The women at Redstart are into stories. “I think that fundamentally an engagement ring or a wedding band is a symbol,” says Amanda Knox Sather, co-creator of the San Francisco based design company. “It seems pretty logical that you’d want to include content in the item that references your relationship.”
Sather, along with her design partner, Sara Shaughnessy, have spent the last 12 years crafting custom jewelry like wedding bands and engagement rings. For them, the process is as much about story making as it is about design. “After the wedding industrial complex has occurred, this is one of the few things that you get to keep beyond that,” says Sather. “This is a part of the wedding planning that couples really enjoy. They get to take a minute. ‘This is something that I get to wear forever.’ I like the idea that people are wearing wedding rings not just to show the world that they’re married, but it’s something for themselves too. It relates back to them.”
It’s no secret that the ‘wedding industrial complex’ has ballooned absurdly in past decades, triggered, some argue, by Princess Diana’s highly televised marriage to Prince Charles in 1981. In the years that followed, brides sought to create their own fairytale weddings, often at costs considered unimaginable by their predecessors. Rebecca Mead, author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, writes that “the whole culture of extravagant weddings encourages women to think that they have to do it, even though they’re not going to be able to pay next month’s rent — or even the DJ.” Weddings, as a result, have become less about the personal narrative and more about the show.
“You get into this slippery slope with weddings in that they’re mostly things you do for other people,” says Sather. She and Shaughnessy hope that, through the process of designing custom rings, couples can reclaim the personal narrative that gets lost in a whirl of napkin color choices and flower arrangements. “We want them to see themselves in the ring. We don’t mind that if after they get the ring, they don’t think of Redstart again. We would rather that they see themselves reflected in the design.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sather and Shaughnessy, who see the value of story making and telling, have a pretty interesting arc of their own. “Sara and I met at Stanford. I was a teaching assistant at the Product Realization Lab, the metal foundry,” says Sather. “Sara was working on this very lengthy project. We spent many hours hanging out and doing work at the same time.”
In the beginning, neither Sather nor Shaughnessy were particularly interested in jewelry design. Shaughnessy was studying mechatronics, the mechanics of electrical systems. Sather, who had a master’s degree in religious studies, “was flirting with the idea of becoming an academic.” They settled on jewelry, in part, because it was “the type of product where perfection is actually valued. In comparison to your average product, where price point is the number one constraining factor, I think that jewelry is a little more separated from that because people are willing to pay more for your product if it is a better realization of the design,” says Shaughnessy.
In the years that followed, the women found that their different backgrounds enhanced, rather than hindered, the development of their company and vision. “Sara and I are very different, but I think it’s really helped because we have a very fluid communication method,” says Sather. “We sit feet from each other and we talk all day long.” Shaughnessy agrees, “we generally don’t like doing the same things, which is nice because usually the stuff that I don’t want to do, is stuff that Amanda is willing to do.”
Redstart Design is run by Amanda Knox Sather and Sara Shaughnessy. This article is part of Diamond Foundry’s “Featured Designers” series. To see more of Redstart’s work, visit theirwebsite. To view their ‘neighborhood ring’ collection with Diamond Foundry, which features customizable wedding and engagement rings, check out the Diamond Foundry catalogue.