Visiting Claudia Endler’s studio is not like visiting a studio with a jeweler that I admire the work and aesthetic but that I don’t actually know. Visiting Claudia’s is visiting a good friend and seeing a beautiful studio and gallery space in its full glory, which is a wonderful thing to see because I saw this space being built and evolve to its prime over the last decade.
Claudia Endler is a jewelry designer at Claudia Endler Designs (CED) and gallery co-owner of CERO Space in Los Angeles. She quickly became one of my dear and first friends in LA when I lived there. She shared without worries invaluable information about the jewelry business and has this very altruistic principle of helping out people. Because that’s just her nature, she helps out. When I first met her she was the president of the LA Chapter of the WJA (Women’s Jewelry Association). Not long after that she won two awards, one was the Shinning Star from the WJA and the second one was the Women in Leadership award from the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. And I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Yet, this is one humble jeweler. This is a designer that would wear a plastic bubbly ring to the AGTA shows because she liked the shape and couldn’t care less about what other people think. And yes, she rocks a plastic ring with diamonds and gold. That’s Claudia, the mind and hands behind Claudia Endler Designs.
It’s a warm day in April when I visit CED’s studio in Los Angeles. I’ve always loved coming here, because Claudia lives and works at the Brewery Arts Complex, an old steam factory (actually it was called the Edison Electric Company No. 3 that was built in 1904) that was incorporated into the old Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery and converted into an artist colony in the 80's and vibrates with creativity everywhere. She moved here when this area wasn’t cool and hipster and out of her own vision and collaboration with architects Telemachus Studio (and I mean together they physically built) the studio and gallery that is now her space. The steam factory was built with brick and reinforced concrete and the space that is now CED studio and CERO Space gallery used to be a huge factory room. Claudia maintained the concrete floors (now polished) and the existing steel beams and upgraded the space to a very modern art gallery. Usually on the walls you’ll find work from artists she represents, but she just launched her commitment rings series and had a huge party so her walls are filled with commitment stories from her clients.
Her space is huge: very high ceilings and white walls (painted by Claudia and friends). Some jewelry cases in the middle of the space and some Barcelona chairs and chaises long adorn the space. Her office is on one corner of this space, where she usually sits answering queries and managing her business. Cleverly she envisaged her studio space to be in the center of the room but hidden from privy eyes. There are some wall showcases and a wooden door. If there wasn’t that door you would think it’s just a wall, but it’s actually the entrance to where her benches and machinery live. It's funny that when you first meet Claudia you would think that she designs her pieces and has someone else do the jewelry. One of the funniest stories that I fondly remember Claudia telling me is an anecdote when her clients didn’t believe she did the jewelry herself because she always looked so perfect. But trust me, she has a milling and a lathe machine and spends quite a good amount of time at the bench carving perfect geometric pieces. Between Claudia’s friends we joke that we’ve never seen her in jeans ( I have, so this is not a myth anymore), but truth is she gets things done and she actually works at the bench (and sometimes without an apron).
Claudia had a life in fashion before she turned to jewelry design. She might be inspired by architecture and modern elements but she is the personification of her brand: a sophisticated, modern and self-confident woman. She is also one of the most patient people I know when it comes to working on commissions and bespoke bridal pieces. One thing is clear as I go around the room reading her clients commitment stories on the walls: her clients love her and loved working with her.
Claudia is also a sculptor and you can see some of her sculptures around the gallery space. She has started taking sculpting and drawing classes again and she feels reinvigorated with that. I’ve seen some of her sculptures move around the space in the past and I feel that now they live in the right place. Claudia gesticulates and touches them as if she is creating them again as she goes about explaining the inspiration behind. It’s like the artist and the object are bonding and I don’t even think she notices it. I laugh cause I manage to catch a goofy side of her while she gets excited talking about the sculptures. I love to catch this facet of her cause she might look very serious and that couldn’t be further away from the truth.
I spend an enormous amount of time shooting her gallery space and finally get to shoot the Ali Baba cave: her studio space. Inside this room you find 2 benches, her milling and lathe machines, personal items and tools. Her pieces are milled to perfect shapes and curves in here. There are photos of friends and family scattered around as well as the awards she has won over the years. I find some fashion photos she took in the 80’s that are awesome (and I make her pose with them). And with those photos there's another funny story that I never heard before and more laughs. On one bench she is assembling necklaces and earrings that she needs to get out the door and on the other bench she is working on some bridal custom rings.
We spend so much time talking and catching up that I almost don’t have time to take decent photos of her jewelry. She has a vast collection of bridal designs and she has some very gorgeous pieces, very architectural, but practical and stackable. She also makes some beautiful statement necklaces where she juxtaposes modern clasps and metal pieces with the rawness of beads and gemstones.
Her latest collection is the Power series, and the Power Ring is my absolutely favorite piece. As Claudia explains "I first created the Power Ring as my own personal talisman to give me the strength of living life to my fullest potential. It was created with the intention of empowering whomever wears it to reveal, strengthen and celebrate their own unique qualities. The Power Ring is a symbolic design inspired by the idea of looking inward, the notion of what a person needs is already inside of them". The stone in this ring is set uncharacteristically deep inside its domed core, not immediately visible. The intense sparkle however, reflecting on the mirrored walls around it, reveals rays of light, amplifying the scintillation. This reflection can even be seen from an angle. Claudia adds “There is something that drives us and moves us. Sometimes it is not always visible to the outside world. Sometimes it is not even visible to ourselves. Sometimes we have to dig deep to find it. When we do, the light is so bright, it expands our perception of what is possible. We become more powerful”. And that's why this is such a powerful piece.
