From trash to treasure
By Terri Spilman
Local jeweler works with everything from diamonds to old mother boards
The song tells us “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” They also gave local jewelry artist Mark Grosser the ingenuity to live out his dream.
The sign on Mark Grosser’s store reads “Jeweler,” however, a step inside reveals anything but a typical jewelry store. It’s more like an artist’s studio. There are no predictable engagement ring photos or advertisements for traditional jewelry-giving holidays gracing the walls. Instead, the walls are filled with photos from 28 years as an official photographer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and brightly-colored abstract scenery from nightly walks in cities Grosser has visited while participating in art fairs.
Grosser’s passion for racing started as a boy growing up near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His racecar pendants are favorites among the Andretti family and have caught on among industry insiders.
“I was a production jeweler at age 11 and didn’t even know it,” said Grosser. His neighbor worked in telecommunications and would give him copper wire to play with. He picked up an interest in twisting the wires together into different shapes, making jewelry that he handed out to friends at school.
As a result of his interest in jewelry making, Grosser took art classes at Pike High School and the Broad Ripple Art Center. According to Grosser, “I knew a little bit of nothing,” so he took a job as an apprentice with jewelry retailer Dave Downey. The job had a grueling travel schedule, putting him on the road for eight weeks at a time setting diamonds while the customer watched. There, he learned to make jewelry designs out of nothing.
Amid the constant travel and production jewelry making, Grosser yearned to be an artist. “I looked at jewels as a way to make money, to make a better living.” He had an epiphany while recovering from a broken collar bone. “I always wanted to be an artist, not just a mechanical jewelry designer, so I said, let’s gets busy.”
He became an instructor and studied how his peers made a living outside of teaching by crafting and selling their wares at art fairs. He got a booth at the Broad Ripple Art Fair, sold his first piece for $2,700 and the rest is history. For the past nine years, Grosser has participated in dozens of juried art festivals across the country and has garnered several accolades for his wearable art.
“Most of the people who attend these events are looking for something different,” said Grosser. As for the art projects he prefers, “The weirder, the better. That’s the fun stuff.” The more adventurous can even get a custom piece of handmade jewelry made from petrified dinosaur bone, meteorite or petrified coral.
Grosser was once commissioned to make custom piece of jewelry out of a piece of broken glass from a Coke bottle. A woman’s father told her it was a real diamond, reinforcing sentimental value as a huge driving force in his artistic jewelry design. Grosser has a passion for skull rings and even sold one as a wedding band to a non-jewelry wearing groom.
Most of Grosser’s work is commissioned by customers repurposing jewelry or looking for something unique. He works mostly in gold and platinum and is introducing a sterling silver line in early 2014. His latest product in development is a new upcycling line, in which he creates wearable art from computer mother boards and old CD players by transforming what would otherwise be trash into something beautiful.
M. Grosser Jewelry Designs is located at 154 Medical Dr. in Carmel. For more information, visit mgrosser.com or call 663-7000 to schedule a private appointment.