POULSBO — Jewelry Designer Garry Thompson can’t decide if he’s more proud that one of his recent pieces was a hit with his customer, or that it was a winner with his peers around the globe.
“I’m one of those lucky people who makes a living from his hobby,” Thompson commented. “I just love to make things. I love to see them become real.”
For the second year in a row, Thompson and Dahlquist’s Fine Jewelry took top honors at the Independent Jewelers Organization’s (IJO) annual design competition. Last year, a pendant/pin by Thompson won the competition. This year, a new design took second.
With voting from other independent jewelers and jewelry manufacturers, Dahlquist Manager Richard Koven said placing in the IJO event is a real accomplishment. He added that Dahlquist’s always tries to send eye-catching and unique designs to the event and its peers are taking notice.
“We’re really getting a name for original pieces,” Koven commented.
This year’s entry was a pendant ordered by a customer as a special gift for his wife. The customer wanted a grouping of small diamonds and one larger trillion (or triangle-shaped) tanzanite in the shape of a capital letter A for his wife’s initial.
Thompson worked closely with the man to create a design that was both beautiful and functional. One unique feature is a hinged section on the back of the pendant that allows the woman to wear her new piece with a favorite Omega (or very wide) chain or any other width of chain.
“She loved it. The fact that it won was just icing on the cake. She’s just as proud of it as we are,” Koven said. “What’s really fun is making something you’re really proud of and seeing the joy on the person’s face. It’s like seeing one of your kids go off on their own.”
Before coming to Poulsbo four years ago, Thompson spent almost 30 years designing jewelry in other locations.
With a background in a number of artistic mediums, Thompson likes to approach even the simplest repair job with the eye of an artist. He talks excitedly about new concepts, new tools and new ways of doing things that have yet to be tried.
For instance, he created a hinging system that can be added to the shank of a ring to allow a wearer with arthritic knuckles the ability to take the ring on and off easily without losing any of the original piece.
Thompson also takes great delight in showing off innovative tools, like the store’s new laser welder that allows welding to take place next to gems without damaging them because it uses no heat. It’s this excitement and adventuresome spirit that Koven said made Thompson’s designs get Dahlquist’s noticed at both IJO competitions.
“Sometimes I drive them crazy. I’ll come running out of the back and say, ‘You’ve got to see this,’ with some new piece or repair I’ve just done,” Thompson remarked with a broad smile.
Thompson said for the first time in his career as a jeweler he’s working in a position where he’s had the time and the opportunity to participate in competitions and he’s already planning for more to come.
Even so, Thompson said he feels the one real strength in his pieces is the ability to work collaboratively with people who have such a vested emotional interest in the piece being made.
“I used to design for a national company and I’d sit in the back room and the most thanks we’d get was from the manager of the store,” Thompson recalled. “Here, they give me more of an opportunity to sit down and talk with the customer and hear them say, ‘I’m so pleased with what we came up with,’ and ‘That’s it. That’s the perfect piece. That’s exactly it.’ It’s a very joyful thing.”