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Designer Interview

Caitlin Mociun

Coloured gemstones and antique diamonds are the core of Caitlin Mociun's remarkable creations

It is hard to believe, but jewellery was not Caitlin Mociun’s first calling. When she discovered it, however, she found home. It was a profession that not only made her happy, but brought something special into the world. Today, she is known for her use of coloured gemstones and antique

diamonds set in uncommon clusters, and her remarkable eponymous jewellery house Mociun is such a unique brand in the world of jewellery that we couldn’t imagine her doing anything else. Lucky for the rest of us; she doesn’t plan to.

What’s your background?
A California native, I began travelling at the age of 12, spending six years living throughout Asia and Europe, with extended stays in Malaysia and Prague, before earning a BFA in textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Did you always want to be a jewellery designer?
I did not. When I was younger, I wanted to be a fashion designer. Which I did professionally (also under the name Mociun) for 6 years. When I was doing that I really wanted to get back into a fine art and installation art practice but it was easy for me to make and sell clothing so that is what I did, I did not enjoy it. When I started experimenting with jewellery, I felt happy and content with that practice.

You characterise yourself as a curator and a creator, in which ways?
I would say a creator first and a curator second. I design all the jewellery that we sell at Mociun and I act as the creative director for the company. Which means I do most of the styling for our photoshoots (along with one of my long-time employees who also does our photography and all our digital content and IG). I also curate the selection of home goods along with my buyer in our store in Brooklyn/online store.

You use unique gemstones; can you tell me about the sourcing of them?
I have worked very hard over the years to find the right sources of gemstones for my work. Not only am I looking for beautiful and unique stones but who we buy from is also important to me. I do my best to know as much about the materials that I buy as possible. We have found a number of sources that also care about the environment and the people who mine and cut stones. I always go to them first before I use our sources that do not have sustainability as a large part of their practice.

Which stones mean the most to you?
I honestly don’t have a favourite stone. Though I don’t use or like all gemstones, the ones I do use all have their place in my work. I use them like a palette to a certain extent.

You also use antique diamonds, why is that?
I often like the cuts of them more than modern stones. I also try to upcycle whenever I can so antique and repurposed diamonds are always my first choice for the diamonds we use in my work.

"Humans have always had a desire to adorn themselves (so it seems from our history!). Humans use symbols like jewellery to identify things about other people."

Can you go more into your sustainability practices?
For me it's really about doing my best to act responsibly and to care for the environment and people around me. It's been very difficult to find others in this industry that really care about this (I mean with the manufacturers and sources for gemstones, diamonds and gold). Slowly but surely, we are making connections with sources that are doing good things. This is a really hard question for me to answer because I don’t have a canned answer for something like this. There are parts of my business that I feel like I am making headway in regard to it being sustainable. For example, I have been trying to find someone to make me completely biodegradable (and beautiful) jewellery boxes and packaging. We finally do have some options so are beginning that project now. Our gold – that is a real tricky one. I think a lot of the gold in our pieces are recycled but it's VERY hard to get a straight answer from the caster we use, and we use gold chains that are manufactured in Italy, I don’t know about the gold they use. We slowly have been switching over our findings to recycled gold but can’t always get exactly what we need from places that we know 100% are using recycled gold. Then the gemstones are a whole other, very long story as each of them is different… This is a subject that is so important to me, but I have not made it part of my marketing in large part because I don’t want to come across as if we are greenwashing. I think once I get a few more pieces of the puzzle to a place that I feel good about then this will be something that I can write on and give my customers more insight on.

You like colour, what does colour do to people? And to you?
I’ve never really thought about why I like colour. So not really sure how to answer this. I have tried to tone down the amount of colour I use (in my work, in my house, in my wardrobe) and it always creeps back in there. I think it's just part of me and playing with colour combinations gives me great joy.

What’s your relationship with Bauhaus? What inspires you about that movement?
The art school that I trained at subscribes to their philosophy, so I supposed it was trained into me to a certain extent. I think understanding the building blocks of design does make a person a better designer. Even if you want to throw everything you learned out the window and break the ‘rules’ it's good to know and understand them.

To you, what’s the function and purpose of jewellery?
Humans have always had a desire to adorn themselves (so it seems from our history!). Humans use symbols like jewellery to identify things about other people. Jewellery has been used as a sign of wealth, social status, marital status, etc. It has served very practical purposes, like intaglio seals used like a signature, or as a form of fasteners – pins, clock pins, etc. Or even a chain to hold a timepiece. I believe that humans are drawn to beautiful things which might be a large part of how jewellery served as something both functional and was made to be aesthetically pleasing. Humans consider it something of value. Because it's been made from precious metals jewellery is actually something that in the past could be used as money (when the gold standard still existed). Metals are still valuable even though we use credit cards, transfer, and paper now. I think a lot of things that people consider valuable can be wrapped up in jewellery – wealth, accomplishments, sentimental events. Humans have created a connection with jewellery whether we like it or not, it's part of our history. For me it's a combination of my fascination with how things are made, beautiful, and unusual objects, and the hunt. I collect antique jewellery (as well as some vintage and modern) and I collect unusual and rare stones to put in my designs. There isn't really anything like the thrill of finding something unique that I haven't seen before, or finally finding something that I have been looking for, sometimes for years. I love designing jewellery and designing jewellery for other people does bring me great fulfilment. I used to design clothing before I started in jewellery. I did both for a few years. I started to see how people would connect and light up when they found a certain piece of jewellery that they connected with. It was so different from how people interacted with clothing and I felt like it was a better place for me to put my energy. It made me happier and I felt like I was bringing something special into the world.

You make one-of-a-kind and custom pieces, but you also do an annual collection. What is the difference in approach between the two ways of working?
At times the OOAK pieces are like little studies. We try out new things with them – there are times they don’t make it into the store if a design doesn’t work out. Sometimes I might make a little group that relates to itself but sometimes they are little stand-alone ideas. The collections I come out with each year (sometimes one, sometimes a number of smaller ones) are larger ideas with a group of pieces that relate to the same idea. I have started adding one of a kind pieces to my collections as well. Anything that is OOAK, I only make one of. Collection pieces we will continue to produce for an unknown amount of time. I only just started to weave OOAK into collections and I like having both in the larger more in-depth collections. The collections also take me a much longer time to work through. Usually it's about a year from conception of the idea to when we launch it but sometimes it takes longer. Like the one that I am working on now. I have ideas swimming around in my head, and stack and stack of books around but I am a little stuck on it. I know that it will come when it's ready, but it's got some more brewing to do before it wants to come out on paper, I guess...

Aesthetics seem like it runs through everything you do; have you always had such a keen eye for beauty?
I guess so! I think it really comes down to me liking the idea of creating a world, a space, an environment. I never think about my jewellery (or anything I make for that matter) as something that is just hanging out in a void. It will be on a body, in a space, on a wall, on the floor, etc.

What’s it like to run your own business?
More work than is comfortable to actually sit down and think about but it is worth it.