At the beginning of the month I was writing about these beautiful Cynthia Gale bangles. They are still on my mind. The Cynthia Gale jewellery collections are characterized by unique craftsmanship and are replete with cultural, historical and spiritual inspiration. Finding a distinctive voice in such a diverse field must hold a fascinating story, as well as valuable lessons anyone who wants to make a difference and sticks by and fights for their dreams can appreciate and benefit from. That’s exactly what I was hoping to find out when I reached out to the designer herself, who kindly accepted my interview invitation. A truly inspirational woman and talented designer, Cynthia shares the beliefs she holds true, the foundations of her accomplishments and what she wishes people appreciated more. My talks with Cynthia have been an enriching experience and it is an honour to have her as my guest.
How did you get into jewellery design?
I have always worked in fashion – and accessories have always been front and center. Just before starting my jewellery company, I was living and working as a fashion model in Europe. Time spent working in Italy, France, England, Germany and Greece further shaped my love of distinctive silhouettes and profiles. A trip from Paris to Jakarta, Indonesia, to do a series of runway shows sealed my fate. I stepped off the plane and fell in love with the sights, smells and fine craft of Indonesia – it was an “AHA” moment. I returned to Bali from my home in New York City shortly after and was introduced to the silver business… it immediately felt right. I bonded with the spirituality of the Balinese and Javanese people and their passion for unique, intricate sterling silver metalwork. My business, GeoArt by Cynthia Gale, opened in 1991.
Through a modeling connection, I met a native Indonesian who owned a silver factory. Together with his 19 brothers and sisters, they owned most of the silver jewellery businesses in Bali at the time. I very quickly became close with his family, attending dinners and ceremonies which catapulted the business forward very quickly. In the mid-90’s, I opened my first museum client – Cynthia Gale for Washington National Cathedral – and produced a series of meaningful, licensed jewellery collections based on their art and architecture. Other museums followed: The Cleveland Museum of Art; The DeYoung; The Getty; Boston Museum of Fine Art; The High Museum. This lead to eventual product development such as creating a custom crozier and pectoral cross for the Bishop of Maryland. Projects for Barnes and Noble, Miss America for Amway and the NBA fell into place. The demand for art-inspired jewellery collections kept coming. In 2012, we rebranded as Cynthia Gale to further define our modern, urban eclectic, timeless aesthetic and now have three distinct divisions: GeoArt – collections inspired by my personal art passions; GeoMuseum – licensed collections created in partnership with museums and cultural institutions; GeoSignature – statement pieces extraordinaire! And the story continues…
The classic temple pagoda of the Far East inspired the Mystical Pagoda Collection
The jewellery design field is so diverse and has infinite possibilities. How difficult was it to find your own voice?
I have always liked real and felt that “gold is old”. Sterling silver is fresh, timeless and a wonderful material to work with. Our artisan workshops in Indonesia have been our most valued partner.. the culture is steeped in art and the craftsmen have been working with sterling silver for centuries. I love the idea that global art inspires me to create a jewellery design in my New York studio, which is then created by hand in Indonesia and sold to international retail customers via cynthiagale.com all over the world! Finding my creative voice has been an ongoing process… it is a never ending, silver evolution… let the journey continue!
Is there anyone in particular who has influenced your work?
I am inspired by beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, ages and cultures who demonstrate grace, both inside and out.
Embroidered trim spin ring, made by using individual artistic embellishments and metalwork techniques unique to Indonesia
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of becoming a jewellery designer even if they don’t have the proper training?
Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to get dirty. I was not formally trained in jewellery design and I believe my collection(s) are amongst the most diverse, well executed designs in the sterling silver, fine craft jewellery arena today.
Each of your jewellery collections has its own interesting, unique story attached to it. Is there any one of them in particular you hold most dear to your heart?
The story of the Borobudur Lotus Collection reaches deep for me. I have personally stood amongst the enormous stupas of this magnificent architectural monument with my family. The temple was built in 750 AD… an ancient reminder of the beauty of life and the world. Although I traditionally create my designs in silver, this was one of the first where I experimented with bronze that incorporated a sterling silver accent. I treasure the way the elements of the temple translated into this stunning material blend… especially the lotus flower design element which I originally spotted as a carving in the temple wall.
The Borobudur monument and one of the jewellery pieces it inspired, the Borobudur Lotus Open Sterling Bronze Bangle
Which is the most challenging part of the design process? What about the most rewarding one?
I am often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of aesthetically pleasing art out there… sometimes I feel OVER-Inspired! The design process can be daunting when the possibilities are so endless. That said, once a theme is identified and the elements are determined, it is fun to break loose and let the creativity take over! It is rewarding to put the finishing touches on a collection at the point when it has all come together…
Where do you make your pieces? Do you collaborate with local manufacturers from places that inspired your collections? If so, how difficult was it to find a manufacturer and which are the challenges of production?
We have been producing Cynthia Gale jewellery in Indonesia since 1991 and have producers in both Bali and Java. I have spent a great deal of time in Indonesia over the years… conceived both of my children there(HA!)… and raised them to understand other cultures, people and places. Production challenges occur when communication is weak. We have worked hard to streamline our communication with our production partners in conjunction with developing a close personal relationship with them over the years.
Which is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from the travels that have influenced your jewellery lines?
There is intrinsic beauty in all forms of art, whether it be the rustic art of the Buddhist Dharmachakra Wheel or the delicate, flowing lines of the French Belle Epoche which celebrated artistic freedom and creativity.
The Dharmachakra, one of the oldest known Buddhist motifs in spiritual art, and the Dharmachakra Sterling Blue Topaz Grace Necklace
What does jewellery mean to you?
Jewellery is meant to evoke a feeling or a memory of another time and place. I believe that a woman or man’s choice of jewellery is a personal expression of their individuality. I have often said, “A woman’s clothing covers the canvass, but her accessories provide the details. That is what makes her unique.”
Who do you design for? Who is the Cynthia Gale woman?
She is independent, creative and enjoys art and fashion. The Cynthia Gale woman is timeless, yet modern. She appreciates sterling silver jewellery that can be worn every day, but seamlessly transitions into the many facets of her lifestyle.
You wish people appreciated more:… broader ranges of artistic expression. I wish people were willing to explore and be open to the vast range of art forms which exist today. Through art, humanity evolves, grows and prospers.
The Fossil Bambu Collection combines the ancient Indonesian metalwork technique of repoussé to offer the wearer a sense of the healing power the fossil bambu, a unique agate stone, is known for in the Javanese culture
photo: 1-courtesy of Cynthia Gale / the rest of the images: Cynthia Gale official website