Our focus on Mondays will be to seek out inspiring individuals that enjoy their jobs, whether it is their life calling, or something they just like to do. Speaking with Jacob Melinger, one-half of Nikolai Rose Studio, we turn our attention to talented jewelry design.
Nikolai Rose has built up an impressive following over the last seven years, appealing to fans of quality-driven minimalist design pieces. Along with jewelry, the studio makes everything from doorknobs to tie bars, crafting a perfect aesthetic of rugged-but-clean masculinity.
The icebreakers: Where are you from, what do you do, and for how long have you been pursuing your dream occupation?
I was born in New York City, and I formed Nikolai Rose in 2006 with my partner Alan Paukman as a platform for us to take on projects across fashion, art and design. The accessories collection was our first project and today it is the prime focus of the Nikolai Rose Studio. Aside from the collection, we have worked on some great projects through the non-fashion side of the studio: art installations, book design, and home hardware to name a few.
What are some outside projects that you have collaborated on?
Well, for instance, we’ve been working with The Nanz Company for the past few years, creating some really beautiful and interesting door hardware. When working with Nanz, the scale and application of the final product is very different; jewelry is inherently meant to be worn on the body, while hardware is typically mounted, interacting with architectural elements. Yet there are a lot of strong parallels to consider, like the care of material and finish, and the awareness of user-interaction.
What is the appeal of non-fashion design for you?
I began making jewelry because I was drawn to the labor-intensive handwork, operating at such a restrictive scale. But since I was a child, I have liked working in different mediums. Studying at the Art Institute of Chicago allowed me to continue working in different ways — I was able to work across disciplines and acquire invaluable knowledge of new printing techniques, metal and wood shop work, even fashion design. And to be honest, though I love the jewelry line, I would be restless without our other studio projects.
What is it about your job that you find so satisfying or fulfilling?
Working by hand is always the best part of the job. Taking an idea and raw material and hammering, sawing, polishing until it is a finalized piece is extremely gratifying. We are always experimenting with new designs, materials and processes. It is just as exciting to come across unexpected outcomes while crafting a new piece. These moments of possibility are what makes the job worthwhile. It takes a lot to run a studio, much of which is done to be able to get back to the workbench at the end of the day.
Are you in pursuit of ultimate greatness or are you excited to add to the collective repertoire?
Neither. Passing a ring on to your son or grandson is more important than ultimate greatness. To create honest, beautiful pieces that will stand on their own once they leave the studio is most important to me. And, although Nikolai Rose is out in the world, the collective repertoire is largely irrelevant. I do respect a number of other designers, but I am not concerned with the majority of contemporary jewelry brands.
If you had to pick a favorite artist or designer who would it be? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?
I have always had a lot of respect for Richard Serra. His approach to art is with a strict intelligence and careful understanding of material and application — Serra is able to create pieces that are as brutal as they are romantic. He also felt that art must be created without any other function than to exist as art, and to create art is the conscious and selfish choice of the artist. I would like to know what Serra thinks of jewelry: what’s more selfish, jewelry or art?