Without a doubt, jewelry designer Paul Klecka has joined the digital jewelry design revolution. Evolving from a traditional business model wherein his company took orders for his designs, manufactured the product and then shipped to some of the world’s top retailers, Klecka has reinvented his operation to achieve greater success in today’s market.
Just before the noon rush on Columbus Day, we arrive in Chicago ‘s bustling downtown district. Heading for the studio of designer Paul Klecka, we take in the lakefront and the city. The trees lining Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue have been coaxed into their fall colors creating a striking foreground to the 24.5 acres of art, architecture, music and entertainment that lay in the heart of the Windy City . The midday crowd, including students from nearby DePaul University , breezes by en route to lunch, errands or shopping amidst a myriad of choices. Down the street, the Beaux Arts building of the Art Institute of Chicago looms above passersby adorned by banners announcing the Toulouse Lautrec exhibit currently on display. We will soon discover that all of these familiar hometown sights may be appreciated from the window of PK’s 22 nd floor salon.
We’re anxious to meet the man – among a handful of jewelry designers who have reached star status – and discover how he came to embrace Gemvision Matrix and CAD/ CAM technology in his business. A multi-award winning designer, Klecka has garnered accolades in numerous prestigious competitions for diamonds, colored gemstones, platinum, and innovative marketing. This recognition early in his career enabled him to broaden his focus from a single retail operation in the 80’s to wholesale manufacturing, which allowed the finest retailers in the country to carry his distinctive trademarked pieces. Utilizing the strategy of developing jewelry collections based on his award-winning concepts, he has gained international popularity.
Paul Klecka, shown here at work in his studio salon, took quickly to Gemvision’s Matrix software. The program has completely changed his business model and enabled him to expand the possibilities in his designs. Just two years ago, each step of the design process for his signature pieces was done by hand. Now, he uses Matrix exclusively for concept, design and rendering.
Paul Klecka beams as he welcomes us to his retail salon, which centers surprisingly on a monitor and keyboard stationed at a comfortably appointed consultation niche. His lithe form and youthful enthusiasm belie his 30-plus years in the industry – from his first classes in jewelry design and technique as a college junior, to production manager at a custom jeweler armed with an MFA in jewelry from Northern Illinois University and finally as a jewelry designer and manufacturer, when he struck out on his own in 1982.
As founder and president of Paul Klecka, Inc. he has found success providing custom design and manufacturing services to a select clientele of consumers and local retailers. Recently, however, something happened to revolutionize his approach to marketing and design.
For Klecka, his introduction to Gemvision’s Matrix software was an epiphany, and he immersed himself in the technology. He is animated as he conveys the story of his year-long journey from a ‘physical’ to a ‘virtual’ inventory; from manufacturer to facilitator; from handwork to CAD/CAM. Here, he shares three examples of how the digital revolution has helped him to expand his business and explore new creative possibilities.
Custom-Custom: Three Designs, Three Solutions
1. The Pyramid Necklace
Klecka is a member of the American Jewelry Design Council, where he formerly held the positions of Director and Public Relations Committee Chairman. Each year a theme is selected and members create pieces which reflect the theme within their personal design style for exhibition at GIA and major trade show venues. The Pyramid Necklace was a milestone in that the creation process itself was the model for Klecka’s newest business direction.
First of all, the piece was entirely conceptualized, designed and rendered in the Matrix program, expressing the AJDC Pyramid theme as an Egyptian Pharoanic collar.
Shown here are Matrix renderings of the Pyramid necklace. Klecka designed one of the largest pyramid-shaped units of the necklace (the motif repeats throughout) and was able to reduce the size proportionately in the Matrix program to create the medium and small sized modules. The applications within the software make quick work of tedious and time-consuming steps.
The file was e-mailed to a rapid prototyping service provider to prepare the models. Finally, the models were shipped to a factory in Chiang Mai, Thailand along with rendering files to be used as guides for assembly, where they were cast, then finished and assembled by jewelry ‘technicians’ whose construction approach is very exacting. The completed necklace was shipped back to the U.S. , precise in every detail. With the industry relationships he has cultivated over the years, Klecka can now design his jewelry, and then outsource the manufacturing processes through the finished product, confident that each phase will be executed according to his vision. Klecka states, “Matrix allows complete control over the production process so that virtually any bench jeweler can easily produce the design”.
2. The Tanzanite Piece
One day, in a designer chat group, one of the participating retailers sent out an e-mail asking if anyone had a tanzanite piece for a particular customer. Klecka responded that he did have such a piece in his physical inventory and promptly shipped it out. It was returned with the explanation that the customer thought it was beautiful and well crafted, but was far too elegant and did not fit his wife’s casual style. Curious and eager to know more about this prospective client, Klecka asked a few questions and found that the couple had traveled extensively in Africa, that the wife had an active athletic lifestyle and that the husband was looking for a piece of jewelry that would embody these requirements.
3. The Lily Pendant
Klecka was approached by the Brain Injury Association to design a piece of jewelry which would symbolize their cause, create awareness, and represent the work the association did on the behalf of those afflicted. The group chose the symbol of the closed lily to symbolize a contained, isolated state of injury and conversely, the open lily to represent the functional, receptive state of health. The only catch was that they needed six pieces of finished jewelry in less than a week for an important symposium event.
The pendants were a resounding success, providing a clever fund raising vehicle for the BIA (2lilies.com). Klecka also helped the association with pricing and marketing volume quantities of the jewelry, using Gemvision Matrix CAD images in the promotions.
The ‘Digital Liberation’ of Paul Klecka
Clearly, designing is his first love (his concepts are based on the topic of his master’s thesis, “Perceptive and Illusory Aspects of Jewelry”), but he possesses a keen business sense which has served him well in defining his market and maintaining the integrity of his product throughout his career. More significantly, this acumen has enabled him to reinvent his business model for the future.
Klecka summarizes, “Most consumers today are seeking luxury experiences that have personal meaning in all price levels. They are searching for beautiful products that resonate with their individuality, coupled with highly personalized service. It matters less to them where they source these experiences and products as long as they find meaningful solutions. Working digitally, a brick-and-mortar location is no longer a key component of my business model, and my reach is simultaneously local and global.”
Klecka feels that with digital capabilities like e-mail and CAD imaging he has the ability to work anywhere. He recently decided to leave his home base in Illinois and now resides in sunny San Diego , CA. “I’m just a California guy who grew up in Chicago”, he proclaims with a smile.
Today, Klecka markets his work via the internet, presents his design via e-mail, utilizes production options virtually anywhere on the planet. He also is involved with QVC distribution of his designs, where he can share his concepts as the on-air personality. He’s currently working on new jewelry products, concepts and private label development.