It’s wonderful to see this studio and gallery space beautifully finished and seeing Claudia’s work at its' best. A whole afternoon has gone by and I feel like I haven’t taken enough photos or spent enough time here. We head out the door for dinner and drinks because work is finished for now and we need to celebrate life and friends. Cheers to very good friends. Thanks “Miss” Claudia ;-)
CLAUDIA ENDLER DESIGNS
How did you become a jewelry designer?
“I started by taking jewelry metalsmithing classes from a master jeweler through UCLA Extension for a few years. I also started wax carving classes from a jewelry artist also through UCLA Extension. I did not tell the master jeweler as he would have been horrified.
I went on to practice in the evenings after work with a bench pin attached to my kitchen table. I took classes and seminars all over Los Angeles and travelled, working with independent instructors. I ended up at Venice Adult School that had an amazing workshop with an instructor. At the time you could practically use it as your studio because there was always someone there to help you and I could work on my own projects. Slowly I started acquiring tools and a work bench, etc. .... I had a full-time position and also worked in a jewelry store a couple days a week till I could afford to build my collection, one piece at a time. I did both things for a long time until I could make that transition to completely devote myself to CED! “
What’s the first thing you do when you get to the studio?
“Turn on the lights. All the lights. Put on my glasses.”
What do you like most about your space?
“I have a dedicated space for my work designed and built by my friends, and that I helped create and build as well.”
Pick 3 objects in your studio that make your space yours
“A picture my friend Ana photoshopped of me on the cover of Vogue Magazine. My Business license with Claudia Endler Designs on it and pictures of me with friends/family.”
What’s your favorite spot in the studio?
“Since my studio is only 3 steps long and 2 steps wide....I would say the first step!”
Any studio rituals?
“I listen to music to transition from computer work and email mode to jewelry bench mode. I would listen to Edie Brickell and Annie Lenox because it was a trigger. As of late, I listen to Madonna. I get to know the words when I listen to them over and over, then I can sing to them. I don’t necessarily think they are happy songs...but it makes me happy to sing. LOL...luckily I work alone and no one can hear me. I made sure because I asked the neighbors.”
What do you love & hate doing at the bench?
“Love carving waxes, especially for engagement commitment rings…I find it “zen” like.
I stay away from soldering….way too stressful for me. (and not very “zen” like!)”
What makes you procrastinate?
“Me??? I don’t procrastinate. I get everything done immediately. LOL.
Something that requires more information that I do not have nor do not have the time to get it at the moment.”
What is currently inspiring you?
“Always ...several things. I started taking up sculpture again and have a great instructor. I love working in clay as we work with live models. It is challenging, seeing and recording everything you see and making it yours. Very inspiring!
I am meeting very interesting people who are doing some really creative things. I love to see how technology and human interaction are changing our culture, how new ways to collaborate are being generated.”
What piece of jewelry do you always wear?
“My commitment rings to myself. Three rings stacked together in white gold and diamonds. Don’t leave home without them.”
Currently obsessed with which gemstone/metal?
“Lapis and amethyst, as I am designing pieces for clients using these stones. So I am constantly thinking about them.”
Piece of jewelry you are most proud of?
“A modern cross with a symbolic stole diagonally across it to signify a Deacon position in the Catholic Church.”
What’s your dream jewelry piece (if budget and time restrictions didn’t apply)?
“A modern crown.”
Worst piece of jewelry you had to design?
“I rather not say. It might not go over very well with the client, as it was a collaboration. Let’s just say I did the best I could and they are thrilled, so that is positive.”
What’s the longest period of time you spent at the studio and why?
“I lost track of time. My first ring commission was for my best friend’s wedding ring, which he wanted in platinum. I hand carved that wax model over and over and over and over again. It was a great learning experience. It was a simple edge band. Getting all the lines straight and an even edge when I had not yet acquired the technique of scoring it correctly. Just goes to show you the simplest things are the hardest to do...because you see everything! “
What’s the best thing a client ever told you?
“When I look at this, I think of you and it makes me smile. And it makes me confident.”
When I wear this I feel empowered”
What’s the funniest thing a client ever told you?
“A client who was interested in purchasing a wedding ring for her husband in silver, responded to me when I told her that silver was less durable than gold: “Honey, he has lost 6 platinum and gold wedding rings so far. This will be the seventh ring I buy him, so he only gets silver from now on!”
What’s on your desk right now?
“Oh my… three phones, a camera, micrometer, two pair of reading glasses, pricing sheet with dimensions, shipping label, checks and bills, thank you notes which I am about to write, a glass of water, an almost empty cup of English breakfast tea, client folders, my inbox, 2 pencils, a pencil sharpener, 2 pens, a smallvase with four peach roses, a spiral notebook, five sticky notes, computer monitor, a materials catalog, INstore magazine, keyboard, mouse, and a book I just received as a gift from a friend“The Savoy Cocktail book” “
If you weren’t a jewelry designer?
“I would be doing something creative or representing others who are.”
What’s your favorite tool?
“It’s a tie between the micrometer and a half round file, oh and my lathe and.... “