Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips for doing business—and reentering our “normal” lives, both professionally and personally—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from fine jewelry designer Kristin Hanson, who’s based in New York’s Hudson Valley.
JCK: Hi! How have you been weathering the pandemic?
Kristin Hanson: The pandemic has been an interesting time for me and my business. It’s allowed me to pause and reflect on my work and my company’s redesign, and to discover new inspiration from life spent exclusively at home.
I’ve been keeping busy building up my new website, and have found that consumers are loving natural gemstones, which have always been a focus of mine. Thankfully, the bridal market has been thriving—love is still in the air!
Where are you based and who do you live with?
Just before the pandemic, my daughter and I moved to the sweet country town of Rhinebeck, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley. Being close to family and purchasing a new home has been a wonderful experience and a continual source of creativity.
I’ve always loved decorating and designing homes, so working on such a large scale [on interiors] has brought a new perspective to my jewelry design. Being close to nature is one of my greatest inspirations. I love the city and have kept my office there, but I feel renewed in the fresh country air.
How has your professional life been since the pandemic started?
The pandemic forced me to rethink and restructure my business in order to adapt to the changing times. Bridal has always been my largest category, and I’ve found that in tough times people hold onto what matters most. I deeply value the custom design process I’ve been able to achieve for my clients. While we now connect remotely, we’ve still been able to capture the intimate details of crafting uniquely personal designs through the wonders of modern technology.
This pivot has also allowed me to expand my business outside of geographical boundaries. Now I connect with clients all over the world. This personal connection of creating heirloom items that they will cherish forever is one of my favorite parts of being a jewelry designer.
Was there a time you shut down your operations, or have you been producing throughout?
Since I design and handcraft pieces from my own home studio, I was fortunate to remain operational. With an uptick of in-home browsing of lower-priced natural gemstones, I explored working more with turquoise, Italian coral, and smaller sapphires. I’ve also been busy working on my new website, which relaunched earlier this year.
What have been the main challenges for you during the pandemic, and what have been the silver linings?
One of the main challenges during the pandemic was the uncertainty of how the jewelry business would react to the changing economy and elections. Watching New York City take a back seat in business and seeing everything shut down was definitely a concern. The jewelry district was closed for a few months but has been thriving ever since. I’m finding that customers are looking for something unique and valuable now more than ever, which is why Argyle pink diamonds and rare gems have been at the forefront of the industry in the past year.
Tell me about your new Elements collection—what inspired it?
Nature has always been my greatest inspiration, starting when I was a child picking up shells on the beach and collecting rocks in my backyard. My jewelry artistry began at a very early age and is still inspired by the organic textures and colors that the Earth creates.
When discovering what my new and latest collection would be, it made perfect sense to go back to my roots and explore this childhood fantasia. I created the Elements collection as an ode to the magnificent splendor of Earth’s natural beauty. Capturing the essence of these elements by creating these heirloom items felt like an important endeavor.
What do you think younger brands need to focus on when it comes to marketing, and what has worked for you?
Stay true to yourself. I’ve had the opportunity to teach thousands of students from around the world during my tenure running my design school in New York City. I found that many young designers are looking outward for their inspiration, but my guidance has always been to look inward and discover your true self.
As for social media, it seems to be constantly changing, like a race with no finish line. My suggestion is to stay on top of it with fresh new content that you create and design. Take tons of pictures and constantly think forward. In this saturated market, it’s important to focus on what makes you unique.
What have you done to relax during the pandemic?
All of my joy has come from spending time with my 3-year-old daughter. We spend time crafting countless art projects, cooking healthy organic foods, taking long walks in the country, and spending time with family. I also started painting again and getting into other art forms, which are all connected to my jewelry design.
Any good recommendations for TV/movies/podcasts/books?
With a young daughter at home, there’s not much time for media other than Disney+! I’ve always been big on documentaries and educational shows, so I sneak those in when I can. With my daughter, we love watching National Geographic and nature series, learning more about the Earth and animals.
The GIA knowledge sessions during the pandemic were great. I also watch a lot of how-to videos on YouTube about fixing things around the house or brushing up on my jewelry techniques.
Top: Kristin Hanson at the bench (all photos courtesy of Kristin Hanson)
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