Jeweler and designer Megan Rugani founded Maiden Voyage in 2014 as an “ever evolving collection of fine jewelry that values the singular nature of bespoke and the hand of the artist.” Her pieces are made using modern tools and traditional techniques combining meticulous hand engraving with bold designs and a thoughtful but playful use of symbols.
In our latest Jeweler Spotlight, we spoke with Megan about how she became a jeweler, her inspirations, and her methods.
I understand your dad was a metalworker. Could you talk about how that impacted your desire to pursue metalworking and jewelry making?
Yes my dad and my brother are both industrial welders by trade. I suppose that I felt like there was some sort of tradition there that I should carry on by finding some sort of metal education. I had no desire to be a trade welder – I knew that I wanted to be an artist or designer of some sort. But there was definitely a pull to metal because of it being in my household. I suppose I wanted to find a way to connect with my dad or impress him even. I never became a welder, but I know he’s still very impressed!
There are snakes, hearts, daggers, eyes throughout your work – even your diamonds have an extra symbolic layer when you engrave them. Could you describe why you’re drawn to these symbols in your work?
I think there is a certain power to simplified, emblematic symbols that have been represented throughout diverse cultures and time. It’s a special thing to be able to distill abstract notions into a tiny, straightforward symbol. The quest for knowledge and enlightenment as the eye; rebirth, transformation, fluidity of time as the serpent; etc. The diamond is actually quite important to me and my work for many reasons. When I began engraving the diamond symbol, I was concerned with perceptions of value and luxury. My idea behind the diamond was that time was the ultimate luxury and also the most valuable resource, and time was the resource I poured into the making of that diamond that has hundreds of little cuts. Also, it’s just a cheeky way to wear a “diamond ring,” so I love the subtle humor behind it.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes when I have a clear and calm head. I get inspired when I have time to think- on walks, in the bath tub, even at the bench when I’m in the groove and in that sweet spot of focus and clarity. But as far as my influences- I’m inspired by so many things! Printmaking, Samurai sword fittings, garment and textile design, Victorian and antique jewelry, architecture, and graphic design, fleeting moments, organic forms, the life and death cycle, and so on.
Engraving is such an important and distinctive element in your work. What about engraving speaks to you?
Looking back to my childhood, I really was always drawing on something whether it was my notebook, my hand, the sidewalk, etc. I never took drawing very seriously, but I would say I had a natural proficiency, and desire, for it. Pretty quickly into my jewelry making career I started making work with imagery, and at a certain point I wanted more detail. So one thing led to another and I started engraving so I could continue drawing on things as an adult. As my skills have grown and my work has developed, engraving speaks to me in a more abstract way now. Engraving allows me to create images that feel like a thing, not just look like them. For example I have been making quite a few wave designs inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. The most striking thing is the way the light rolls around the waves – it truly feels like the sun rolling across the ocean.
I’ve read that you engrave precious metals using a technique most common in faceting gemstones. Where did you get that idea? What effect does it give your jewelry?
So, I’m not using a technique that gem cutters use, but I think what you’re referring to is how I like to make small faceted cuts with a super high polished graver so that from first glance, the metal sparkles in a way that a faceted gem would. There is a ring design of mine called the Argyle Facet Band that many people think is covered in diamonds when they first see it, but it’s just gold. The idea actually came from not being able to afford diamonds at the time I started working with gold. I was already pouring all of my money into buying gold so I had to work with what I had. If I had an idea for something that would commonly be made with diamond accents, I figured I would make something just as sparkly and eye-catching, but on a budget. I truly think that scarce resources, to an extent, is crucial in creativity. A lot of my most favorite pieces came about because I was scrapping together materials in the studio.
Do you experience creative ruts? What do you do to get out of them?
Sure!! I would like to meet a person who doesn’t. I am lucky that I have a constant stream of work coming through my workshop, so there is always something to be done – blessing and a curse. Of course, a lot of it is production, but I think that having the opportunity to use my hands and feel productive helps to keep me active until I feel a creative jolt. I usually have to drop what I’m doing to entertain these moments of inspiration because they aren’t always there. So, I guess that’s my advice – listen to your heart when it has something to say. You [have to] strike while the iron is hot.
What are three of your favorite bench tools right now?
Hmmm hard to say! I always have trouble choosing a favorite because I need them all. I guess my three favorites at the moment/forever would be my round graver(s) – I am enjoying the effect they have on how they reflect light. My heat gun – does that qualify? – I use it for thermolock prep and also for heating my engraving block when it’s cold in the studio. And my scribe.