DESIGNER INTERVIEW: IAN DOUGLAS, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT INSPIRED

When did you first fall in love with jewellery and knew you wanted to become a designer? Tell us about how and where this happened, and how it felt.

I began an apprenticeship in manufacturing jewellery in 1974 at the age of 17 for one simple reason, that I loved making things and in particular designing and manufacturing. Crafting jewellery gave me a great satisfaction and pleasure, seeing items I had created in my mind and then executed by my own hands and finally finding a passionate owner, was one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

Where did you grow up? Who was significant in your life then and what are some of your most special childhood memories about them? How do those memories and influences contribute to your work now?

I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, and my most significant influences were my parents. My father was a humble, hard working man who believed in being loyal and honest and treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself. They’re simple attitudes that resonate and form the basis of how I live. My mother was also a talented painter, and admiring her work as a child helped develop my appreciation of the arts.

How did you get into the jewellery industry? Where did you train or serve your apprenticeship and start out? Did you have a significant mentors that guided you?

I began an apprenticeship in manufacturing jewellery in 1974 at the age of 17. I then worked for a jewellery manufacturer, and managed a shop. I eventually set up my own business in Wellington in 1981. Since then, I've been designing and making jewellery in 18-carat gold or platinum, adorned with diamonds, sapphires, rubies and other coloured gemstones.

What drove you to start your own jewellery line?

For me, it's all about designing and producing jewellery that is different from what most other designers and manufacturers are doing. The idea for The Inspired Collection came from frustration. Frustration, that after 30 years involved in the jewellery industry I was becoming increasingly unhappy with its direction. It seemed that price was becoming the primary factor in the design and production of jewellery, particularly diamond jewellery and ring design.

To my mind, the jewellery industry had forgotten why people buy jewellery. People should be moved by jewellery, be inspired, fall in love with an object that speaks to them and evokes feelings of desire and pleasure.

It seemed as an industry it had become more about cost of an item of jewellery, not what it actually was. For all those reasons I was determined to create a range of jewellery that was faithful to what jewellery should be; items that inspire the soul, not simply have a price tag.

For that reason “Inspired” was born.

I wanted a range of jewellery that went back to basics, that spoke to people about design, quality of materials and craftsmanship, jewellery that creates a desire to possess based on passion, not dollars.

I stepped back from the common mindset of how to make jewellery and put all convention aside.

I went back to basics.

I imagined a hand, naked except for a loose diamond floating upon it. The challenge then was how to connect the two, throw away the conventional and dream of art that formed a connection of the diamond to the hand.

“The Inspired Collection” was born.

What are your values and how do they relate to your jewellery?

At the heart of all that we do is the integrity of our jewellery and our service, underpinned by expert and friendly advice, innovative design, genuine craftsmanship, and care for our customers. This translates into an honest and transparent approach to jewellery design and service.

We are designing and manufacturing jewellers who create our jewellery and ring designs based on four key pillars: Design, Integrity, Quality and Craftsmanship.

With this approach, we create cutting-edge, contemporary jewellery of the highest quality and craftsmanship for customers who appreciate intricate ring design and exquisite jewellery.

Design – start with a pencil and paper

Integrity - transparent and honest

Quality – only the highest quality

Craftsmanship – award winning jewellers

Where do you do your best work? Where do you get your inspirations from for new pieces & collections? Where and by whom is the jewellery made?

We get inspiration from places we visit, people we meet and from ordinary, everyday situations. Most of our pieces can be described as avant garde, I think that's what jewellery should do - it should be disruptive; it should create an emotion. It should be provocative.

We have been crafting jewellery in our workshop for 35 years. All of our designs start from the heart - a hand-drawn design with pencil and paper. We then use a combination of modern technologies and classic craftsmanship to bring our designs to life. Using the latest CAD software and 3D printing capabilities, we evolve, test and refine our designs, which are then cast to move into the workshop for final manufacture by our award winning jewellers who take immense pride in their work.

Our workshop is in full view of our clients so they can see the jewellers working on their special piece and be more involved in the design and craft process.

How and where do you source your materials and gemstones?

We only use ethically sourced Kimberly Certified diamonds and materials from global reputable diamond suppliers and local and international precious metal suppliers. We are able to offer our customers GIA certified diamonds, and we are a supplier of CanadaMark diamonds with guaranteed Canadian provenance and Canadian Sirius Star®… the world’s brightest diamond®. These options allow us to trace the entire provenance and journey of the diamond from mine to mount.

Tell us the story of the most meaningful piece of jewellery you have ever received? Who gave it to you and why is it so dear to you?

A client recently gave me a special piece of NZ greenstone (Nephrite jade) that they had blessed by the Maori carver who created it. It tells the story of my family in its markings, and sits in a special rough stone base. The clients commissioned it specially for me in appreciation of the rings we crafted for them. Along with my late father’s watch which I inherited on his passing, it definitely is my most treasured jewellery item.

Who are some of your clients you are most proud of? They could be well known or just stories you are really proud of.

I’m just proud that we have such an extensive and varied client base. I’ve been privileged to create jewellery for royalty, film and sports stars, prime ministers and the super rich. Whilst that’s flattering, it’s the interaction with all our clients whether they be students or millionaires, that is the reward. Everyone has a story, a past and a future, and some of my most interesting clients have been those that don’t have a lot of money, but their life experiences are incredibly rich. We’ve created some amazing pieces for such people.

How do you want someone to feel when they wear a piece of your jewellery?

People should be moved by jewellery. I want The Inspired Collection to do exactly that - inspire people, and be objects you fall in love with because of how a particular piece speaks to you personally.

What has been the highest point of your career as a designer so far?  

I’ve been fortunate to have won design awards, met amazing industry influencers and enjoyed a great career, but it’s the feeling that the best is yet to come that excites me and makes me want to get better as a designer and as a person. The future is the highlight.

You should be incredibly proud of your brand and what you have achieved to date.  But do you feel like you have already ‘arrived’?  What drives you and what do you want to achieve with your work in the future?

My favourite piece of jewellery is always the last one that we’ve just delivered to a client. That’s always the best, but importantly, the excitement comes from knowing you have to create and execute something special for the next person. A perpetual challenge that gets me out of bed in the morning. My apprenticeship mentor once said to me, when you think you’ve made the perfect piece of jewellery, stop. No one ever has, or will, but it’s our duty to try.

We are working on an exciting project, which we hope to unveil early next year. It is a new way of clasping diamonds. It will be like a floating stone, where the clasps almost appear invisible. It's very inventive and we think it will excite the market and generate new interest in diamonds. We want to keep challenging the perceptions of what people think is possible in a diamond ring.

Is there anything else you would like to add, either about yourself or the brand?

We’re just striving to be the best we can be. Having fun along the way, dreaming up new and exciting designs, doing it because we can. Incredibly fortunate really. Oh, and you have to work your a%*! off.