Artist David Mayer designs simple, organic jewelry |

Artist David Mayer designs simple, organic jewelry

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO, Colorado
HL David Mayer3 PU 9-10-08

David Mayer has been on both extremes of the research-and-design spectrum. In his former, pre-Eagle County life in New York City, he spent 12 years designing products that line big-box-store shelves around the world to this day ” L’Oreal makeup cases and white plastic 3M hooks to name a few. Now he spends his days making jewelry at his Eagle-Vail home for his company, Mana Metalworks.

No two pieces that Mayer makes are ever exactly the same because they’re handmade.

“When you do it one at a time, you get to put more thought behind each one,” he said. “I may do the same kind of shape bracelet over, but it’s never going to come out the same. I think it adds a little more personal touch to each piece.”

Mayer’s philosophy became even clearer when he explained the name of his company.

“Everyone thinks it’s bread, like manna from heaven, but this spelling is from a Hawaiian word, which refers to the magic that’s within all things,” he said. “They believe things that you make have an energy because you put your time and energy into it. I really liked that theory ” that an inanimate object can have its own magical energy.”

When Mayer first moved to the valley with his wife, Leah, seven years ago, he did some freelance design work on the side and started working at a jewelry store in Avon that’s no longer in business called The Goldsmith Shop. After a year or so, he moved on to be the gallery director at J. Cotter Studios. Jim Cotter, the owner of the shop, let Mayer use his Minturn studio at night to make jewelry.

“I did a piece here and there, and he let me sell it in the shop,” Mayer said.

It was two years ago that Mayer decided to pursue his jewelry business full time. He now works out of his Eagle-Vail home.

Sometimes Mayer draws formal designs on tissue-like pieces of drawing paper, but more often he doodles his ideas on scrap paper while talking on the phone, he said. Next he uses mostly sterling silver to turn his two-dimensional visions into 3D pieces of art. He makes bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces in his family-room-cum-jewelry-studio. He solders his work in the carport and has been known to hammer some of his silver pieces on the driveway to transfer the pattern to the metal. The speckled design adorning a pair of simple, leaf-shaped earrings is from one such asphalt expedition.

That must merit some strange looks from the neighbors, right?

“Not unless it’s 3 a.m. and I’m trying to finish something for the market the next day,” Mayer said, referring to the Minturn Market.

For the second summer in a row, Mayer spent every Saturday manning a booth with his neighbor and friend Taralyn Walters at the crowded open-air market. Though many of the vendors at the market sell jewelry, Mayer’s work stood out, Walters said.

“It’s funny ” we tend to hear the same things: ‘It’s simple … clean lines … gosh, it kind of looks like the Sundance stuff,'” she said, referring to Sundance catalogue, a mail-order magazine that sells rustic, artisan-made jewelry. Walters helped Mayer at the market nearly every Saturday this summer, she said.

“(David) spends a lot of time on his jewelry,” she said. “He’s extremely detail-oriented, and it shows in his work. He has a lot of local clientele that comes back.”

Looking at Mayer’s work spread across a table, it’s easy to see two distinct styles at work. One style is more rustic ” a sterling silver cuff bracelet with a hammered-texture surface or a dark-gray, oxidized sterling silver bracelet with a handful of random 14-karat-gold drops fused to the surface that nearly glow.

A ring that Mayer redesigned for a woman in his neighborhood shows his more contemporary side. Mayer took the 1970s-era ring with a heart-shaped diamond and designed a new setting. Mayer doesn’t usually work with stones, so he had a jeweler in Crestone set the stones ” the main heart diamond and six small, round diamonds spaced evenly around the ring.

“I’m drawn to simple, clean lines,” Mayer said. “Life’s already too complicated; we don’t need jewelry that’s complicated.”

That philosophy is uber-apparent in a series of “surfer necklaces” Mayer designed. A small, oval-shaped pendant hangs from a black leather cord. The necklace appeals to both men and women, in part because it’s very lightweight, Mayer said.

“I try to make jewelry that’s very comfortable so it’s not a hindrance to wear it,” he said.

The pieces are perfect for the valley’s “mountain atmosphere,” Walters said.

“It’s your everyday piece that you want to wear, but you don’t feel like you’re wearing jewelry in the sense of weight or it being too much,” she said.

Right now a boutique in Denver, Loft 22, is the only place carrying Mayer’s work, though the soft-spoken artist is talking to an Eagle clothing store about carrying his line. He plans on taking part in the Eagle holiday show and a few other local shows. He also makes custom pieces upon request.

“Whenever the husbands in our neighborhood are in doubt about what to get their wives for holidays, birthdays, whatever, they call David,” Walters said.

Problem solved.

For more information, visit or e-mail Mayer at

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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