CounterSketch Studio, a collaboration between Gemvision and Stuller Inc., and the Neo Five Axis Mill, created by Artisan CNC, have been honored in the Seventh Annual MJSA Thinking Ahead Awards, which recognize products that make a difference in the way jewelry is made and sold.
A panel of independent, international judges selects the annual Thinking Ahead winners, which are announced every December in MJSA Journal, the association’s flagship publication.
CounterSketch Studio features a design software program with a selection of 2,000 pre-loaded electronic jewelry models that retailers and their clients can customize with 3-D alterations, using a set of slider controls. Once the design is finalized, the system quotes pricing, and, with the customer’s agreement, the retailer sends the electronic file to be manufactured in eight days or less. Gemvision of Davenport, Iowa, built the design software, and Stuller Inc. of Lafayette, Louisiana, handles fulfillment of orders from the CAD designs that CounterSketch produces.
"I believe that CounterSketch and its ability to create a customizable virtual inventory will be seen in retrospect as the benchmark from which an entirely new category of jewelry marketing and manufacturing will spring," says one of the Thinking Ahead judges, Steven Adler, owner of A3DM in Portland, Oregon. "To date, this is the only Internet-based program that actually creates digital data on the fly from which a design can be output to wax or metal. The complexity and flexibility of the overall process on a technical level far surpasses anything currently available."
The Neo Five Axis Mill is a machine that makes wax models for jewelry casting. Unlike most jewelry-specific mills, which have four axes to allow them to cut wax from front-to-back and left-to-right, the Neo Five has a fifth axis that enables top-down, rotary milling to take place as well. All the milling can thus occur without the need for a jeweler to reposition or move the wax, lessening the chance for errors. Spearheaded by jewelry industry veterans Randy Hays and Michael Buckley of Artisan CNC in Woodstock, Georgia, the system was lauded by judges for being more jewelry-centric, less technically challenging to operate, and affordably priced compared with the cost of other five-axis mills. The unit is equipped to cut metal as well, for the production of steel dies and aluminum and brass metal molds.
Significant contributions to the creation of the Neo Five Axis Mill were made by technical consultant Mike Adams, a founder of Model Master (who worked on the machine itself), and Don Wiesmann, developer of ProtoWizard software, who worked on the design of the easy-to-use, Neo-specific ProtoWizard software that drives the system.
Judges for the MJSA Thinking Ahead Awards were Steven Adler of A3DM in Portland, Oregon; James Binnion of James Binnion Metal Arts in Bellingham, Washington; Michael Coan, chair of the jewelry design department at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City; Christopher Corti of CoreGOLD in London; Linus Drogs of Au Enterprises in Berkley, Michigan; Dr. Joerg Fischer-Buehner of Legor Group Srl and Indutherm GmbH in Schwabisch Gmünd, Germany; Teresa Fryé of Techform Advanced Casting Technology in Portland, Oregon; Andrea Hill of Strategy/Werx in Campbellsport, Wisconsin; Charles Lewton-Brain, a goldsmith, author, and educator based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Jurgen Maerz, a consultant with Platinum Guild International USA based in Hawkins, Texas; Chris Ploof of Chris Ploof Studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island; and J. Tyler Teague of JETT Research in Cumberland, Rhode Island.
"MJSA’s mandate is to advance professional excellence in jewelry making and design, and the Thinking Ahead awards are one of the cornerstones of the association’s efforts to ensure that such excellence is recognized," says David W. Cochran, president and CEO of MJSA. "Worth noting as well is that our two winning products are also made by companies that serve the growing custom design trend, among the most exciting movements in the jewelry industry today."
The winning products will be honored during an awards ceremony at MJSA Expo New York, March 13-15 at the Hilton New York in New York City.