One To Watch: Todd A. Pownell

The experience of melting steel rods together in shop class started Todd A. Pownell on his journey toward jewelry-making. As he studied and explored metals, Pownell began working on a smaller scale with nonferrous metals and copper to create miniature metal boxes. Once he was exposed to silver and gold, the seduction was complete and the decision to make jewelry came naturally.

Honing his skills working with fine-jewelry makers, Pownell learned to set many different types of gemstones that fascinated him. He became mesmerized with their internal properties such as crystal structure, refractive index and hardness, which led him to study gemology and become a Graduate Gemologist.

He then started his own jewelry line, called TAP by Todd Pownell, in 2008, approaching the process of making jewelry with an honest respect for the innate qualities of the materials. “Noble metals and gemstones have strong qualities of order and structure within their internal nature and this arouses my sense of admiration and attention for the craft,” he says.

Pownell describes the process of making jewelry as “chaotic, yet filled with joys and struggles, too,” which conspires with his respect of the materials to create finished pieces that exist with those traces of chaos and order. The intended visual effect is similar to the tensions displayed in the night sky as a storm gathers or the effect low-angled light cast across a landscape has upon the gazing eye.

He achieves this effect through an interaction of dark and light metals mixed with fine gold and diamonds, which evokes a strong sense of mystery and sublime nature. The diamonds are bead-set “upside-down” onto the surface in a pavé setting or scattered across the piece. This reverse setting effectively captures and reflects light in a succession of broad flashes from oblique angles, creating the feeling of twilight, as seen in the examples shown below. Underlying it all are designs that evolve from an emotional state to an aesthetic experience and back again, with romanticism as a powerful influence. “The emotive experience is primary with passions held over order, and the senses are moved into the pleasures of the imagination,” he says.

Pownell shares his knowledge on topics such as stone setting, fabrication and how to build a viable studio through lectures and workshops and is a member of the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, Ethical Metalsmiths and The Diamond Development Initiative.

Cleveland, Ohio

Todd A. Pownell was chosen as one of 10 designers in the New Designer Gallery at the 2014 Jewelers of America New York Summer Show. Since 1977, the New Designer Gallery has been the launching pad for some of today’s most prominent jewelry designers, assisting them in developing their careers while gaining recognition for their talents. At the show, Pownell was the recipient of the Mort Abelson Designer of the Year Award, named for the late Mort Abelson, who was a prominent figure in the jewelry industry and credited with conceptualizing a platform that introduces up-and-coming designers to the mainstream market.
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