Sunward: Carrie Calvin’s “Magic Combinations”

Carrie Calvin sees herself as a storyteller first and foremost — just not in the way you’d expect. Instead of using words, she stamps her narratives into clay and metal. Each jewelry piece from Sunward features simple shapes accented with colors and textures that Calvin brings back with her from every adventure.

sunward jewlery

The name Sunward bears a long history in and of itself. “My dad passed away when I was in high school,” Calvin explains. “He would always say that attitude is everything and remind me of the Helen Keller quote: ‘Keep your face to the sun, and you will never see the shadows.’ I collected little suns growing up for that reason and also wanted to channel the western mentality. ‘Sunward’ brings all these things together for me.”

Calvin comes to jewelry making from a background in graphic design. She first discovered the joy of working with a laser cutter through a former employer and found inspiration in the geometric styles that the tool so cleanly produces. But, most of Calvin’s work in graphic design lacked a physical component. She wanted a way to get her hands dirty and create a finished product that she could feel. Jewelry making stood out to her as a way to combine the virtual and the tactical.

“The idea that I could blend my design skills with technology and a physical outcome was so alluring,” gushes Calvin. “Creating something I could hold in my hands felt good.”

After some experimentation, Calvin quit her full-time gig in graphic design to dive in deep with her craft. She works out of her cozy home studio where she’s installed her own laser cutter — the first big investment she made in her business — and creates two main styles of jewelry: laser-cut leather combined with metal linework and silver combined with precious metal clay.

“I use precious metal clay, because it holds so much texture,” Calvin says. “It’s basically recycled silver made into a powder and then into clay form. It’s more rustic and organic than other forms of clay, too, and shows the whole process from A to B.” She uses the precious metal clay to pick up prints from natural features, like leaves and rocks, so that she can tie pieces of the places she’s been into her work.

The subtlety of those prints alongside the stark lines of the geometric leather merges organic and man-made beauty. It reminds the wearer of how we fit into the natural world around us, distinct but still harmonious.

On top of jewelry, Calvin’s been exploring a range of other creations, including leather clutches and hatbands, engraved drinkware, wood-carved coasters and even personalized denim jackets. She has a soft spot for all things western and enjoys weaving together modern design and classic “cowboy” culture.

“My husband used to run a horseshoe business,” reflects Calvin, “so the ranch life feels very peaceful to me. Then, I make those memories more concrete and urban by blending them with crisp shapework.”

sunward jewlery

Calvin is still processing the growth of her business over the past year. “It used to be just all my friends wearing my jewelry. Now, I see it on people all over the Vail Valley!” she exclaims.

Now, she’s focused on finding the balance between accessible and elegant. Calvin uses materials like leather and brass, because they’re easily obtainable but far from bland. These components give a piece an air of sophistication without ramping it to a much higher price range. She wants to foster a real connection with her work, rather than have it be something people admire from afar. Experimenting with other materials that have the same grounding effect will drive her craft forward in the future.

Calvin says 2022 was her year of “yes,” and that she’s now in a place of expansion to see what other “magic combinations” she can create.

Calvin sells her jewelry and other creations at shops, popups and markets around the Vail Valley, including the ARTSPaCE workshop + gallery in Eagle, as well as on her website at