On a Spring day, jewelry designer David Wysor is dressed in a steel-grey suit, leaning against a desk in his office, posing for a magazine photographer. For the next shot, the photographer moves Wysor further back so he is standing against the nine-foot-tall windows of his studio. When the photographer is finished, the modest, soft-spoken designer relaxes at a table in the same room talking about his design philosophy. The studio’s resident cats stretch out in nearby pools of sunlight. A few pieces from Wysor’s collection of eighteen-karat gold and sterling silver jewelry are laid out in front of him.
“A well designed piece of jewelry should invite closer inspection,” Wysor explains, picking up his signature bracelet. “That illustrates what happens to me when I see something I think is well-designed – I do a double take.” His studio is littered with the things that have made him do double takes. Tacked on one bulletin board is a close-up photo of the wheel on a steel rolling cart; a magazine layout of wingtip golf shoes with contrast stitching; and a photo, torn from a newspaper, of a blocky low-rise in Jericho. Amidst the studio’s jewelers’ benches, polishing machines and pieces of jewelry in all stages of production, hang original art and even a 3-D diagram of the human brain that looks like it once adorned an elementary school classroom. All of this, however subtly, plays some role in the design of Wysor’s bracelets, earrings and necklaces.
It is often said of Philadelphia that it takes an outsider to really appreciate its charms. When Wysor looks out the nine-foot-tall windows of his office, he sees the statue of another adopted native, William Penn, standing atop the seat of the city’s government, as well as the grand facades of the Second Presbyterian Church and the Masonic Temple. One of Wysor’s favorite aspects of Philadelphia is its capacity to act as an open-air museum. “It’s like walking around a textbook,” says the North Carolina native. “There are at least two examples of every kind of architecture.”
Wysor came to jewelry largely by chance. Living in New Orleans, he met a jeweler with a studio in the French Quarter, who was having trouble meeting the demand for his handforged sterling silver jewelry. Wysor offered to help. “As soon as I sat down at the jewelers bench,” he says, “I knew this was what I was going to do.” He drank in everything he could about jewelry-making. He read books. He attended workshops. He walked into shops to inspect other designers’ pieces, to turn them over in his hands to see how they were finished.
After moving to Philadelphia to start his own business, he continued to soak up technical know-how from picking up contract work. His own style matured in the early 90’s, when he designed what is still his signature bracelet. The design is organic, the shapes reminiscent of bones, joints and knuckles, and when you look at it closely, you can see that the overall design is asymmetrical yet balanced.
Some pieces in his collection, like his signature Circle Bracelet, are about balance; some are about texture; and some are about pattern. One thing they all have in common is their versatility. “There are shapes and forms that speak to us universally, and putting them together is where designers come in – realizing the response those shapes, patterns, lines and textures elicit, then putting them together in a way that makes people want to use them.”
When the Pennsylvania Convention Center acquired the building that housed his studio to expand, Wysor was faced with a choice – to stay in the city that was so influential in the development of his work or to try another place. He decided that the stimulation of the city should be replaced with a more quiet setting, and he relocated his business to an area near Charlotte.
Has this changed his work? “Living in Philadelphia helped me acquire a design vocabulary, but now I can take that with me wherever I go. I’m interested now in thinking a little more deeply and being mindful about what I’m doing. A quieter, more natural place helps me with that. I really think I’m doing my best work.”