David Gotlib on the Creative Process of Designing Cufflinks

David Gotlib on the Creative Process of Designing Cufflinks

Creativity is a deeply personal experience and what inspires creativity is different for every artist. Cufflink designer David Gotlib discusses his creative process — what inspires him and what challenges him — with jewelry expert Amber Michelle.

Once you have an idea for a new design, what is your process? Do you sketch, do you work with CAD, how do you bring the idea to life?

I am very bad at drawing and my handwriting is unreadable. I studied economics, but I always wanted to study architecture. I like the lines, curves and use of space in architecture and I like to draw. The only way to explain to the artisans who make my cufflinks is to give them a sketch. I tried hiring someone to do the renderings for me, but that didn’t work out. I looked into a jewelry school but the design courses were two or three months long and I couldn’t take off work for that long. I called one of the schools and was able to arrange to take courses after hours with one of their teachers. Now I can draw my cufflink designs so that someone can look at the sketch and understand what to do. I design in pencil on paper, I prefer that to a computer. The most important thing is that I have to adapt the design so that it can be manufactured.


What was the first pair of cufflinks that you designed and how did that open your creative process?

I was nervous about designing my first pair of cufflinks. I was afraid that I was moving too fast. When I finally decided to make my first pair of cufflinks, I used gray moonstone. I knew that I didn’t want the cufflinks to be flat, I wanted them to be dimensional.  I wanted the cufflinks to be bold, but classic and simple – a moonstone with a few diamonds around it. I like the life and liveliness of a moonstone, they are understated, wearable and neutral. Moonstones are good for people of all ages and they can be worn for all occasions.

How important is color in a design?  

In the beginning I was shy about using color. Then I realized that color adds some fun and can be used with any design. I took the first step using brown, yellow or black diamonds.  I wanted to use other colors, red, blue, purple. Once I got started with colored gemstones, I thought that they were so beautiful that I almost forgot to use diamonds. You have to have diamonds with colored gemstones. Using diamonds as an accent to colored gemstones brings out the beauty of the color.

What are your greatest design inspirations?

 I have two inspirations: Architecture and nature. I’m a huge fan of architecture and its light and form. I draw from it for my creative process. Nature is so important. It wasn’t that important to me at first, but then nature became a big source of inspiration. Especially during the beginning of the pandemic when we could only go out to take a walk in the park. I noticed so many beautiful things in nature and I saw something new every time I went out.

In your opinion, what makes good design?

That’s very tricky. Design is very subjective. I may like something and someone else may not like it. To me good design is when someone is happy wearing my cufflinks.

How does being a diamantaire help you as a designer?

It’s very helpful. I learned to work with diamonds at a very early age. I’ve spoken to many designers and they are scared of diamonds because they are expensive and complicated to buy. They don’t feel that they are allowed to use or sell something so expensive. I’m just the opposite. No other gemstone is as beautiful as diamonds, so I must use them. When I see a beautiful diamond, I want to make a cufflink or ring with it.

When designing cufflinks, what is the biggest design challenge?

The biggest challenge is figuring out who will buy and wear my cufflinks. I started with the moonstones and then I made some skulls. I created a few other pairs and soon I had a collection. The question is who buys them? Is it a banker, lawyer or artist? Who will be happy to wear those cufflinks? I can design something and hope that someone sees it and likes it. I don’t ever want someone to be unhappy and return something, that would hurt me. So far, no one has ever returned a pair of cufflinks. When I design, I try to imagine the man or woman who will wear my cufflinks. I also have to be practical when I‘m designing. I have to consider whether or not the design can be made into a cufflink. A cufflink has limited space, it has to fit on a sleeve. It’s not like an earring where you can make it bigger.

What do you do if you run into a creative block?

I haven’t had a creative block yet. I have many ideas. When I first started designing cufflinks, I decided that I would only create pieces that I enjoy. If I don’t enjoy it, I won’t do it. I design cufflinks because I like to do it, not because I am forced to do it.

What designer, in any field from any time period, do you most admire and why?

There are so many great designers. I would like to reference a time period and refer back to architecture. For me, Art Deco is the most beautiful period. The Art Deco movement gave a free pass to architects to create something beautiful that still looks good today.

Do you have any formal design training?

I have no formal training as a designer. However, one day, I still believe that I will take a course to learn more. I really enjoyed what I have learned in the past.