Exclusive Interview: David Yurman
The iconic jewelry designer discusses his new shop, contemporary art and the ICA, and peddling belt buckles on the Cape.
In town to celebrate the opening of his Copley store and a partnership with the ICA, David Yurman sat down with me for breakfast and conversation at new hotspot Mooo.
Boston: This summer, your first free-standing Boston shop opened in Copley. Why now?
David Yurman: We just had to wait for that Dig to get done! We opened in New York City in 1999, and said, “Let’s see how it goes.” We were doing well, so Boston was in that next level—Boston, Chicago, L.A. They said “Do you want to be on Newbury?” I said, we need traffic, we need more of a diverse shopper, not just someone looking for boutiques, so Copley’s the place.
B: What’s your take on Boston style? Do you see your designs being a good fit for Boston women?
DY: You know, everyone says it’s a very conservative town. But some of the more unusual pieces I’ve made have sold here. Yesterday, we sold a $24,000 piece—these extraordinary pearls that are really very strange, the last of a particular breed of pearl from the lakes of Kasamiga
B: So do you find Boston to have creative taste?
DY: There’s definitely wealth and art in Boston. And where there’s wealth and there’s art, we flourish. When there’s wealth but no art, we do so-so. But here, there’s both.
B: Speaking of art, you’re in town to celebrate your store opening, as well as to kick off your partnership with the ICA. What’s the relationship between contemporary art and your designs?
DY: My wife and I have a humanitarian foundation. We support the ICA financially and come up for shows we’d like to see. I started out as a sculptor when I was in high school, which supplemented my selling newspapers and mowing lawns. Everyone in my family had to work, even my sister, so I sold sculptures, which I could get like $25-$50 for—and back then, $50 was what $100 is today!
B: Were you always interested in the arts growing up?
DY: I was a popular young man, because I ran track, I played soccer, and I was the only guy on the modern dance club—one guy and fifty girls; I liked this ratio. I wanted to be a dancer when I was younger. I went to visit my sister in Provincetown when I was a junior in high school, and I found my mentor. She was living with a Cuban sculptor and he taught me to weld and some of his technique. I picked it up and kept on doing it. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for art.
B: So how did sculpting translate into making jewelry?
DY: When I was at college in NYU, I went to a jeweler, Bernard Kelley, who has since moved up here to Wellfleet, and asked if there was any work for me. He said, “You can polish.” So I went in after school and I’d polish and then he’d show me how to solder and make jewelry. He brought a style that was really something different—mixing silver and gold back when no one was doing that.
B: Ever meet up with him in Wellfleet?
DY: In the ’70s, my wife and I worked at the craft fair in Bennington, selling belts. And after Bennington we would pack up our belts and belt buckles and drive all the way up the Cape to Provincetown, stopping and selling them to shops all the way up to Provincetown. It was great—we even got Bernie interested in making belt buckles.