Krikawa Jewelry Designs Opens Gallery On Congress

November 21, 2014

Kirkawa will feature the work of about 30 artists at any given time.

Kirkawa will feature the work of about 30 artists at any given time.

by Brad Poole

Jewelry designer Lisa Krikawa didn’t waste much time getting down to business after she got her University of Arizona Fine Arts degree in 1997. Within a year, the Canadian transplant had forged out on her own to do what she had worked hard to prepare for.

“In January of 1998, I walked out into the garage and said, ‘I’m going to make some jewelry,’” Krikawa said.

She hasn’t looked back since. This weekend, Krikawa Jewelry Designs will open its latest brick-and-mortar gallery in, of all places, the former home of one of Tucson’s first jewelry stores, Daniel’s, at 21 E. Congress.

When Krikawa uncovered a mosaic floor in the entryway and saw “Daniel’s Jewelers,” she knew she had found a home for her gallery and 12 employees. That was in the spring.

It's not all about jewelry. Krikawa also carries hand-made shoes and other accessories.

It’s not all about jewelry. Krikawa also carries hand-made shoes and other accessories.

Since then, Lisa and her husband/business partner John transformed the soaring space into a gallery, shop and offices. The Kikawas didn’t plan to have a huge space, but quickly realized they could offer local artists a chance to show (and sell) their creations.

They will carry work from about 30 artists at any given time – including work as diverse as hats and shoes – filling a gap in the local jewelry spectrum.

“There are some amazing (Tucson) jewelers who are gallery artists, and they don’t have anywhere to show their work,” Lisa said.

Most of Kirkiwa’s business, which centers on engagement and wedding rings, comes from Krikawa.com, which she launched in 2001. Working from home and selling over the Internet allowed her to settle down a bit and start a family.

By 2003, John had joined her. Though John is also a designer, he leans more toward the technical side of things (he’s in charge of Computer Aided Design), while Lisa leans toward fine art. It was a perfect union, so to speak, and Krikawa continued to grow.

In 2006, they moved into a private studio, then in 2009 into a public showroom at St. Phillip’s Plaza. In 2011, her brother joined.

Their specialty is a Japanese technique called mokume gane, a type of laminating that gives metal a wood-like grain. The high-end engagement sets – which take many hours to complete – prevented much more expansion, because it would take a year to make enough jewelry to fell a showroom, Lisa said.

Goldsmith Jill Isachsen works on a wedding band in the shop at Krikawa Jewelry Designs.

Goldsmith Jill Isachsen works on a wedding band in the shop at Krikawa Jewelry Designs.

“We were never able to be a regular jewelry store, because we’re all hand-crafted,” she said.

Part of the decision to expand the brick-and-mortar business grew from concern about their employees, who sometimes fell victim to fluctuating Internet business. Having more gallery business smooths peaks and valleys.

“We can’t just keep adding employees and cutting employees,” Lisa said.

Another key reason for the move Downtown was to become more a part of the community. Lisa saw a Downtown gallery as a step in that direction.

“I’m ready to start meeting people and be a part of something. The Internet is great, but it cuts you off,” she said.

Eventually, Kirkawa will feature workshops to allow couples to design their own engagement or wedding rings. The opening show at the gallery features local artists, but starting in January the showroom will broaden to include artists from across the nation.

For more information about Kirkawa Jewelry Designs, go to their website or stop in the gallery at 21 E. Congress or call (520) 322-6090.

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