but as a high school senior, she planned to go to business school. Kristen says she felt like it was "what everyone expected of me," but fortunately for her regular clients, her true ambition of a career in design won out. While in high school, she diligently researched and applied to business schools, but while she was at it also sent an application to SCAD, "just to see what would happen." She was not only accepted, but was awarded enough financial aid funding to allow her to pursue the design degree she wanted. She began at SCAD as an interior design major, but after trying an introduction course in the jewelry and objects program
, she was hooked.
She says her attraction to the field was due to its combination of design and hands-on crafting. "I love the gratification of 'I made this right here,'" says Kristen. "That's what I really love about jewelry. Last quarter, I started off with a small ingot, a rod of silver, and I made it into a spoon and fork that I forged, hammered out, and then bent around. So I came up with a product where I can say, 'this flatware set came from this raw silver,' and it's a very rewarding feeling. I think that gratification is the best part of the program."
Sterling silver has become Kristen's preferred medium for most of her projects. Because it is a more valuable material than many other metals, Kristen says it motivates her to make her work flawless. "Why work so long on something if you're going to melt it down?" she points out. With each project, she challenges herself to create jewelry more valuable than the materials it's made from; if she doesn't decide to melt the silver back down after she finishes a piece, only then can she label it a success.
The pieces that have passed this test are the best examples of Kristen's design style: clean, sleek and geometrical forms. Kristen says her interest in these kinds of architectural silhouettes is a by-product of the time she spent in the interior design program. She has recently begun experimenting with these shapes and forms, incorporating more organic, curvy elements into her work, while still creating overall silhouettes based on clean, angular lines.
Kristen constantly pushes herself to try new methods in her design. These experiments are aided partly by the specialized design tools she and her classmates use to craft their work. "The jewelry program stays on top of the new Rhino and CAD and FDM printers and the milling machines," says Kristen. "It's really great to have those resources as a college kid, because otherwise I would never have access to any of that. They have all that equipment, like the laser welding, and they always keep it ready to use. I'm going to miss that when I graduate."
Her time spent in the studio completing class work and tweaking her own projects is a major part of Kristen's daily life. "I spend a good eight hours in the studio every day at least," says Kristen. "But I love it. I go in, there's music on; my buddies are up there, we're all just getting our stuff done. It's a great atmosphere to bounce ideas off people. I wouldn't have it any other way. And it can be a plus to be in the studio all the time. A lot of very well known people sometimes come through. I got to talk to Diane von Furstenberg when she came through the studio last spring. I also got to talk to Hildi Santo-Tomas from Trading Spaces and show her my jewelry and tool box."
Despite her packed schedule, Kristen has made time while in school to intern with Formia Design. She worked as an assistant to the owner, goldsmith Mia van Beek, in preparing jewelry orders and working directly with clients. Kristen says this position helped her get her feet wet in the business side of jewelry design.
This summer, she returned to Formia Design, where this time she was more involved in the design side of jewelry production, especially "working in repairing antique jewelry and working in gold and silver," she says. "Mia and I have gotten to be very good friends. She's really a mentor to me. She's taken me under her wing, which I'm really grateful for."
Since this internship, Kristen has returned to SCAD for her senior year and has begun work on her senior collection, a line of jewelry made using casting techniques.
When she graduates from SCAD, she may seek a master's degree, but Kristen hasn't made up her mind yet. She is, however, certain of her end goal: She wants to own her own studio someday. She is confident in her ability to make that happen. "I really love what I do," she says, "and I have enough fire in me to get my name out there and do this for a living."
View Kristen's online portfolio or visit her Etsy storefront to see more of her designs.