Photo by Sarah Deragon // Words by Jennifer Wang
From a young age, Christine Trac was always hands-on in terms of designing and crafting her own projects. When college came along, she chose to focus on academics and pursued studies in another interest: environmental conservation. She finished her graduate studies at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and spent the next few years traveling and working in forestry and ethnographic research. After moving from New York on a whim and settling down in the Bay Area of San Francisco, she decided to find her next fulfilling gig and began exploring new work opportunities. During this time, while playing around with some of the things she felt she had lost touch with, she naturally fell back into making and designing jewelry.
Thanks to a shift back to her origins in crafting and a lot of dedication to her creative vision, Abacus Row was born. When considering her own endeavors, Christine is a firm believer in a steadfast devotion to each and every project she puts her name on. “My mentality is that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well,” says Christine, “I originally thought it would be a side business, very small, but I ended up putting a lot of time and care into the product, creating what I felt was different from what was out there. Something that was very much me.”
Today, the jewelry line is gaining a loyal following because of Christine’s own commitment to quality products and a thoughtful attention to detail. Inspired by simplicity and understated accents, each piece in the collection effortlessly blends fine metals with delicate details that add a subtle touch of shimmer to the skin when worn alone or a bolder statement when layered together. Christine also incorporates hand-dyed jewel-toned silk cord to her pieces, which mesh beautifully with the gold-fill and sterling silver material she uses. The entire line is a reflection of her aesthetic and ethos – mixing timeless style with a love for the handcrafted.
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MEET CHRISTINE TRAC, THE DESIGNER AND MAKER BEHIND ABACUS ROW.
Photos by Emily Malan // Interview by Jennifer Wang
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE?
I love new crafts and working with materials that aren't a part of the actual production of my jewelry. The process of practicing a different skill and experimenting with new mediums is a constant source of inspiration. I get excited about the potential of integrating new crafts into my work, but specifically in a way that contributes to and evolves my work as opposed to just expanding it.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGNING ABACUS ROW:
I am driven to create minimalist jewelry that is rooted in small and subtle details. For me it's about finding the right composition to balance lots of little details. I am focused on designing a line of jewelry for women who want to keep it simple but want to demonstrate an appreciation for detail.
WHAT IS YOUR PRODUCTION PROCESS LIKE? WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU'VE OVERCOME ALONG THE WAY?
My production process is iterative and experimental, it's the period and space within which I am constantly refining my craft and continually learning as a designer and a maker. I start with a rough design concept and I spend much of my time working through variations of that design with my materials. Production is a translation process of sorts, I've definitely had moments of frustration because I couldn't craft something quite like I envisioned. During these times, I can become wildly aware of my limitations. Sometimes it has to do with the resources I'm working with, sometime it's just me. Despite the momentary frustrations, these are each opportunities that have allowed me to learn more about my materials and process, and to identify how to work within those constraints or decide to break out of them.
THE MATERIALS YOU USE ARE SO DELICATE AND BEAUTIFUL. WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU APPRECIATE IN EACH ELEMENT OF YOUR JEWELRY? HOW DOES IT ALL COME TOGETHER FOR YOU?
I couldn't work at this scale if I didn't absolutely love the smallness of my materials. At this scale (mm), I can work with really rich colors and bold metals and still create simple and understated jewelry.
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE FUTURE FOR YOU LINE?
I have an intense love for fibers and textiles so I'm planning to incorporate those more into the Abacus Row line.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR OTHER EMERGING DESIGNERS?
The details are important but don't get fixated on them and don't let them become an obstacle. If there is an opportunity now to make something happen and you can but aren't ready because of some details, learn to get over it quickly. Know and note areas where things could probably be a little better and work on them. There will be more opportunities for the improved version, especially if you start putting your work out there.