Designer Interview with Michelle Pajak-Reynolds

An abridged version of the following interview was published on The Runway Authority on July 1, 2016

Why did you choose designing as a career?

I’ve designed jewelry since I was 5 years old and my art is my life.  I can’t remember a time when being an artist or creating jewelry wasn’t a major part of my day. I love the creative process and sharing my work with others. To do anything else doesn’t feel right.

What were your inspirations for the designs you are creating for the Nolcha Shows Fashion Media Lounge?

The new designs for my Undina Collection are inspired by water goddess mythology and how mermaids transform into the foam on the ocean in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

One of a kind Nimue earrings and necklace from Michelle Pajak-Reynolds Undina Collection Photo credit: Julie Stanley/JuleImages LLC

One of a kind Nimue earrings and necklace from Michelle Pajak-Reynolds Undina Collection Photo credit: Julie Stanley/JuleImages LLC

Do you consider the environmental effects of the materials you choose for your collections?

Yes. I use gemstones and recycled sterling silver from trusted USA based suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of my collections. Each piece is carefully handcrafted to ensure the highest quality and to last for many generations.

When selecting your material range, do you think about the end-of-life-stage, such as the implications of disposal?

Yes. Jewelry should never reach an end-of-life-stage or require disposal because it’s so much more than sparkling trinkets and baubles. It’s an art form bought and given as an act of love and symbolizes our connections to loved ones.  Many jewelry pieces, regardless of monetary value, become treasured heirlooms handed down through generations.

High quality jewelry is infinitely recyclable. Gemstones can be reset into new designs and precious metals can be melted down and used again. Re-stringing beads and crystals from non-precious metal jewelry into new pieces is also an option. A skilled jeweler brings damaged jewelry back to life with thoughtful repair work.

What markets and demographic do you cater to?

I serve confident, charismatic women who pursue their own joy wherever it may lead. These women balance many roles but are always true to themselves: independent spirits forging their own path and inspiring others to do the same.

How do you balance creativity with commerce? 

By being a ruthless editor. Each piece in a collection is carefully scrutinized to make sure that it not only enhances the visual story of the collection but also meets certain price points and is practical for production.  More unique one-of-a-kind designs are reserved for editorial projects and design competitions.

What is the most challenging part about being a designer? 

Balancing creativity with the needs of the marketplace

What skills according to you are necessary for a successful designer?

Learn everything you can about business, especially how to manage your cash flow. Formal business classes and workshops, whether you pursue a degree or not, are worth the investment. An MBA in Entrepreneurship was the right path for me, but it’s not for everyone.  A hearty dose of humility will go a long way too.

So if you had the choice of all designers in the world to work with, who would that person be?

I would love to work with Gabriella Kiss or Charlotte Lynggaard. Both of these women are incredible jewelry designers. Their design aesthetics are so different from mine and it would be amazing to experience their creative process in the studio.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers? 

“When people show you who they really are, believe them” is something I heard Maya Angelou say in an interview several years ago. She was referring to how a person’s behavior will reveal their true priorities and intentions.  There are a lot of people in our industry who “over promise and under deliver” and end up taking advantage of inexperienced designers. So pay attention to behavior and trust your gut.  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.