Lather, rinse, repeat.
Life was about structure for Michael Alexander. Until it wasn’t.
The native Long Islander went straight from high school to Fairleigh Dickinson University, earning a degree in accounting and finance. From there, he got hired by Lehman Brothers.
“I very quickly learned that me sitting in a cubicle doing spreadsheet work was really not glamourous,” he says. “Not that I was looking for glamourous. But it was very boring. The whole corporate structure was not a good fit for me.”
A move to the Caribbean changed the scenery, but Alexander remained a businessman, focusing on small business financial consulting. That still wasn’t for him, but he didn’t grow up with a burning desire to do something specific. He had never taken the time to actually think about it. Yet signing a long term lease on a home in St. John’s kept him in a tropical spot that was the perfect place to reflect.
“This was a moment in my life where I wasn’t working. There were no immediate prospects,” Alexander says. “I’m not married at the time, no kids, so I could afford to sit and figure myself out.”
When island friends wanted to grow their jewelry business, they turned to Alexander for his finance acumen. He advised them to differentiate their line, drawing some rudimentary sketches on a piece of paper as examples.
Within a few weeks, those designs were transformed into actual pieces of jewelry, and they sold quickly.
“That opened a door,” he says.
That was his moment.
Alexander’s plans to design and make unique jewelry took a turn after two hurricanes hit the islands, destroying his home. That prompted him to return to New York to search for formal training in jewelry design.
By then, Alexander was savvy enough to know what he did and did not want in a program. He didn’t want to learn about the history of jewelry. “I wanted to draw a picture and be taught how to make my vision,” he says. He made a list of six schools and rejected the first five. The sixth, Studio Jewelers Ltd., a jewelry bench school in midtown Manhattan, offered a curriculum that suited his goals.
Within three months, Alexander was making his first pieces that sold at a basic craft show. “My mother came in with black tablecloth and set up a display,” he says with a laugh. “We laid out the pieces I had made. A few people bought them, and one even asked about my doing custom.”
Today Alexander exhibits his work at 20 art prestigious shows a year throughout the Northeast and has an appreciation for the Rose Squared ones, going back to his affinity for Executive Director Robin Markowitz and the proximity they are to his New Jersey home.
“Everybody loves working with Robin, and I like that I can sleep in my own bed at night,” he says. “Those shows are local for me.”
In the early years of his artistry, Alexander followed a methodical process that fostered creativity through hard work. Every day was a new day, a blank page, and his job was to fill those pages with designs and then replicate them.
“In my first two years, I made hundreds of designs based on that process,” he says. “Now it’s a little looser. I will self-generate ideas. It’s more of a randomized process.”
Alexander’s creativity might come from a manhole cover, an edge on a building, a pattern on a women’s jacket, a section of a fence. He’s become skilled at recognizing that moment and capturing it with the camera on his phone. His Manhattan workshop contains a digital library of photos he relies on to inspire his next piece of jewelry.
The resulting rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces — are exquisite. They not only grab the eye; they keep it mesmerized for a while. Alexander’s techniques include casting, metal fabrication, metalsmithing and hand craved wax and cad modeling. He uses 18k gold and platinum and only fine quality gemstones and diamonds. He’s developed a special fondness for natural zircons.
“They catch people’s eye when they walk by my booth,” he says. “When you have that moment and you see something sparkle, your heart races.”
Look for the sparkles at Alexander’s booth at Rose Squared Art Shows in 2023.