Fashion

Emerging Design: Chapel Hill metalsmith drawn to modern geometric shapes

Metalsmith Emily Triplett started working in metals four years ago as an apprentice and now has her own studio, Emily Triplett Jewelry, in Chapel Hill.
Metalsmith Emily Triplett started working in metals four years ago as an apprentice and now has her own studio, Emily Triplett Jewelry, in Chapel Hill. jleonard@newsobserver.com

“That sense of getting your hands dirty for art has always been a big part of what I’ve been connected with – that tactile sense,” says metalsmith Emily Triplett in her Chapel Hill studio, Emily Triplett Jewelry.

Triplett’s mother was a potter, so an artistic sensibility comes naturally (although she chose to major in something she considered more “practical” in college – a community studies degree, which focuses on social justice). She traveled for a year after college and worked in different fields, including marketing, but always found that she was drawn back to art.

Her interest in jewelry-making led her to an apprenticeship with Hillsborough goldsmith Ben Dyer. She saw Dyer’s Craigslist ad offering an apprenticeship four years ago, and she jumped on it. The two met and clicked right away.

“Ben Dyer instilled that sense of doing things, maybe the old-fashioned way, maybe the slow way, but for the sake of bringing out the best product,” Triplett says. “There are certain techniques that we use in that practice that are not necessarily ones that you can find in a class, in a book, on the Internet you can’t really learn these things unless they’re passed on, and I really love that part of what I do – that it’s almost like a heritage that gets passed on and that’s the only way it will exist.”

With Dyer’s training, Triplett honed her process and started her own business, Emily Triplett Jewelry, two years ago. “I start with raw materials. I rarely use pre-cast materials, so I often start with a wire. And a big part of my process is forging or hammering, which is time-consuming, but it does make the metal quite hard and flexible, which is nice for long-lasting material.”

Clean, simple geometric shapes set the tone of Triplett’s earrings, necklaces and rings. “I am most drawn to modernist forms,” she says of her structural, symmetrical pieces.

Triplett prefers to work in 14K golds and high-quality silvers because of their durability and longevity. “I’m inspired to design well. I want to create things that are both functional and beautiful. For me, form and function go hand in hand,” says Triplett.

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