Birds of prey inspire Carbondale artist’s new collection of jewelry
Special to the Post Independent
If You Go...
Who: Colby June Fulton
What: Preview of the new Wing Collection
When: 5-8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Colby June Jewelry studio, 1136 Colorado Ave., Carbondale
How Much: Free
The ring is more than a piece of jewelry for designer/artist Colby June Fulton, owner of Colby June Jewelry. The piece is cast in silver and the band is small but has thickness to it. A solitary wing swoops upward in the front. It’s not a dainty wing like that of a butterfly or an angel, but a bird of prey. It represents flight, freedom, empowerment.
The ring is part of Fulton’s new Wing Collection, which will be unveiled at a reception on June 18 at her Carbondale studio and during the Aspen Saturday Market, which began June 13.
Fulton is still processing what the new collection of necklaces, bracelets and earrings means to her. She first thought about doing something with wings when she found photographs of birds that really appealed to her. The Roaring Fork Valley native also hikes Carbondale’s Red Hill and, like so many other people who stand on the edge of the craggy red cliff, has imagined how freeing it must feel to fly.
“I was inspired by the shape and function of wings,” Fulton said from her studio and storefront in downtown Carbondale. “I just found some really beautiful images of wings that were pretty amazing. I’ve just always thought birds are so beautiful. I think wings definitely bring to mind sort of a freedom and being empowered to go where you want to go.”
Fulton works in silver, bronze and gold and, typical of her other collections, the wing pieces have a range of price points with some smaller pieces and some signature pieces.
Her latest collection may have been inspired by photographs, but all of her collections have a connection to nature. Her Sticks & Stones Collection is a study of just that, with lightly textured chunks of precious metals that look like tiny river rocks. Those smooth pieces are balanced by more rugged and detailed branch forms. The Coral Collection contains pieces made of precious metals with intricate indentations, textures and patterns molded from a piece of Hawaii coral.
From a young age, world travel and a connection to the “tiny details in nature” have been core to Fulton. Her artist statement further proclaims: “Shaped, too, by her children’s free spirits and her husband’s eye for modern architecture, Colby June Jewelry is both an ode to the wild outdoors and a statement to the underlying structure and balance in nature.”
‘TRYING TO MAKE WHAT I IMAGINE’
Although she has been crafting jewelry for more than 15 years, Fulton admits she still has much to learn technically to create pieces that represent the ideas in her mind.
“To be a master jeweler takes years, and I’m nowhere near,” she said. “I’m definitely more of a designer and an artist, and I’m trying to make what I imagine. And so I just have to acquire the skills for what I thought of.”
Her love for the craft began at age 18 when she took a jewelry design class in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. While earning her undergraduate degree in Hispanic Studies, Fulton continued to design and fabricate jewelry. But it was during her dry spell while earning her master’s in counseling psychology that she really missed the craft.
“I did it more as a hobby when I was going to college in Portland,” she said. “When I was getting my master’s, I didn’t do any at all, and I realized I needed to get back into it and needed to make more.”
While living in Denver and working as a mental health counselor, she began to design and create the Grama Collection. When she moved to Carbondale in 2008, she rented out a space at Carbondale’s then-up-and-coming Studio for Arts + Works (SAW) and began making necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings under the business venture Colby June Jewelry. She quit her school counseling job when she had her first child in 2010 and turned to jewelry-making as her sole source of income.
“Originally, my goal was to make it so that I could have a business, that I would make enough money to make it viable,” she said. “I think I reached that goal just three years ago and saw that it was worth me working to have this business.”
A TURNING POINT
It wasn’t always clear, however, and there was a point when Fulton and her husband, Ramsey, questioned whether they could afford having a studio and raising a child. Then the international shop Anthropologie picked up one of her ring sets, and it was a turning point for Fulton.
“They only carried it for a short time — it was not a huge deal, but it gave me exposure,” she said. Traffic on her online storefront at etsy.com picked up, and she would eventually get picked up in boutiques across the state and the country. Locally, she sells at the Aspen Saturday Market, Pitkin County Dry Goods, Anderson Ranch, Midland Clothing, True Nature and her Carbondale studio.
She had already hired an assistant part time to help her produce jewelry, but she started filling so many orders that she needed management help. That came in the form of spritely and smart Amanda Redmond, who is now a business partner and manages everything from photo shoots and social media to packaging/shipping and customer service. Armed with an arts degree in graphic design, Redmond also provides feedback on Fulton’s jewelry design.
A consistent online presence is critical, according to Redmond, who moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Chicago three years ago. Maintaining the Etsy site, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram is only part of the job; keeping up with bloggers who request pieces is another part. Either way, an artist/business owner has to constantly be feeding the online social machine.
“I feel like with all the social media, once something is out there and people talk about it, it just catches like fire,” Redmond said. “It definitely helps to be consistent. It helps to have the right pictures and the right information. You could word something completely different and nobody does anything with it.”
Fulton commended Redmond for her customer relations, which is another priority for the business.
“Happy customer — that’s the most important,” Redmond said. “There’s been ladies I’ve had 50 conversations with, and they still haven’t bought a piece. I just have to stay with it.”
It’s fulfilling, though, when the sale finally goes through. It’s also special when customers, including those at the Aspen Saturday Market, share why they are buying a piece (such as a special gift for a bridesmaid) or even if it’s a piece that will complete someone’s collection.
“I see our customer as being around late 20s to early 30s,” Redmond said. “I feel like our customers want a piece and save for it. They ask a lot of questions about the pieces. I feel like we do have a lot of customers that keep coming back. They like a certain collection and they slowly buy the earrings, then the necklace, then the bracelet.”
With Redmond on board full time, Fulton now can sit back and create to her heart’s desire.
Well, not really. She has two young children now and balances family life with work. Plus, as any artist who owns a business knows, “creating” is only a small part of running the business. She’s overflowing with creative ideas. So much so that her artistic goals overreach her capacity.
“I definitely have a lot of days when I can’t do everything,” Fulton said. “There’s not enough time in the day.”
To which Redmond added: “There’s not enough Colby.”
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