Judie and Richard Gumm

Judie-and-Richard-GummI was born in the Buffalo, New York area, and after graduating from business school, I worked as a secretary for a few years. In 1966, I ventured out west and eventually landed in Denver, where I discovered a talent for jewelry making.

Newly divorced and wanting to experience Alaska and a fresh start, I loaded all my worldly possessions in 1947 International truck, and with my 5 year old daughter, Darcie, moved to Fairbanks in 1972. That truck burned a quart of oil every 100 miles but somehow it got us over the rugged Al-Can highway.

Supporting myself and daughter through waitress work, I applied and received aid to attend the University of Alaska where I acquired some formal training in metals. Up to this point, my jewelry making skills were largely self-taught — the instruction I received there greatly expanded both my technique and confidence.

In 1973 a cute guy, hired by my landlord, showed up to fix my roof. That was 40 years ago. Little did I know at the time, that we would create a life together which would include: building a home, growing a business, marriage and the birth of another daughter, Panika (Yupik Eskimo, meaning “my daughter”).

In 1984 we relocated to Boston so that my husband, Richard, could attend graduate school at Harvard. Primarily as self-administered therapy to remedy my homesickness for Alaska, I designed the blueberry and cranberry earrings. Encouraged by the owner of a local shop, I started doing limited production work.

When I returned to Alaska, I hired an employee and began marketing my work to shops, art galleries and through retail craft shows. In 1988 I took at leap of faith and attended a trade show in Seattle with my small jewelry line. It was there that I met the owner and buyer for the newly formed mail order company, Coldwater Creek. They carried my work for five years, giving me both national exposure and a steady revenue stream.

In 1989, my husband left full time professional work to become our business manager and help with marketing.

There are now over 300 pieces in my line. After more than 40 years, I still love what I do, but I could not do it alone without the committed help from my staff.

Through the many changes of our business over these years, our mission remains the same — to create distinctive, nature-inspired jewelry, hand-crafted for a lifetime of enjoyment at an affordable price.

Come visit us at our shop in Ester, a small community nestled in the birch-covered hills eight miles south of Fairbanks, where my showroom is open to the public.

–Judie Gumm