Who are you and where are you located?
My name is Courtney Reckord and I live in Burlington Vermont.
What do you make?
I make data driven jewelry using USGS data. Each piece is an accurate representation of a different landscape.
How do you make them?
I start with data from USGS and import that into Rhino3D. I then model the piece by slicing, compressing and adding jewelry parts like bails and bezels and edges. Then the piece gets printed on a high resolution 3D printer. That is the positive. That positive gets molded, and then using the lost wax casting process, the piece is cast in metal. I have a pending patent application.
What is the toughest part?
I went through a period where my computer was crashing a lot if I was working on a piece that included too large an area, because there were just too many data points. I have resolved this by getting a computer that is more optimized for this kind of work, but it still happens occasionally. It’s a bummer because sometimes a lot of work is lost. I have gotten a lot better about saving my work periodically!
Where can people find you to buy your stuff?
The best way to find me is online at my website.
I sell my work in a variety of stores, mostly in Vermont, but a few scattered around the country. You can find a list of stockists on my website!
What is your day job if not this business?
My day job is this business! I used to work as an art teacher, but have been working in my business for several years now.
Do you attend a makerspace? If so which one?
I have been a part of Generator makerspace in Burlington for many years off and on.
Generator has been a huge source of support for me along my journey of creating a successful business. I was an artist in residence early on in my involvement with Generator, which was a source of funding for my work and had an accountability factor which is always helpful. Then I was able to get funding from the UVM Implementation and Modeling Facility through a pitch held at Generator. They helped me to create some of the first prototypes of my work. Later I was an entrepreneur in residence at Generator. That program is a cohort model of business owners learning about things like cash flow, getting funding, marketing and other aspects of running a business.
How did you get started making stuff?
I have always been a curious person who likes to create things. If I had to think as far back as possible I would probably say that Legos were a huge inspiration for me. There were these sets of castle Legos. I would start by making the set the way the instructions said, but then inevitably I would take them apart and mix them up and have a great time just building things for fun. As an adult, being an art teacher was a great place to get ideas and try out a ton of different types of projects, from STEAM inspired projects to teaching fine metals. Students always want to push the boundaries so as a teacher, if you are open to it you can learn a lot really quickly.
What product or variation have people most responded to?
When people look at my jewelry, especially the topographic pieces, they look cool but it doesn’t immediately register that they are topographic maps. When I tell people that the reaction is wonderful. They are amazed and super excited. Everyone has a place that is meaningful to them whether it is where they grew up, went to college, or got engaged. My jewelry is a way to help them carry around positive memories of those moments.
What do you have on your horizon?
I have been broadening my work out from mountains and canyons to include bodies of water; rivers, lakes and bays. I also have been incorporating stones into my work. My latest ring is of the Lena River in Siberia and I am setting crushed opals into the channel of the river. It will be stunning, and I look forward to incorporating the crushed opals into my work in other ways.
What is your biggest struggle as a maker business?
My biggest struggle has changed over time. The first several years, before I had an actual product and I was still in the concepting and design phases, I was frustrated a lot. The project originated with a question ‘would it be possible to create jewelry using actual data?’ I wasn’t necessarily sure it would be possible, and I definitely wasn’t sure if people would be interested in the product assuming I figured out how to make it. I spent a lot of days waking up at 5 am before work to get an hour of work in and there were many moments where I considered giving up because I just was not progressing. However when you make just a teeny tiny step forward that can be transformative in terms of giving you the energy to keep going.
Now that I have my work flow going, my biggest struggle is stepping away from the business. When you own your own business, there is always more to do. Deciding when to step back and say ‘I have done enough for the day’ is the hardest thing for me!
How has your business evolved?
My business has evolved from a question “Would it be possible to make jewelry using actual data” to a thriving business with an online retail presence and many stores that sell my work.
I am so happy that people like what I am doing and continue to challenge me with new requests so I can grow my skill set and create new work.
What project are you most excited about?
At the moment, I am most excited about starting to do more work combining the technical aspects of the work- all of the computer modeling- with more hands on aspects of the work- like adding stones and using the Keum-boo (gold foil) technique.