Thursday, February 28, 2013

hightower interview. day two-hundred-two.

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Today I am excited to finally present my first interview! Kicking it with my good friend Randy of Hightower
Chains who sponsored my first REAL giveaway.  Hightower (as I chose to refer to him as) designs and makes chainmaille jewelry and forged items. I love that I can both wear and use his creations on the daily. He spends a lot of time and detail into each piece he makes and it shows. Chainmaille is really complex and can be done improperly where it becomes 'uncomfortable' (think poking you frequently...) but Hightowers pieces are always comfortable. The favorite design of mine is the Rian (as seen below). This was my giveaway item and basically was because I LOVE IT. The rubber links make it stretchy and oh so comfy both when hot or cold out! Plus it looks B.A.

 I have always loved his stuff and it has been on my blog since the FIRST post so it only seems right that I interview him for my first interview. The format for my interviews is a Q/A with photographs from our interview session and various other hangout sessions!

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What inspired you to start designing jewelry?
I was on vacation in Arizona and found a book on chainmaille jewelry. The book had patterns for 5 or 6 bracelets and a few pairs of earrings. It looked interesting, so I picked up the book and some sterling silver jumprings. That week, I made my first few pieces of jewelry and I was hooked!
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Your work looks so complicated and beautiful, do you make everything yourself?
Thank you! I do make almost everything myself. I prefer to make my own rings so that I can have exactly the size rings I need when I need them. I make some of my own findings, such as clasps and earwires, but there are times where I need specific clasps or other findings that are more economical to purchase than to make.
Where do you do your work?
I do the majority of my jewelry work at home. Actually, my living room is my workshop! Most of my time making jewelry I am sitting on the couch, with my work laid out on the coffee table and a movie playing on the TV.
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What gives you inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration in many different places. Sometimes I will see a piece of jewelry in a store or magazine that gives me an idea. Many times, I start playing with patterns and see something come together in a way that I hadn't seen before and it becomes a piece of jewelry. A lot of my mens' jewelry comes from ideas of pieces of jewelry that I would like to wear myself. There is a real lack of cool masculine jewelry out there, and I hope to fill that as best I can.
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What do you want Hightower Chains to accomplish (aka your mission statement!)
Okay.. now you're exposing one of my weaknesses! I don't have a mission statement...
I hope that I can make excellent quality jewelry that helps people express themselves in a new and fresh way.
How would you describe your personal style?
I'm most comfortable in a pair of jeans and a black shirt! I call it 'Johnny Cash casual'! I like to experiment with different types of jewelry, but I find over time that I have some common pieces that I wear almost every day.
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Any tips for aspiring jewelry designers?
First and foremost, have FUN making jewelry! Second, PLEASE focus on the basics! I have seen too many pieces that could be amazing, but the rings aren't closed well or beads aren't wrapped properly. Customers will notice these shortcomings before they see the awesomeness of your design.
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How/Why did you start doing forge work?
I started doing a lot of chainmaille work with stainless steel. Making rings was pretty straight forward, but making earwires, toggles and clasps wasn't working. Everything had sharp edges and my files were getting trashed trying to make it work. This lead me to investigate blacksmithing, which I though would lead to micro-blacksmithing for jewelry primarily. Fortunately, it lead to a whole new area of interest for me that I had never explored before.
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Where do you get your inspiration for the forge work?
I like to make what I call 'functional artwork.' I like to make things that are cool to look at, but they serve a purpose. Some of my best inspiration has come from customers who request items that I've never made before and I have to go figure out how to make their idea work.
How did you come up with the bottle opener-railroad spike? 
The bottle opener was something I had seen many different ways online, so I just played around with some of my own variations on the theme. The real breakthrough came when a couple came into Uniquely Stranded and started looking at the bottle openers. The wife said, "These are really cool, but we're wine drinkers, we need a corkscrew!" I had no idea how to make a corkscrew, but off to the forge I went. This has become my number one selling item by far!
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Thanks to Hightower for letting me chat with him! I love talking to people about what they love to do. Check out his work on his etsy shop HERE and his blog/website HERE. And here is a cool review on the ABOVE corkscrew bottle opener thats really neeto! Cheers!

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