Meet Todd Pownell, owner of TAP by Todd Pownell
, a designer jewelry firm in Midtown with a team of four that sell its work through jewelry stores, galleries and clothing boutiques. The designs are unique juxtapositions with interaction between dark and light metals, fine gold and diamonds that give the TAP Jewelry designs a romantic sense, an air of mystery and sublime nature.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I studied jewelry making and gemology after high school and immediately began working as a jewelry craftsman at independent jewelry stores. I followed up with the study of gemology as I became curious about the gemstones I was setting. The switch to become an entrepreneur became apparent only after I “topped out” working for someone else. I needed to continue to challenge myself and there was absolutely nowhere to grow from where I was. To become complacent in a job was depressing to me. Honestly, in hindsight I wish had made the jump to entrepreneur years earlier.
What is the biggest struggle you've had to overcome?
It’s a considerable struggle when the cost of metals we use fluctuates or increases rapidly. We cannot just change the cost of our product with the same speed, so you have to accept losses and gains within the cost changes over time. I basically keep a steady, stoic attitude toward these fluctuations, while at the same time being very attentive to overall cost changes annually.
What do you consider a perfect day at the office?
The best days are when I am working and designing with newly acquired or exciting stones for one-of-a-kind pieces or when creating new collections. I love it when I’ve had the idea for something for some time and I finally get to actually sit down and produce the new work.
What does it mean to win the Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year Award?
The New Designer of the Year Award is named for the late Mort Abelson, who was a prominent figure in the jewelry industry and is credited with coming up with the idea of creating a platform that introduces up-and-coming designers to the mainstream market.
Winning the award was a huge honor for us -- super exciting and also humbling when I look at the past list of winners. The award brings an increase of attention to our brand identity and an opportunity for us to step up to the plate and build on the inertia of the award.
What has been your favorite piece you’ve worked on?
The largest most prestigious piece we have done was a piece called “Glacier Necklace." It consists of three one-carat thick diamond slices at the front and cascades around the neck with a total of 33 carats of additional diamonds. It has a mix of inverted, traditionally set and rose cuts all bezel set in a seemingly random pattern. The piece really shines when worn. It’s like someone spilled diamonds around the neckline and they just float there.
Do you have a piece you would never sell?
I make jewelry to be worn and so I don’t covet the pieces for myself. It is a very satisfying experience when someone really connects with jewelry, so it is made to be appreciated and ultimately purchased.
Where do you find your inspiration for new designs?
The Romantic Period of the late 18th century has had a considerable influence on my jewelry designs. I like to emphasize interaction of dark and light and the materials I choose to convey both order and chaos is an important aspect of my work.
What Cleveland artists do you admire?
The late jewelry artist John Paul Miller has my upmost admiration. I admire his steadfast dedication to nature, goldsmithing and the great appreciation he showed for design, music, painting and all high art. Our studio has acquired his old workbench and it is an honor for us to remember him by continuing to hand produce jewelry on it today.
My wife and I are good friends of the Cleveland-based baroque oboist Debra Nagy she heads the musical group Les Delices, who perform masterpieces and little-known works from the French Baroque period. I admire her tenacity for finding truly creative space within the music and her ability to bring together talented musicians for the group’s yearly program.
Can you share a funny entrepreneurial experience?
I am a member of Ethical Metalsmiths and in 2011, I participated in a project led by fellow metalsmith member and craft activist Gabriel Craig to raise awareness about un-responsible mining practices called “The Prospects of Slow Gold.” We were to go out west and attempt to collect enough gold directly from the earth through small digging and gold panning to create wedding rings.
It was an amazing experience and in a way, it was slightly comical in the super small amount of gold we acquired from our heavy lifting efforts