Michigan Jeweler Ted Lepczynski’s artistic journey began over 40 years ago when he served as an apprentice under old world master jewelers at the Meyer Jewelers Headquarters in Detroit. Ted’s role included participating in the manufacturing, repair and finishing of fine jewelry. In 1979, Ted made a move to a smaller upscale jewelry company in Troy, where he would remain until 2008. His responsibilities included all phases of jewelry manufacturing including molding, casting, diamond-setting and finishing, as well as customer repair orders ranging from estate jewelry to custom-designed pieces.
Over the years, Ted says he became addicted to rock hunting and collecting fossils. In addition to gathering them, he could see the value of incorporating them in jewelry of his own design. In 2008, he began selling his own fashionable works of art to retailers, as well as directly to customers through Silver Loon Jewelers, a company he operates with his wife, Julie out of White Lake.
BMN: Have you always been artistic?
Ted: As a kid I loved to sketch things like trees, people, and abstract patterns. My ideas came from playing outdoors, climbing interesting looking trees, seeing birds, turtles, and other animals.
BMN: What drew you to the jewelry business?
Ted: It started in high school, I was an average student and none of my classes sparked an interest toward a career. I had no clue, and graduation was rapidly approaching. Needing credits, I signed up for an art class in jewelry-making. My teacher was great, I loved the feel of working in metal, and I was hooked. After high school, a family friend helped me start my apprenticeship and I was on my way.
BMN: What is your favorite medium to work with and why?
Ted: Solid-cast precious metal, stone, and fossil. Although I loved sketching 2-D, working in 3-D metal is it for me.
BMN: How would you describe your design style?
Ted: It keeps changing somehow. When I was in a commercial environment, the work had to be very upscale and elegant for bridal designs, Valentine’s Day, etc. Today I am Michigan-inspired; more abstract, artistic and wide open. I enjoy creating designs like a bird, lighthouse, or even the Mackinac Bridge.
BMN: How does living in Michigan influence your designs?
Ted: I am inspired daily and can’t turn it off. It’s everywhere, from the wilderness of the U.P. to the Great Lakes, historic places, farmlands, and my own backyard. We travel all over the state, and always come home with new ideas.
BMN: What process do you use to create your pieces?
Ted: Old world master jeweler techniques using the Lost Wax casting process, totally 100% handcrafted. It starts with sculpting the original design in wax, then converting the wax into precious metal using heat, fire and centrifugal force. Stones are cut, set, and the design is finished to a high polish. It can take 2-3 days to complete the process.
BMN: What advice do you have for other jewelry designers or entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Ted: Prepare to market your own work and be your own boss. Early in your game, embrace the reality that making your work and listing it online is not enough. Identify your market and get physically into it, hit the road, participate in events, develop relationships with venues to display your work, and accept that you will be spending more time promoting than making. Work with good promoters and event organizers like Buy Michigan Now who can unlock opportunities that you can’t reach on your own. Be different, constantly try new things, ignore the competition and focus on your own game – you can do it!