Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Studio Spotlight: Criffin Designs

A few years ago I worked in an airplane factory.

It has become known as the good ole days around my house.  We were working on a cool product, with a young, well-funded, entrepreneurial company and the people were the best.  Seriously top-notch... as in these people are the yard-stick I use to compare all others I have worked with since.

Things didn't turn out quite as we had hoped, but the plane still lives.  A lot of us moved on, and some of us moved on to very interesting things...

Jerry and I used to work at the airplane factory together.  He was a quiet guy... at least when I was around.  He worked really hard and I could always depend on him.

I knew he was a Colorado guy, so of course his cool factor started a few notches higher than the others.  Then after we both left the airplane factory, I found out that he and his wife used to have llamas for trekking.  So the cool factor went up a few more notches.

We were chatting on Facebook recently when he shared his website with me.  All I can say is WOW!  Beautiful, incredible, modern jewelry designs made from aircraft aluminum.

The benefit of using aircraft aluminum is that he can make something large and structural that weighs only a few ounces.

So I suggested that it might be fun to do a little Q&A here on Kathryn's Brain.  :-)

Anticipation Necklace

How did the idea for Criffin Designs come to fruition?

I had a coworker who had a pair of earrings made from Phillips Head screws bonded to earring posts, and my immediate thought was, “Hell, I can do that!” so I started taking screws and bolts and Hi-Locs and rivets and anything else I could think of, and cutting the heads off then bonding earring posts to them, giving them to Mary, my wife. Some worked, most didn’t. True aircraft hardware is typically just too big to use as earrings.

However, it was after a visit to the Tucson Arizona Aircraft Graveyard that I took the leap from “nuts and bolts” into aluminum.

I have always been creative and my current position disallows that.  So Criffin Designs has been an outlet for my creative side.

I’ve always been able to manipulate aircraft aluminum to whatever specifications I needed. Could I then, instead of creating stringers, doublers and frames, create something much more finite?  Take something that no longer had purpose and give it a new history?

From that Tucson visit Criffin Designs was born, and old aircraft aluminum is now turned into jewelry that is structurally architectural and modern in design.  And since every piece would need an item number, why not name each design style after WWII and Korean War aircraft nose art, an art form created by the pilots and crews who flew America’s amazing warbirds? So instead of item number XX001, we have the Miss Behavin’ Bracelet.

Miss Behavin' Bracelet

Something our customers seem to get a kick out of is the card we provide, which shows the nose art their particular piece is named after along with the “care and feeding” instructions.

Hematite has become CD’s flagship stone. Not only is the black stone a great contrast to the polished aluminum, it’s considered the stone representing peace.  Which is a nice balance to the reclaimed military aluminum. Yin and Yang. War and Peace.

Glamouras B24 Necklace

What is a Criffin?

Criffin is actually the area in southwest Ireland where my family originated from, the Land of Criffin.

How long have you been designing jewelry?

I started playing with this stuff before the demise of that airplane factory back in 2008 but it really wasn’t until late 2010 when I got my first “gig” with a gallery in Omaha of all places.  You have to start somewhere, and if it wasn’t for that gallery, it may not have gone anywhere.

Raz'ng Hell Necklace

Did your wife think you were crazy when you proposed the idea to her?

No she didn’t! It was not something I or we set out to do, it just happened.  One thing led to another and the next thing we knew, we have a national boutique jewelry gallery carrying Criffin Designs Jewelry.

What a big help Mary, my wife, has been with this whole thing! I must admit I came up with some far fetched ideas in the beginning, in true airplane fashion, but with her help and my own keen sense of style *wink*, we have taken monumental strides in the right direction, remaining true to our aircraft heritage but retaining the glamorous aspects of what the public wants for jewelry.  I try to keep the designs simple, ordered and structured, which has to do with my nineteen years in aviation.  So the designs tend to be very architectural and they have to be something I can build since you don’t solder aluminum together like gold or silver.

Mary is my supply chain expert and list-maker.  So when I get orders of over 670 pieces, she helps ensure we have all the piece parts needed for the build, essentially eliminating surprises.

What did you think of me when we worked together?  No!  Don't answer that.  ;-)

Carolina Moon Necklace

Where can people find your designs?

Primarily the website is imagery, versus an actual storefront. Our catalog, which does include pricing, can be downloaded in .pdf form from the site. Of course you can also send me an email at

·         2400 West Main Street, Littleton, Colorado 80120

·         *  Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, CO
·         *  Boston Logan International Airport, 2 Faneuil Hall Market Place, Boston, MA
·         *  Water Tower Place, 835 N Michigan Ave, Ste 6000, Chicago, IL
·         *  At Block 37 108 N. State Street, Suite 130 Chicago IL
·         *  Mall of Louisiana Baton Rouge, 125 North Theard Street Covington, LA
·         *  1 Poydras Street Riverwalk, New Orleans, LA
·         *  Mall of America, 150 S Avenue, Bloomington, MN

Bright Rain Gallery
Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

Twitter: @CriffinDesigns


Prices range from $40 to $300.

Jerry has generously agreed to offer a Blog Special of 50% off retail for the next three months.  Just let him know when you place your order that you learned about him on Kathryn's Brain.  :-)

So Jerry is a Colorado guy, who used to have llamas, with roots in the Emerald Isle and designs some amazing jewelry and has an amazing partner in his wife, Mary.  I think his cool factor just went up a few more notches.  :-)

Please take a moment to visit Criffin Designs and if you are so moved, please support this terrific artist.  A portion of all profits are donated to the Freedom is Not Free organization that helps wounded US Veterans and their families.


Katja said...

I'll just point out that not only is he from Colorado, has llamas, and makes cool jewelry; he has a Vizsla! The ultimate.

Mary said...

Those are very nice designs and the look well crafted. He has skills.

Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

That is some cool jewelry!

Voie de Vie said...

Well done! You're all just too cool over there in Colorado. :)

Its_Lily said...

I checked out the site, what beautiful designs!