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Marja Germans Gard is a local bay-area designer living and working in Oakland, CA. We had an opportunity to ask her a few questions about her work and inspiration. Join us for our annual Holiday Artisan Fair at the de Young to shop her incredible creations. 

This is your first year showing at the Holiday Artisan Fair. What items are you most excited to introduce to our visitors?

I recently introduced a new collection that I’m really looking forward to sharing with the deYoung audience. It features the streamlined forms that are typical of my line, but is probably the most boldly geometric of all of the collections I’ve developed thus far (hence the name of the collection: Advanced Geometry).

I’m also working on capsule collection of 14k gold pieces that I plan to bring with me to the show. Since I typically work in sterling silver and bronze, it’s been exciting to work more with gold.

Does being in Oakland, or the Bay Area, influence your work at all? In what ways?

I think being in the Bay Area does influence my designs. I love the diversity of artistic expression you find here, from the wide range of museums to the vibrant street art. I am continually inspired by what I find around me just walking down the street. I also appreciate that there is a certain ease in the fashion you see in the Bay Area, especially in Oakland. When I am envisioning new designs I’m always striving for that kind of casual minimalist chic.

How did you learn to make jewelry?

I first started making jewelry as a young kid - I would steal my dad’s needle nose pliers and the straight pins from my mother’s sewing kit and make earring dangles from my stash of seed beads. I also turned my high school enameling class into a jewelry factory, making abstract enameled pendants for all of my friends.

Although I turned my full attention to my academic studies for years (and actually completed a PhD), I never lost the love for making jewelry that I developed at a young age. It was actually during my graduate studies that I started taking jewelry classes again as a hobbyist. After completing my degree (and staying home for some years with my two children), I jumped in with both feet and decided to pick up metalsmithing in earnest. I’ve taken some classes at the Crucible and Revere Academy, but a lot of what I do on a daily basis is self-taught.

Your jewelry is really sleek and modern. Who do you have in mind when you’re thinking of new jewelry designs and shapes?

To be completely honest, I design pieces that I myself would want to wear! What I share with my customer is a desire for pieces that are clean and a little edgy, and that make a statement but are still wearable enough for everyday. My ideal customer has a clear, minimalist style sense and is looking for pieces that will transition beautifully from a chic black jumpsuit to jeans and a moto jacket. She also has an appreciation for the handmade process, and values that each piece is made by hand with care. 

If you weren’t designing, you would be... 

Making in whatever medium I could get my hands on. Cooking, baking, knitting, ceramics - I love getting my hands dirty to create something new. 

Do you have a special memory from visiting the de Young? Where is your favorite place in the museum?

Given the richness of the collections at the de Young, this is a very difficult question.  One of my very favorite places is actually the Barbro Osher sculpture garden. I love the juxtaposition of the stunning sculptural pieces with the natural backdrop.

Lastly, since this is gift-giving season, what’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Do you have any tips for giving a gift to a "special someone"?

One of the best gifts I ever received was from my husband, when I first started making jewelry. I had to leave town to visit my father who was ill and while I was gone, my husband set up a small studio space for me in our basement so that I would have a dedicated place to work. When I returned and found what he had done, I was so surprised and touched. Not only had he put in all of the work to set up the space for me, but in doing so he was showing his support for me embarking on this new career path. 

To me, the best gifts have this same sentiment in mind - a knowledge and appreciation for what is meaningful for the gift recipient. I love when a customer finds a piece of mine and immediately recognizes it as a "perfect fit" because, for example, they know their wife loves minimalist art and architecture. Or, someone selects a piece because they know their sister values eco-friendly gifts. It’s always my pleasure to work with a customer to find just the right piece that will speak to their "special someone."

Thanks so much - we can't wait to have you at the Holiday Artisan Fair!

My pleasure, I look forward to being there.