William Travis Kukovich
My family immigrated to the states in the mid-1940s from Poland. I am a fifth generation metalsmith, so becoming a jeweler was a natural evolution for me. At the age of 12 my family was constructing a large ornate iron gate, and it was then that I began my apprenticeship in metalsmithing. Beauty is something that is learned. As a child I became aware of the intrinsic value of creating something from nothing, whether it is a product of our lifestyle, or a shear desire to produce allurement from an original idea. This has fueled a passion that forged my career.
My move to the triangle was the result of procuring the position of head metalsmith for a local jeweler. I worked for 10 years growing a business that didn’t hold my name. While it allowed me to focus and perfect my talent, it didn’t satiate that yearning of starting from square one, producing something from nothing, creating something tangible from merely a thought. This is what drove me to start William Travis Jewelry. What started as a store out of my garage gradually became what is now a 3500 sq. foot anchor store at University Place. While I was motivated to propel my own success, it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with breast cancer that a fire was lit beneath me. All of a sudden the possibility of losing everything was so palpable. Time is the great equalizer, and my time was threatened with being cut short. Anything I wanted to accomplish now had a deadline. In the fight for my life, there was a moment of clarity. I had to prioritize, and building my brand, securing my place in the industry, setting the standard, was what I put at the forefront of my ambitions.
It is often asked how my style has evolved over the tenure of my career as a designer, and there is no single answer, nor simple equation for how I’ve grown. My ability to find inspiration in all that surrounds me has been a direct result of my perceptive sensibility. As a child I suffered shortcomings in areas of what many would consider rudimentary proficiency’s, which led to a discerning awareness of the world around me. This heightened observance has endowed me with a myriad of skills. I am able to quickly adapt to personalities and situations. Moreover, it has rendered an aesthetic that is undefinable and ever changing.
I started out strictly modern, which proved to be award winning for me. Yet, as time went on I started experimenting with mixing contemporary modern designs with ancient techniques and textures. This merging of past with present has largely shaped our identity in the industry and what has truly differentiated us from other designers. I am not professionally taught in the art sense, beyond my apprenticeships in metalsmithing, I have never engaged in a formal class. I owe my lack of traditional training to much of my success today, as it has allowed me to devise a style that is uniquely my own. Too often you see designers riding on the coattails of their teachers, only being successors to what has already been established. I am a better designer than artist. Design knows when to adopt change; evolution is what has made us who we are today. To protest change is to agree to stagnancy. I believe having an appreciation for the past can only make us stronger, but in order to grow, we must be willing to move forward.
The William Travis brand has been leveraged on the custom experience. My success has been my contacts. Many of our clients have been with me from my start; these relationships are very different than what you may see at the mom/pop multigenerational shops. I didn’t actualize my existence through a relationship fostered over fifty years ago by a relative. I built WTJ by promising and fulfilling a unique need, a need that was defined, and then refined through unabashed communication. With a mutual understanding that in the end, I wasn’t merely delivering an heirloom, but a tangible piece of artwork that represented something of great importance to my clients. Much of my success in life, whether it be business or personal has been due to my willingness, maybe even eagerness to understand a perspective other than my own. Allowing for other perspectives to help mold my persona and my business has made the William Travis brand reachable and understandable to a larger demographic. In relating this to my success in the competition world, I have gained a number of awards and accolades from exhibiting designs that were created for clients’ personal collections. I haven’t needed to design strictly for contests to cement my standing in the marketplace. The community I’m serving has such discerning taste that I’ve been able to set the standard simply through getting recognition for what I’m doing on a daily basis.
Having established the reputation that was necessary to arouse a devoted following, as well as open one of the largest custom design houses in the country, the outlook for William Travis Jewelry remains one of the most promising on the scene. I’ve been fortunate in my forecasting of the industry, through the management of my people, and the trust I’ve maintained with my clients, that promoting an undifferentiated approach has not only been accepted, it’s been applauded. When the closing of doors ran rampant during the market crash of 2007, we continued to flourish. The challenge of adversity, has been only that; a challenge. I never allowed it to reorient my goal. A jack of all trades, a master of none has never been my mode of operation. I’ve striven to be a world class designer, and simultaneous to building, housing and defining a brand, I’ve been recognized as that. The next step, while still in the early phases of fruition, will only further propel the vision I had over twenty years ago. Nevertheless, in the consummation of the future, we must remember that nothing is permanent and evolution has a never-ending periphery.