What do chocolate chip cookies, super glue, and Penicillin have in common? They’re all examples of happy accidents! Sometimes, there is no better outcome than an experiment going wrong. In the case of my signature Ripple Ring, a simple mistake made all the difference.
During the early days of Kristen Baird® Jewelry, I was struggling to articulate my unique voice. I knew that I was inspired by the changing seasons, flowing lines, and bright colors of nature, but it was difficult to capture these elements in a piece of jewelry. I was also eager to take every custom order that came my way, no matter the style. Sometimes you just gotta hustle!
I spent a lot of time experimenting with different techniques in my studio. One day, I decided to try my hand at an old metalsmithing technique called reticulation. This involves applying localized heat to a piece of metal so that it melts, creating a ripple effect. Reticulation was popular with 19th-century jewelers such as Fabergé. (You know, the guy who made those fancy eggs!)
The Ripple Cuff
As I manipulated the temperature of my torch, a flowing texture began to emerge on the surface of the metal. It reminded me of the running water in the creeks I used to play in as a kid. While the look was very raw and unfinished at first, I kept at it. After several attempts, I created a sterling silver ripple cuff that I was very happy with. I hurried to send the new piece off to a photographer and then to the Grand Bohemian Gallery in Savannah. This was the first time my new “rippling work” was set to appear in a solo gallery show, so it was a major opportunity for me. I was determined to put my best foot forward. When I sent out those photos, I had a distinct feeling that I’d hit on something great; I just had no idea what was in store for me.
A Fateful Mistake
When the photos arrived at the Grand Bohemian, they quickly added them to their promotional materials for the upcoming solo show. Before long, the gallery started receiving requests for my piece - sort of. You see, the scale of the piece was difficult to determine on the poster, so everyone mistook my cuff for a ring. What do you think… does this look like a ring to you?
Either way, people loved it and a new idea was planted!
With so many requests for my “ripple ring” coming in, I knew I had to give it a shot. But reticulation isn’t an easy technique and I’d never tried it on something as small as a ring. Naturally, there were a lot of mistakes and “oopsies” over time. But something inside urged me to keep going, and I’m so glad I did.
After racking up piles of duds and mess-ups, I finally succeeded in creating a ring that rolled and waved like flowing water. The final design had the proper balance between thickness and width and the perfect touch of texture, yet was still comfortable and fit for everyday wear. Then came the stones. My heart may have skipped a beat when I started adding the gemstones and saw how the entire look and feel came to life.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of finally finding your voice as an artist. I knew from that point forward Kristen Baird® Jewelry would have a distinct look and style. Though I’ve evolved quite a bit since then, the Ripple Ring continues to influence everything I do.
The Ripple Ring Today
These days, I do a lot of reticulation. Seriously, I could give ol’ Fabergé a run for his money! I’ve sold thousands of variations on the Ripple Ring, each one unique, plus the cuff bracelet that inspired it. (You may have heard me mention once or twice that Oprah once wore my Splash Gem Cuff on television.)
The popularity of my initial Ripple Ring and cuff bracelets led me to design my first collection, The Ripple Collection. It also features earrings and necklaces, all inspired by the movement of water. The influence of this first collection runs through all of my later work.
My latest collection, Graceful Glimmer, features itty-bitty ripple Ripple Rings that are great for layering and stacking. I also continue to create show-stopping Ripple Rings, like the Golden Hour ring and the duol-stone Birds of a Feather. I even make fine Ripple Rings ideal for the alternative bride!
My relationship with the Grand Bohemian also continues to grow. While the original location has closed, I'm now proud to be a part of The Grand Bohemian Gallery at Plant Riverside. I’ve also partnered with the Grand Bohemian Galleries in Charleston, Asheville, Mountain Brook, Orlando, and the brand new location in Greenville. I’ll forever be grateful to them for the role they’ve played in my story!
Every Ripple Ring I make continues to capture the energy, movement, and ever-changing nature of our planet. Which one is your favorite?