Harry Winston-inspired engagement rings, pentagrams, and gold armadillo earrings all fall within Dallas Maynard’s area of expertise. The 33-year-old Kansas native – from Derby, to be exact – is a custom jeweler with designs so spunky they mirror her bubbly personality.
Raised by her grandparents, with the help from an aunt, she was always surrounded by art and an abundance of crafting. Her grandmother even ran a flower shop out of their home.
In high school, art classes were limited and once Maynard exhausted all of the offered courses, she took classes at her local arts center. “All that was left was a jewelry class, so I ended up taking it and loving it,” Maynard said. “I ended up later working for the teacher of that class. She was super dope, very hippie-dippy, and had like pink hair.”
Her plan was to go to the Art Institute in Kansas City–but instead she took a scholarship from a local art school. “After that I went to school in California to study jewelry making,” Maynard said. “I took classes on things like metalsmithing and gemology.”
The leap to move to California for school was immense as it was Maynard’s first time living out of Kansas, but it opened her up to a much larger jewelry and art community. After completing school, she got a job in Wichita, working as an apprentice under a jeweler.
“I had no idea that I would actually be making things, but I got to that job and they said, ‘Ok, here are your tools,’ and I was working hands-on doing things like repairs,” Maynard said.
The job in Wichita wasn’t enough for Maynard–eventually she felt a calling to be in a big city again, but this time one a little closer to home. She settled for Chicago, and was met with the same rude awakening many other souls are met with when coming to the Windy City.
“I had never experienced the whole starving artist thing until I moved here.” Maynard said. “At that point I was sleeping on couch cushions and eating dinner from peanut butter jars my grandma had sent me.”
Over time, she got acclimated and was able to settle herself in, even if her jewelry studio was limited to a cardboard box. “I was working out of a cardboard box–not living in one–and eventually I moved to a grimy cupboard, then I got a place with kitchen space, and now I have my own studio in Ravenswood.”
From a young age, Maynard remembers having an entrepreneurial spirit and a pull to nature and the arts. “I remember I asked my grandparents if I could play soccer, even though I just joined because I liked a boy on the team, and I would stand on the field digging for rocks,” she said.
A natural inclination for fossils and nature is what contributed to Maynard’s fascination with gemology, the study of gems and minerals and serves as the source of much of her inspiration. “I’m a very non-linear person, and while I can do pieces that are clean-cut and structured, my own inspiration comes from very free flowing things and things in nature,” she said.
With her closeness to the arts, jewelry making seemed like the perfect fit.
“I was always surrounded by crafting and female entrepreneurs. My grandma and my aunt both sold the crafts they made,” Maynard said. “I started selling things like friendship bracelets I had made. I was a hustler in elementary school.”
At its core, what drives Maynard to pursue her craft, and ultimately her business, is her customers. There is a high level of intimacy involved in designing and creating a custom piece. “I think there’s a psychology behind why people choose the jewelry they wear. I always ask what people’s personalities are like before I sit down to design something,” Maynard said.
Looking back on her career, it seems that jewelry making was always meant to be her calling, despite the challenges. “The jewelry industry has always been male dominated, but I’m not letting that stop me,” Maynard said. “As an independent female jewelry designer, I’m making pieces that empower people, and I’m in it to win it.”