Dumpster diver turned diamond jewelry designer

Q: Where did you go to college?

A: Winthrop was the only school I considered and applied for. Something drew me to it. I didn't know any one that lived in Rock Hill or lived nearby, I didn't specifically recall anyone that went there or graduated from Winthrop. All I knew: this is the school for me.

I knew I wanted to go to Winthrop before I knew I wanted to be an art major. Originally I thought I  should study psychology. That did not happen. I took some art classes in high school and the path was forever changed, I knew that this was what I want to do.

I fell in love with art my last 2 years of high school, and I have my influential and encouraging art teacher Fred Edgerton to blame. I never thought I could be an artist before that time. I knew that I loved making things, but I didn't know that I could pursue it with any kind of success or skill past an occasional hobby. Edgerton opened up a world to me.

I recently found out that this is his last year teaching at Seneca High School. I'm very grateful to Mr. Ed and the countless lessons and skills he taught me.

You set the road map, Mr. Ed. I remember the times we all said it wasn't a good idea to go to college for art, that we didn't want to spend all that time and money just to be starving artists, but you shut that kind of thinking down. You taught and encouraged us and left us with skills we would use the rest of our lives, whether we pursued a life of art or not. You taught us that art is more than paint or clay. Thank you, Mr. Ed.

Q: What type of degree do you have?

A: I have a Studio Art Degree. More specifically a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) with my concentration in Jewelry & Metals.  It was a little bit different than the jewelry that we sell here. I made jewelry out of yogurt cartons and two-liter bottles. I'd go in the dumpster and find bars of aluminum.

I learned how to enamel, there's two samples in the picture on either side. The one on the left is enamel on top of melted and splattered copper. The one on the right is some cloisonné. The piece on top is a funky cuff with some embossed snakeskin and flocked elements. The interesting looking roundish and riveted translucent  pieces are made from 2 liter bottles and yogurt containers, riveted together with copper.

Studio Art Degree Jewelry

At Winthrop, I got to learn from numerous artists and professors. Courtney Starrett taught most of the jewelry classes and made sure that we kept the world of materials open to our disposal. You should check her out! She does some very interesting work and is a very motivated artist. 

One of the most influential professors I had at Winthrop was Paul Martyka. I had him my first and last year there. That man knew design. He lived, breathed, and ate it. 

Q: How did you meet Doug, founder of David Douglas Diamonds & Jewelry?

A: My brother worked at this cigar shop when I was going to school my senior year. "Hey I know this jeweler. You should meet him." Travis did so much networking at the cigar shop. So I walked in to David Douglas (this was when we were down the street at a different location) and I said “Hey I'd like to meet James," but he wasn't in the shop the first time I walked into David Douglas, so I met Doug instead. He offered to let me shadow James in the morning, three hours a couple days a week.

Travis Fincannon

At the time, I was going to school, and I said I was working with yogurt containers and copper wire and aluminum, but then I go to David Douglas Diamonds and it's gold and diamonds and the tools are much nicer and more expensive and more refined and sophisticated.  It really opened my eyes to the world of the jewelry industry.

After I graduated from Winthrop in 2010, Doug asked me if I'd like to start a jewelry line for his store. I emphatically said "YES!" I am full of gratitude that Travis met James, Doug and James opened the doors to me, and Doug took a chance on me.

 If I were walking this path alone, I don't know how long it would have taken me to get to the point of making my first piece out of college. I certainly wouldn't be where I am now. I love this place and these people.

 I'm ecstatic to share this journey with you and thrilled to be able to share this with you online!

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