This week’s designer is Kim Dunham, the woman behind the beautifully soul moving jewelry to pass down as heirloom rings to your family. After ending up in The New York Times in a very organic way (she is not into bold self-promotion, but more of an introvert who also loves talking to people), Kim Dunham’s jewelry designs have become more well-known and beloved to even more of us. Kim loves what she calls sentimental jewelry pieces. Classic and simple designs are her favorite. In describing how her ring designs came to be, Kim was walking down the street wearing her signet ring her mother had given her, thinking about how people have the outside self and the inside self – her rings represent this with the outward crest and the message inside for ourself. She made her first ring for herself and she used the snake symbol (inspired by her fear of snakes) with the message inside as a reminder to be brave. The second ring she made was for her husband who is Chinese American and born in the Chinese year of the monkey, so she used that symbol with a classical English look and the family’s initials on the inside.
Now after two decades of working in the industry, Kim designs rings personally with her clients. We dove into her creative process. She works in her home studio with her new puppy by her side in New York City. She will light a candle by the Surfrider Hotel, with a warm scent and grows a lot of sage and likes to cleanse the rings with it. The space is very quiet and calm, and she works in silence even though she loves music when she’s not working. When she begins the design process with a client, she starts with a questionnaire that covers where they were born, people that are important to them, bucket lists, fears and many questions to learn more about their story. Usually there will be an hour or two conversation about what design they desire. She tries to listen well and hear the story that unfolds with her client. Sometimes she’ll bring symbols to the narrative that’s important to them. With every ring design, she learns a lot about history and culture. The palm tree is one of the symbols she loves to use – she sees it as “a tree that can weather the storm and still stay grounded.” When designing a new ring style, she will name those new styles after the clients she designs them with.
Her advice to other creative entrepreneurs and those aspiring to be: When you’re so passionate about your business, you don’t need a lot of others’ approval and you won’t question it – because you’ll just KNOW you’re on the right track.
Follow along with Kim Dunham’s process on Instagram at @kimdunhamjewelry and you can see our full interview on Instagram at @_raquelgarciadesign_.