Emily Johnson has a history of converting people from the dark side to a shinier, brighter one.
“A lot of my clients tell me they’re not jewelry people,” Johnson said. “That might be because they’re used to seeing more traditional jewelry they really don’t connect with as much.”
Step into Johnson’s studio and you won’t see the glaring lights and prong-set diamond rings from the traditional jewelry stores. Instead a soft glow casts over the modern collection of jewelry Johnson created under the moniker EC Design.
“When I initially started in jewelry, I was not going to do wedding rings,” Johnson said. “I thought people just wanted big diamonds in prong settings with little diamonds all around. That’s so not my style or what I wanted to make.”
But what the 33-year-old didn’t know was that her minimalistic, mixed metal rings were exactly what other couples were looking for.
“I think there’s a special connection to a ring because it’s the one piece of jewelry you get to look at all day long.”Emily Johnson
Nearly four years after launching her business in 2010, most of Johnson’s time is dedicated to creating custom wedding rings by hand in her studio in northeast Minneapolis.“It’s really fun to sit down one on one with people and help them discover what they’re looking for,” Johnson said. “It’s a pretty intimate experience. You’re making something that someone is potentially going to wear on their hand for the rest of their life.”Once a design in place, Johnson spends hours cutting, soldering and hammering the piece to life out of wire, sheet metal and gems. There’s always a mix of excitement and nerves when she presents clients with the handcrafted piece.“You always wait for that smile and hope they love it.”
1. Elizabeth and Maggie
“A ring is the only thing I could think of that my wife and I would wear every single day,” said EC Design customer Elizabeth. “On some level it felt like a lot of pressure. I wanted it to speak to both of us, to be an honest expression of who we are and be classic.”
But nothing felt right until Elizabeth saw Johnson’s work.
“It was important to both of us to know where the materials of the rings came from. Although it felt really easy to get caught up in the excitement of our proposal, getting married and ourselves, we strived to make choices for our wedding based on how our actions and [purchases affected] others.”
With that in mind, the duo settled on using recycled rose gold and sapphires that Johnson could trace back to their origins.
2. Anne and Jer
“Anne found my work and came in by herself to get her finger sized and try on rings. But for this couple it was important to stay a bit more traditional in the process,” Johnson said. “Anne reported back to Jer that she liked my work. He came in by himself and we sat down and designed the rings together. I think she was totally surprised by the end design. It was very sweet.”
3. Breeze and Bridget
Like many couples, Breeze and Bridget started their search perusing the jewelry counters at big names stores. But what they found was a bunch of traditional looking rings that didn’t impress them.
“When we were shopping, it was just a bunch of sales people trying to sell us rings,” Bridget said. “They don’t really care that much about your story. You’re just another person in the store trying to buy a ring. Emily has a connection to the jewelry. It’s hours of her hard work and it’s just nice to have that connection.”
4. Nichole and Tim
“We were looking for a less traditional wedding ring,” Nichole said. “We searched for rings and everything we saw seemed to be a different version of the same thing. We wanted something unique to us.”
The couple decided they’d rather support a local artist as opposed to a large corporate business, and found Johnson.
“We loved the way she combined the different metals,” Nichole said.
5. Becky and Andrew
Becky and Andrew were on the hunt to find a local jeweler to support who wasn’t out to create “just another ring.” They settled on Johnson to create rings that fit each of their personalities, but still complemented one another.
“I designed my wedding ring and band closely after a ring Emily had already made, but Andy immediately started drawing designs and ideas on paper when we met at her studio,” Becky said. “The two of them tossed ideas back and forth until they came up with the right size, thickness and material for his ring.”
“We’ve gone back to Emily to create custom work for numerous milestones in our lives. Her work has been a part of our wedding and our anniversary. Most recently she helped us create another set of rings to commemorate a loss we experienced in 2013,” Becky said. “Our rings remind us of these important times in our lives and help us to hold on to those very intimate moments in a tangible way. Our rings mean more to us than treasured precious metals. They hold a piece of our lives in them.”
6. John and Dan
For Johnson, it’s always fun to see men get excited about her designs and look forward to wearing a ring.
“There just aren’t very many design options for men at regular jewelry stores,” said Johnson, who’s hoping to curb that trend in her own practice.
John and Dan visited Johnson during an open studio night at the Northrup King Building, and designed a set of complementary rings: one in 14k gray gold (a warm gray tone) and the other in 18k green gold.
“The combination of color and line accents felt very royal and elegant to me,” Johnson said.
7. Valerie and Colby
“There was never really a debate on how we would get our rings,” Valerie and Colby said. “Going to a jewelry store felt generally inauthentic to us when we knew we could work with a local jewelry artist firsthand. Plus, who wouldn’t want a one-of-a-kind?!”