William Travis Jewelry, literally a gem of gems in jewelry makers located in Chapel Hill. This interview with founder, Travis Kukovich, tells you more about Travis, his lineage with the trade, how he got started in jewelry making and what inspires him. William Travis Jewelry is filled with beautiful handcrafted pieces that you are encouraged to try on; they keep it light and fun, just like a beautiful, sparkly piece of jewelry! Be sure to stop by for their holiday party on November 15th, if you are unable to stop by, rest assured, holiday sales will be going through November 24th! Details below. Now, onto the interview… !
1. Did you found your business? Why?
I opened the first William Travis Jewelry anchor store in 2002, a 500 square foot store tucked away in a little corner on Franklin St. It was a small start but it was all my own. Our current location is three times that size- it is our design studio with retail out front and we are proud to do all our work in house. We also have a small location in Flor Blanca, Costa Rica and we have created a custom line for the North Carolina Museum of Art. We will continue to grow in 2013, we are now under construction for the studio/retail space of my dreams, a 3000 square foot metal smith mecca.
Why do I do it? All of my earliest memories included the ping sound of hammer on anvil. I am a 5th generation metal smith and all of my ancestors whose name I carry, William, in some way fashioned metal. It is my truly my calling.
2. Where did you train/ learn how to make jewelry?
I started at age sixteen at my grandfather’s forge and anvil, which was where my passion began. From there I moved to my father’s metal smith shop, which was much more detail oriented and I really honed my finer motor skills. I spent my college years in Texas where I studied metallurgy- the science of how metal behaves. Finally, I spent 10 years in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill running a six-man custom shop as the lead designer before opening my own store.
3. Where do you find your inspiration for your business?
Art and design have always come easy to me and bring me the most happiness. The jewelry bench has been my therapist and best friend. It is where I meditate and make sense out of life. Nature and antiques have been very influential in my design process. I grew up on a self-sufficient farm; gardening and canning with my brothers and sisters and I continue to keep bees even today, another family tradition. Through my international travels as an adult, I grew to love and appreciate architecture. All of these things inspire me.
4. Talk a little bit about your product and what you offer.
Our product is unique in the jewelry industry. William Travis originals cannot be duplicated. We recently were awarded our sixth Spectrum award for platinum and colored stone innovation and we will continue taking risks to solidify ourselves as leaders in this industry.
5. Who is your role model in business?
As a designer, I appreciate and understand the hard work it takes to make a successful business in the fashion industry. I admire Ralph Lauren, for example, because he was a pioneer in making fashion accessible. With six different brands from Rugby to the Purple label, he has made his design available to many markets. He built an empire on believing in fashion in the same way I do. There is something for everyone and in every price range. We want to do that, as well.
6. What plans do you have for your business in the near future? Expansions or new products?
As I mentioned earlier, we are currently launching the studio space of my dreams. We will be moving in at the beginning of the new year and we are excited to be able to customize every detail. We also recently came out with our William Travis Signature line, which is accumulation of my best work over the last 20 years.
7. What do you love about what you do?
I love to handle a job from start to finish. Meeting with the client, assessing their wants and desires, designing and engineering their piece not just to be beautiful but also to be a durable heirloom. I make the piece by hand and then get to see the client’s joy through the delivery. This is extremely gratifying.