What is Dirigible Designs?
Dirigible Designs is Blake Smith and Melanie Schlossberg. We make handcrafted sterling silver jewelry that uses hand-cut, fortunately-found, or wisely-collected stones and materials. Our jewelry explores the tension between asymmetry and balance, the concept of the mundane versus the precious, and the collaboration of design and ideas between partners. We provide collectors with wearable comfortable jewelry that expresses their bold and unique styles. Due to the nature of our materials, all of our jewelry is one-of-a-kind.
Many people are curious about the way we work as a partnership. Our work is truly collaborative. Though we may have a loosely-defined division of labors based on our individual skill sets and histories, our design work and marketing strategies are based on decisions we make together. We have taken our personal styles and blended them together, resulting in a unique body of work that neither one of us would have been able to create on our own. This is the case from our metalwork down to our displays. We get along.
Who is Dirigible Designs?
Blake and I each began metalworking as teenagers, but besides that our stories are somewhat different. I was born and raised in upstate NY in a family of SCUBA divers and Home Economics teachers – cooking, sewing, and making crafty things out of old wet suits were a big part of my upbringing. One day in 1986, my mother took me out of high school for a day to take the train into NYC and see art at the MET. There was a small exhibit titled The Costumes of Royal India full of chunky emeralds and golden metals. It was there I decided that I would become a jeweler. Fortunately, I attended a high school that had a metals/jewelry studio, so I was able to explore and fall in love with metal before going on to Syracuse University where I studied metalsmithing.
Blake, on the other hand, learned lapidary and jewelry skills from his father, a self-taught highly-skilled jeweler who ran wildlife refuges in the southwest and Texas. His childhood was a combination of rescuing vulnerable animals in national parks, fossil hunting on large ranches, and skateboarding in abandoned swimming pools. When Dirigible Designs first started out much of our stone stock, like chunks of turquoise, was left over from buckets of rock his father had bought at the Albuquerque flea markets in the 1970s. After earning a somewhat unrelated liberal arts degree, Blake went on to start a bronze foundry business in the Texas Hill Country, casting life sized sculptures for artists and local entities, but always continued silversmithing and making custom jewelry.
Blake and I met in 2014. We are both rock-hunting metalsmiths, so it wasn’t long before our conversations and activities turned to design strategies, material gathering, and object making. The first Dirigible Design ring was made that holiday season. He gifted me a ring he made from a rock he picked up on a long walk on Thanksgiving Day the month before. He had cut, polished, and set a beautiful agate that had was a dirty misshapen rock only a few weeks earlier. Whenever I wore it, the ring attracted loads of attention — from waiters to store clerks, friends to strangers. Dirigible Designs was formed the next year.
It's the best word ever.
Follow our Instagram page for hot-off-the-bench designs and many, many cat photos.