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I didn’t initially choose to be a designer and goldsmith...but it sure chose me!
I was going to be a lawyer…But after I’d rented my apartment in Eugene to attend the U of O in a pre-law program I got the news. Lucky 14 was my draft number so I lost my deposit on the apartment and spent the next two years in the army. Fortunately, the conflict du jour, what is called in the USA the Vietnam war, was winding down so I did not have to go there during my service term. And somehow, after the experience of being drafted I just didn’t have the same urge to become a lawyer as I thought I had in high school. I spent some time drifting through a liberal-arts degree at the U of O, wondering where I would end up. A friend talked me into taking a jewelry class. It took some coaxing, he pestered me for a couple of terms, but I finally relented and ended up in the classroom of my mentor, Max Nixon. This time I was genuinely lucky, Max changed my life. Or perhaps he allowed me to change my own life, find my home. I found that I felt at home making things. The back-backstory here is that my first paying job (at age 12) was sweeping the floor in a machine shop in my hometown of Riddle, OR. That segued into a work-study program in high-school and eventually to summer jobs working at Hannah Nickel Mine, near Riddle, as a welder. So when I began this jewelry making class, I had a fairly deep background in some forms of metalworking. Once I finally went to the U of O, I may have been a tiny bit more mature than many of his beginning freshmen students, having been in the Army (as a Military Policeman) so Max encouraged me set up a home workshop and proceed to where my heart seemed to be taking me…making jewelry!
While learning the jewelry trade I still wanted a well-rounded education and after participating in the Psychology Dept. for several years, I switched to a focus on Anthropology and retain a deep interest in the topic. Cultures, and the people within them fascinate me. How people interact with the objects in their lives is determined by both culture and personality and for me somehow this all ties into my process of making meaningful custom jewelry for people.
I clearly remember…
…selling my first ring, sitting on the sidewalk outside of Old Taylors on 13th St. in Eugene, OR. It sold for $4 and I think I probably used a buck fifty of it to buy myself a celebratory beer. I know I used the rest to buy more silver. That would have been sometime in 1975 and I have been designing, manufacturing and selling custom precious metal and gemstone jewelry ever since.
I soon found the Portland, OR Saturday Market to be a viable venue for my burgeoning business. While still living in Eugene, I commuted most weekends for over 8 years, eventually gaining a position on the board of directors of that market. I also ventured out to national level art and craft shows and gained recognition while continuing to develop my local clientele by opening a retail shop in Eugene, Goldworks Jewelry Art Studio. Continuing my involvement in the broader Northwest Arts Community as president of the Board of Directors of what was then called the Northwest Crafts Alliance (now Northwest Art Alliance), based in the Puget Sound area, I also helped to expand the “Best of the Northwest” show from a single venue to additional venues while building Goldworks into a prominent position in the Eugene arts community.
As my children grew it became more difficult to take my business on the road. I moved my business to downtown Eugene and dug in on Broadway, operating at that location for over 12 years as sole owner. As that business prospered I realized I was becoming a business manager rather than the artist/craftsperson that I wanted to be. So in 2010 I sold the Brick & Mortar store to Erin Murphy, who continues to operate on Broadway in Eugene. I love what I do so much I will never retire in the way that many do. I plan to continue to work closely with people to design articles of jewelry as long as I possibly can. I find working in precious metals and gem materials that reflect my clients various tastes and desires to be both challenging and rewarding.
Gary Dawson Designer/Goldsmith: Creating Unique Jewelry
I have an intimate familiarity with both the materials with which I work and the process of working with people to create meaningful designs. These passions, and my interest in utilizing appropriate technology to manage my business and connections, inform my current business model.
With over 40 years of experience, Gary Dawson Designs will help you create a custom designed, handcrafted gold, platinum or silver jewelry piece including diamond engagement rings, wedding bands, commitment rings, unique earrings and pendants, stunning bracelets, and even belt buckles…just about anything you can think up.
If you have any questions about custom designed handcrafted jewelry, or would like to request a quote, please call 541-729-2531 or fill out our Custom Quote Request Form.
I look forward to working with you!