20th Anniversary Jewelry Artisan Spotlight: Melissa Joy Manning

by - Friday, October 07, 2016

Twenty years ago, we launched the first Sundance Jewelry Catalog dedicated to the artistry and beauty of jewelry making. Showcasing artisans and their craft from all over the world, the jewelry catalog quickly attracted loyal customers who appreciate the authenticity and originality of its collection. Two decades later, as Sundance continues to celebrate the community of jewelry artists who express their individual spirit of creativity through inspired use of mix metals and gemstones, color and form, Sundance is renowned for the unique yet timeless pieces that the artists offer.

To commemorate the anniversary, we will be posting several blog posts featuring some of our favorite artists. This week, we are featuring artisan Melissa Joy Manning. Joyful. Spiritual. Unique. Empowering. These are words that describe both the designer and her jewelry. Melissa Joy Manning's education in art history, design, sculpture and silver-smithing make her uniquely suited to her work as a jewelry creator. Her designs are driven by her passion for ancient cultures and a fascination with found objects, which she reclaims, recycles and renews with a touch of the modern. We sat down with Melissa to talk jewelry and Sundance.

Sundance: Tell us how you got started as a jewelry artist?
Melissa Joy Manning: I've made jewelry since Montessori School and pursued an academic degree in both jewelry design and sculpture. However, it wasn't until I went to a vocational counselor and was told that I should be self-employed that I gained the confidence to start my own business. I had believed that art was a hobby or passion, but wasn't necessarily a career. How wrong I was!  With about $500, I created my own collection and began reaching out to accounts I respected, Sundance being one of them. The ‎director of design development for jewelry at Sundance and I knew each other from a previous job, and she was an early supporter of my line. In fact, she was one of the first. I was lucky enough to build a business and was committed to reinvesting back into it as I gained traction and success in the market. 19 years later, this remains a core component of my business strategy, as does maintaining the authentic relationships with the key partners I have met along the way.

SD: What are your favorite materials?
MJM: I really enjoy working with gold and unique stones. There is something about the warmth of yellow gold that really satisfies me. I like the way it works with almost every stone I find. I'm always on the lookout for new stones I haven't seen before- especially those that aren't traditionally used in jewelry or those that are undervalued by the industry. Pushing people's perceptions of precious is something I love to do through interesting and innovative material choice.

SD: Does your collection change seasonally?
MJM: Yes, I love to design and create more than six to eight unique collections a year. We are constantly in design development and I am a prolific designer- if we don't have something new in the works I feel out of sorts!

What is your inspiration? Can you show concept board or images you use?
MJM: Inspiration is an interesting thing. It changes as often as my collection does. I am usually inspired by my environment- be it nature, my travels, or the people that surround me. Right now I am working on a collection called Cacophony that was inspired by music. It is a group of disparate colored pieces that are an attempt to capture the scope of sound that creates a musical work.

SD: Can you give us any more information about yourself that would be cool to know?
MJM: I just had a son and I am finding motherhood to be the most rewarding, humbling and inspirational experience I have ever had!

Shop all of Melissa's 20th Anniversary collection here.

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