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So Happy to Have Won the 2018 MJSA Online Design Challenge!

Karin Jacobson design award design process opals sapphires

Last January, I was invited by the editor of MJSA magazine to be one of nine jewelry designers to participate in the MJSA Online Design Challenge. And last week, I got the most amazing news: I found out I’d won! The contest was hosted by MJSA (Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America) and sponsored by Columbia Gem House, one of my own trusted sources for fair trade gems. The whole experience required a lot of imagination, and really let me stretch my design muscles!

MJSA Design challenge Karin Jacobson Final rendering
 I'm excited to get to say it:  Here is my award-winning design!

Design meets fiction

Participants were asked to design a piece based on a story about a fictional couple, and using a collection of gems drawn from Columbia’s offerings. We were given a photo of the stones, and asked to read this story about Lila and Mark’s relationship and life together. Both characters were dedicated to protecting the natural environment and it’s eventually revealed that Mark wanted to give his expectant wife a responsibly-sourced gift for their anniversary.

MJSA Design Challenge Full Stone Group Gems from Columbia Gem House
The stone collection included one Oregon blue hyalite opal, 22 Nyala Padparadscha pink sapphires, and six Rock Creek Montana denim blue sapphires.

The challenge was to create a rendering, not a finished piece, and the rendering could be in the form of a drawing, painting, CAD, whatever the designer preferred. I wanted my entry to really feel like a work of art - so I chose watercolor as my medium.

On top of the gems, cost of additional materials and labor couldn’t exceed the fictional couple’s budget of $5,000. MJSA launched the challenge in late 2017, and released the competing designs monthly starting in January of 2018.  Mine was the second entry released, due in February and shown online starting shortly thereafter.

My choices within the challenge

In addition to the rendering, we were asked to write up an essay explaining how we made our design choices. You can read my whole essay on the MJSA site, but here’s an excerpt:

Since Lila is a gardener and dedicated to preserving the natural earth, I opted to incorporate a floral theme. Although Malawi is home to a vast number of indigenous flowers, it’s particularly known for its large variety of orchid species. I crafted the flower design of the piece based on the shape of an orchid, using an origami type of technique to give the flowers volume and make them three-dimensional. When I was designing the right side of the piece, I researched plants, paying particular attention to berries since Lila grows her own, and I discovered that Oregon is known for its blueberries. It was a happy accident that I had gorgeous blue sapphires that would make perfect blueberry stand-ins. The Oregon opal serves as a white blueberry blossom. It was a nice way to represent a flowering berry bush without being super literal.

MJSA Design Challenge preliminary necklace rendering
 Here's a preliminary sketch, with some notes to myself.

I had a fantastic time envisioning and designing an oxidized wrap-around statement necklace for Lila using the gems from Columbia’s vaults and meaningful motifs. It was so fun to have an entire back-story to work with, and of course I loved the use of fair trade gems.

A thrilling surprise

I was not exactly sure when the results of the contest would be announced, so imagine my surprise and delight when I got my copy of MJSA magazine, flipped to the back page, and found a big ol’ picture of my piece!

MJSA Online Design Competition Winner Karin Jacobson
 So fun to see my rendering in print!

Huge thanks to MJSA for this opportunity and honor, and to Columbia Gem House for providing such gorgeous inspiration! 

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