I have a soft spot for creatives. For people who live their passions and create with their own hands. I nurture and support and promote independent artists as much and as often as I can. So I am super excited to (finally!) be starting a column on this here bloggity dedicated to some of these incredible individuals. And what better time kick it off than the start of the holiday shopping season?? So without further ado, I’d love to introduce you to Theresa Cowan, the creative force and insane talent behind Mineralogy Designs.
Tell me a little bit about Mineralogy Designs? Mineralogy is a collection of limited edition and one-of-a-kind jewelry designed and handcrafted in my Chicago studio. The brand was conceptualized from an earth science lecture where my budding interest in jewelry and materials made it’s complete connection through my new interest in minerals. Every step of the way is made by me from hand selecting minerals, going to gem shows, designing, creating, and finally wrapping it up pretty and sending it to my customers!
And a little bit about Theresa Cowan. How would you describe yourself? I have always had my hands in art since I knew what crayons were and that they drew just wonderfully on the walls of my parents’ house. My mediums studied include oil painting, watercolor, drawing and illustration, photography, and metalsmithing. I received my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where my primary focus was drawing and textile work. Before graduation I had the great opportunity to begin selling my jewelry. It wasn’t until things were in full swing that I realized that I wanted to grow my skills and aesthetic and create more than I was at the time. I began taking every metalsmithing class that I could and spent all of my time in the studio learning and improving. It was through learning the trade of metalsmithing that I was able to take my jewelry to the next level and create pieces that I couldn’t before.
What made you decide to become a jewelry maker/designer? I never really planned on becoming a jewelry designer/maker, since my focus in school was in fine art. During an accessories class, I decided to make some jewelry and really began to enjoy it and I also made some custom pieces for a friend of mine in the fashion department to go with her collection in the end of the year fashion show. I received such a great response from a few local boutiques that I made it my goal to make it work. I taught myself what line sheets and lookbooks were and created my first ones, opened my Etsy shop, started reaching out to other boutiques and made my business official. It’s been a whirlwind and sometimes I feel like it’s not real, but it is and it’s a great feeling! I have so many things to learn still and I am continually searching for ways to grow as an individual, designer, and business.
Where do you find your stones? How do you decide what stones/minerals to use in your designs? To find my materials is the best experience ever! Every year, I go to Tucson, AZ to the biggest gem show in the world and I shop like crazy! It’s incredible the amount of vendors that come from all over the world to sell and display their minerals. There are probably 30 different shows…my favorites are the ones with diamonds (of course!) and also the ones with amethyst that are bigger than a person. There are also a few shows where the vendors are selling prehistoric and precambrian fossils…it’s like an outdoor museum! I have my favorite vendors to go to, but it’s always great to find new suppliers with really unique minerals. Besides the show in AZ, I go to several smaller ones throughout the year. The hardest part is trying to envision my collection while I am out shopping, but I have learned that I’ve never regretted buying too much, only buying too little.
If you could give one piece of advice to a bride on her wedding day, what would it be? I just got married a year and a half ago. It’s no myth, the day goes by so fast. It was unreal to think that almost a year’s worth of planning flew by in a whirlwind of happiness on our wedding day. My biggest realization was that everything that you try to control can’t possibly all go your way. I made a choice to be carefree during the planning and especially on the day of and I am so happy I did. At the end of the day, the vintage typewriter didn’t work, our traditional Mexican lasso rosary that we wore for part of the ceremony was tangled, we didn’t get some photographs that we really would’ve liked and so on, but it didn’t matter. When it was dark, we sent paper lanterns high into the sky, surrounded by the people we loved and we had each other. It was simple and perfectly imperfect. This day marks the rest of your life, so take it in stride and know that like life, it won’t be perfect, but that’s what makes it exciting!
Who are your fashion idols? What inspires you? I don’t have any particular fashion idols, but there’s a handful of Chicago designers and boutique owners that dress amazingly and I always love seeing what they’re wearing! My inspiration comes simply from things around me…shapes, colors, textures. People also inspire me…other creative people trying to make in a world of ready made multiples. I admire the hard work that goes into owning a business and the sacrifices you make so that you can do not only what you love, but provide a better service or product to the community.
If you could only pick one piece of your jewelry to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be? I recently made myself a grayish black rosecut diamond ring set in 14kt gold. It’s very simple but beautiful! I feel like I am cheating on all of my other jewelry now.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about my friend Theresa, and have fallen in love with her incredible jewelry. She is having a sale right now through tomorrow – enjoy 30% off your purchase with code
SMALLJEWEL. The pieces shown in this post will be added to the shop soon, but in the meantime stop by her Etsy Shop and peruse the rest of her incredible collection (including my favorite, the Herkimer Diamond Ring!)
(if you’re interested in having your work featured, please contact me
This past winter my phone rang. Seven unfamiliar digits flashed across the glass on my phone, and I was filled with a sudden curiosity. I was at the cube farm and couldn’t answer it, so I let the call go to voicemail, and waited impatiently to see if the caller would leave a message. She did. Her name was Beth, or rather, her name is Beth, and she left a message asking me if I did senior photos as her daughter was in love with my work and would be graduating next year. I called her back and we set up some time to meet for coffee. I had never done a senior session before – though it wasn’t something I was opposed to. I wanted to be sure, if I chose to venture into this arena, that I did so carefully and in such a way that I would only draw the *right* clients to me.
You see, I want to be a part of something. I don’t want to simply make pretty photographs for people. A lot of people can make pretty images and take a good photograph. I want to come alive telling stories for people – and I want them to come alive in front of my lens. Talking with Lauren and her mom, I knew that they were the kind of girls who wanted exactly that. Armed with the knowledge that I had never shot a senior session before -and what type of photographer I am (and the images I create) – Lauren and Beth signed the proverbial dotted line and the three of us jumped feet first into this crazy adventure. They took a risk. They trusted my vision – even when I couldn’t show them what it looked like – and they gave themselves over to the experience completely.
I am incredibly thankful for the two of them – these women are remarkable – and am humbled by their love and trust and generosity. And I’m ridiculously excited for Lauren. For her future, for all the she has in store for her. This girl will move mountains someday. To Lauren and Beth: Thank you for taking a risk on me.
Here are a few images from our evening together last week: