Ruth Taubman. We have so many world-class yet low-key artists in our midst. Case in point: Ruth Taubman, American jewelry’s Doyenne of Design. An artistic genius whose medium is one-of-a-kind custom jewelry, she lives and works on the west side of Ann Arbor. Taubman’s artistic inclinations reach back to her childhood and to the relationships she’s developed along the way.
Taubman hails from Birmingham, Michigan. As a child, she was always drawing and doing creative projects, but her time at Groves High School, which had five full-time art teachers and excellent facilities, really forged her future. Looking back she realizes that the Groves’ art program was the equivalent of that of many small colleges. She was 15 years old and enamored with ceramics when the jewelry instructor, George Landino, suggested that she try one of his courses. “The first time I soldered,” said Taubman, “I realized, in that moment, that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” She took every class Groves offered, supplemented her interests with coursework at Cranbrook and the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center under instructor Bill Tall. In the summers she studied at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and she worked at her dad’s aluminum factory, viewing firsthand the industrial side of metalwork. She went on to major in metalsmithing and jewelry design at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design. Her professor, Paul Stewart, told her, “it’s important to know who you’re not,” and, “The most important things you’ll take away from art school are your peers.”
New York Years
Taubman worked in New York for 14 years, including a job with David Yurman, who she now says is a “juggernaut” complete with advertisements in many issues of glossy magazines. Still friends, she introduced him when he spoke to the U of M School of Art and Design last spring.
She also befriended the most important people in the jewelry manufacturing industry: the artisans and the gem suppliers. Today she gets first choice of the finest and most unusual stones and pearls from around the world in deals that have been cemented with a handshake.
Back to Ann Arbor
Taubman had her own New York studio near Union Square Park, but raising a family in NYC proved too much. She moved back to Ann Arbor 18 years ago, teaching at the School of Art and Design for six years (bringing some real world perspective to what can be an abstract, conceptual, academic approach to jewelry). And she opened her studio right here in town, where, after 30 years of jeweling, she designs custom rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Although she is an accomplished goldsmith, she now focuses almost entirely on design, leaving the construction to the best in the world, her artisan friends back in New York. She shows her spring and fall collections at invitation-only events in San Francisco, New York and at her studio in Ann Arbor. The next event here is December 4-6, so Google her and get on her mailing list for an invite. On her website you’ll see the clean, bold lines in her work. Generally, she starts with a stone and brings out the most in it, achieving her signature “lit from within” effect. Anyone can buy a Cartier piece, easily recognizable for status purposes. Taubman’s clients want something you won’t see anywhere else, something no one else has, tailored to their body shape and dimensions. She keeps meticulous data on every item that she sells and on her clients and has been known to call clients to remind them of their upcoming anniversary.
So what does the Taubman treatment cost? I didn’t ask, assuming that if I had to ask I couldn’t afford it. But I’ve started saving