Jewelry Designer in Half Moon Bay Sculpts Pieces That Inspire and Endure
by Elinor Gale
May 2012— Jesse Warshauer, award-winning jewelry designer of Main Street Goldworks in Half Moon Bay, approaches life and work with passion. Whether helping customers in his parents’ successful, 25-year-old jewelry business, cycling, running along the coast, or rock-climbing and exploring magnificent vistas, Warshauer derives inspiration for his art.
Warshauer, who has traveled extensively and lived abroad, relishes learning about the environment, culture and crafts of local artisans, all influences on his own work. For example, there’s the bike trip he took up a 10,000-foot mountain in Maui — where, he says: “You see so much expression of nature in its most beautiful, pure state. It’s so quiet you can hear your heart beat. This kind of environment gives me inspiration.”
Warshauer credits his parents — Patti, jewelry designer and buyer, and Jay, designer, skilled artisan and diamond specialist — with his early appreciation of blending craftsmanship and creativity with customer service.
“As a young guy, I worked events and in the store, watching my parents as designers, themselves, take customer input and their own inspiration to create beautiful pieces. I saw designers work at various techniques and styles. I learned about the artistry involved,” he says.
“In its essence, the jewelry is sculpture. It’s wearable pieces made for durable longevity, using metals, precious gemstones and the most beautiful, precious materials.”
He also derives inspiration from other artists. He says, “We have beautiful work in our store, so I’m learning design concept and techniques with different materials.”
As a child, Warshauer found jewelry making fascinating, never thinking he’d become a designer himself. “I was always interested in art and produced nice drawings,” he says. In college, he sculpted three-dimensional clay and stone carving — elaborate and larger scale pieces.
Majoring in anthropology enabled Warshauer to combine his interest in people with the study of their art, culture, religion and history. His degree allowed him to travel, and travel he did. In Belize and Guatemala, he experienced sustainability farming — families living entirely off their land — and watched people creating and selling their handwork. In Australia, he studied aboriginal art and learned about cultural expression through art. In Brazil, he studied graphic design; in South Korea, he taught English, rock-climbed and explored architecture in highly decorated temples and ruins. He watched monks creating intricate, beautiful paintings.
“I lived a nontraditional lifestyle for 2 1⁄2 years,” he says.
Warshauer creates his jewelry using the lost wax carving technique. He says: “I carve wax with a simple assortment of tools — files and blades, no mechanical tools — super basic, a technique as old as Egypt. Not many are doing it. Most use CAD/CAM programs for precision. Fewer people do free-form abstraction, hand-cut design.”
“It requires great dexterity and calm, working in a smallish space on precious metal, doing the contouring and everything very carefully. I start with an idea, sketch it, carve it in wax, cast it and finish it in a metal with the files, sandpaper and polish. I can solder in a mounting and set a stone and that’s it. I work on one piece at a time over an extended period, focusing on quality and the vision I want to make reality.”
Recently back from the Independent Jewelers Organization Spring Conference, where his Illumination and Spindrift pendants won awards, Warshauer says when the Spindrift pendant, his first piece, made its store debut, it sold in 10 minutes.
“It’s an abstraction and a wave. People can see what they see in it. They can find some part of themselves in the piece.”
He gives the example of a woman about to begin chemotherapy who connected immediately with the pendant; she bought it, saying she’d “ride this wave through the troubles of chemotherapy.” One week later, she bought two more Spindrift pendants for her sisters.
When a customer tries on a piece, Warshauer says, it becomes something more than it was while sitting in the showcase; the customer takes the piece to the next level. “It’s amazing to watch the transformation when the piece bonds with the person,” he says.
“It’s about much more than an accessory or gift. It’s about a feeling, beauty and appreciation. I couldn’t be happier, “ Warshauer says. “I love the work. It brings me joy.”
Main Street Goldworks is located at 542 Main Street in Half Moon Bay; you can call the store at 650-726-2546.