Interview Series: Tyler Durtschi

Dark + Dawn is a collection of handmade, sterling silver jewelry created by artist Tyler Durtschi in Echo Park, Los Angeles. His designs are simplistic but surprisingly unique, combining religious symbolism with geometric and architectural designs and incorporating unique materials like coyote bones and salmon teeth.

His first designs – which have become his signature – were paper clip crosses bent from sterling silver rods. “I got the idea while working at a law office, putting paperclips together into different shapes,” Durtschi explains. “I was collecting lots of religious medallions and crosses at the time; the cross is charged and powerful, but I liked the idea of it being made out of simple, everyday items.”

Two years after that first paper clip cross, Dark + Dawn can be found from West to East Coast in stores like What Goes Around Comes Around and Factory 413 in Los Angeles to Federal in Washington, D.C., with a full collection online at darkanddawn.com. We paid Durtschi a visit at the Echo Park apartment where he lives and works to learn a little more about his decadent line.

LF: What piece are you working on today?

TD: I’m doing a necklace and bracelet commission for a guy in London that saw one of my necklaces that a friend of mine was wearing.

LF: Tell me about the process.

TD: I start with annealing a square wire to shape it, then hand cut, fit, and solder the design together. A lot of the architectural and simpler shapes are made this way. I carve the more detailed pieces from wax and have them casted in a shop downtown. Eventually, I want to do that myself, but I need a furnace and centrifugal caster, and that takes up a lot of space.

LF: What materials are you working with?

TD: Almost everything is sterling silver. I’ve done several wedding rings in gold and some stuff in bronze, white bronze, and brass. I’ve also been using coyote bones, teeth, and salmon jawbones.

LF: You have a BFA in sculpture from the University of Utah. How did you transition into jewelry design?

TD: I wanted to create pieces I could make myself and couldn’t find anywhere else.

LF: Did you have any additional schooling to learn about jewelry making and metalwork?

TD: No. I didn’t know anything about what I was doing at first. If I wanted to learn something, I walked around the downtown jewelry district asking people what to do – it was definitely a learning process. It probably would have been easier to go to school or take some trade classes, but I tend to think I can just figure out everything for myself. It’s kind of a downfall at times, but I wouldn’t have made anything like I make it now if I would have gone to school to have someone tell me what to do. I like that I figured it out on my own. Sometimes shit goes all to hell and doesn’t work out, but it did, and it’s perfect the way it is.

LF: Religious symbolism is often incorporated into your work. What do you find intriguing about these symbols and where does the interest come from?

 TD: There is all of this meaning and mysticism set into these different symbols with a huge history behind them that fascinates me. I was raised Mormon, so it has always played a role in my life.

LF: Are you still Mormon?

TD: No, after my mission in Central Canada I realized it didn’t fit into my life. Nothing negative happened — it just didn’t fit.

LF: How did Dark + Dawn go from paper clips to an up-and-coming jewelry brand? 

TD: I put up a shop online, and all of the friends I have just happen to know the right people — I feel super lucky in that way.

LF: What’s next for Dark + Dawn?

TD: Possibly working with American Rag, I’ve talked with the owner about getting my line onto the website.

Interview and photography by Christopher Swainston


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