In this interview, we sit down with Chris Ploof, a skilled jeweler whose unique journey has been shaped by a blend of interests in history, cycling, and metalworking. Chris’s ability to seamlessly integrate these diverse passions into his craft has set him apart in the world of jewelry design. We delve into the fascinating intersections of his life experiences and how they have influenced his approach to creating intricate and distinctive pieces of jewelry. From his background in blacksmithing to his commitment to sustainability and pushing creative boundaries, Chris offers valuable insights into his craft and the dedication it takes to create beautiful, wearable works of art.
Maria: Chris, your journey as a jeweler is truly unique, shaped by your interests in history, cycling, and metalworking. Can you share a specific moment or event that ignited your passion for blending these aspects into your work?
Chris Ploof: I believe my journey was more about the desire to create wearable pieces of art and make special products for people to celebrate important moments in their lives. It’s the joy of being a small part of someone’s significant day that fuels my happiness. My strong desire to create something unique and unusual, combined with the skills to do so, has been the driving force behind my journey.
Maria: It’s fascinating how you’ve merged blacksmithing and jewelry making, two seemingly distinct crafts. How do you feel your background in blacksmithing has uniquely influenced your approach to crafting intricate jewelry pieces?
Chris Ploof: Blacksmithing has been a gift in my journey. The ability to manipulate metal through hot work is a special skill that allows us to work on larger scales and with unique materials. This background sets us apart and has created a market for our raw materials among other jewelers. Tying blacksmithing with fine jewelry has given us the ability to offer both fabulous jewels and raw materials to the industry.
Maria: Your exposure to craftsmanship and mechanical intricacies in both the mill complex and living history museum must have been enriching. How do you translate this appreciation for craftsmanship into your work in jewelry design?
Chris Ploof: It’s all about doing good work deliberately. Whether you’re making crayons, shoes, or jewelry, embracing the ethos of quality work is crucial. Hard work is a timeless principle.
Maria: I’ve heard that your entry into blacksmithing was driven by practical needs within the re-enactment community. Can you share a challenging or memorable moment when you had to apply your blacksmithing skills to solve a unique problem for fellow re-enactors?
Chris Ploof: Honestly, it was a lot of tent stakes and fire irons in historical reproduction, so there wasn’t much room for original problem-solving.
Maria: Transitioning from a head mechanic in the cycling industry to becoming a jeweler is quite a leap. What surprising parallels have you discovered between working with precision machinery in cycling and crafting intricate jewelry pieces?
Chris Ploof: The discipline I learned in the Army helps keep me focused on the smallest details. Also, many bike parts are small and require precision adjustments. I work with even more precision tools now, and the skills from my previous career have proven valuable.
Maria: Your exploration of materials like meteorite iron, mokume gane, and Damascus steel is adventurous. Can you describe a project where experimenting with these materials pushed the boundaries of your creativity and technical skills?
Chris Ploof: We’re always pushing boundaries with every project, aiming to create something unique and sustainable. It’s not about a single project; it’s about continuous growth and evolution. We also prioritize environmental consciousness, solar-powering our studio and using an electric company car to reduce our impact on the planet.
Maria: Crafting intricate jewelry requires meticulous attention to detail. How do you strike a balance between your passion for smaller-scale craftsmanship and the larger demands of creating beautiful, wearable pieces?
Chris Ploof: It requires hard work and dedication, often involving long hours. I have a fantastic small staff who share my adventurous spirit and help bring our ideas to life. They handle production and sample creation, allowing me to focus on designing and prototyping new ideas. This collaborative effort ensures we strike a balance and continue to produce exceptional jewelry.