In Greek mythology, nine muses presided over the arts and sciences. For Renaissance man, sculptor and jewelry designer, David Yurman, ‘Sybil’ is the only muse he needs. Her name, which means oracle and prophetess, is his wife of 37 years; muse, painter and business partner.
“Our business grew slowly out of collaboration, passion for learning and our common love of art and design,” Yurman explains at his eponymous 1,226 square-foot newly renovated shop-in-shop within Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew. On a whirlwind trip of boutique openings, the Yurmans arrived Vancouver from Dubai, where they recently launched their brand in the region’s biggest shopping centres. His jewelry can be found in 46 retail and concession locations throughout the United States, Canada, and France and at 350 locations worldwide.
Yurman started making small sculptures and jewelry while still in high school in Great Neck, New York, using the cafeteria as a pop-up store (before the nomenclature became trendy,) much to the chagrin of the principal.
“In school I’d daydream and find my own language in drawing and lines,” he confides. To this day, Yurman always carries a small notebook in his pocket, which serves as his bible of inspiration and sketches.
He was attracted to the bohemian life of the Beat Generation in the late 1950s – on the cusp of the turbulent hippy scene of the 1960s. Yurman learned to make sandals from leather designer Roger Rilleau in Provincetown. Then his insatiable curiosity and drive to perfect his craft involved learning the process of creating 3D forms from molten metal rods by direct welding from sculptor Ernesto Gonzalez; an apprenticeship with the renowned sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, then working for Abstract Expressionist Hans Van de Bovenkamp in New York City.
And that’s when Yurman’s life would change irrevocably. His When Harry Met Sally moment occurred when he met his wife Sybil Kleinrock.
“One day she strode (not walked) into Hans’ studio – her long hair flying like Cher’s,” says Yurman, gesturing for emphasis. “I’ll never forget the tinkling of all those Tibetan bells, I think they were coming from her poncho,” he laughs. “I was so impressed with her black boots with red laces. She was an abstract painter and they used to call her “Scribbles” in high school.”
When Yurman gifted Sybil with his ‘Dante Necklace’, a gallerist ordered four more. Under the name Putnam Art Works, the duo began selling pieces at craft shows around the country, including rock and roll’s historic Woodstock in 1969.
Combining his sculptor’s eye with Sybil’s painterly sense of colour and business smarts, they launched the David Yurman brand in 1980, introducing the Cable Bracelet soon afterwards. The torqued helix of sterling silver or gold with gemstones and diamond- embellished finials, recalls Egyptian, Roman and Medieval influences. Yurman’s style was immediately catapulted into its own class of understated American luxury ‘relaxed and attainable,’ was our goal,” explains Yurman.
With 250 to 350 designs a year, the Cable motif has since woven its way into all his contemporary collections for women and men: Stax reflects Yurman’s penchant for delicate multiples of rings, bracelets, charms and pendant necklaces while Pure Form is graphic and streamlined.
Their advertising campaigns have been carefully crafted extensions of their artistic vision, whether working with award-winning photographer Peter Lindberg, lauded for his expressive black and white photographs of supermodels Amber Valetta, Kate Moss, and recently, Natalia Vodianova and acclaimed filmmaker Bruce Weber. “I loved working with Kate Moss for over 10 years,” says Yurman. “To me, she’s iconic of a woman’s spirit- vivacious and just a little bit naughty.”
In 2001, the Yurmans established the David and Sybil Yurman Humanitarian and Arts Foundation. David sculpted Angel Awards presented to Steven Spielberg, Elton John and conductor Leonard Slatkin, who have all given their time and funding to charity and the arts.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Recently, the Yurmans’ son Evan, who heads up the Men’s brand, designed a capsule collection of rings, timepieces, bracelets, tags and cufflinks made of forged carbon and resin. That’s also the cutting-edge component used in a one-of-a-kind MV Agusta Brutale built by racer Walt Siegl commissioned by Yurman to illustrate the jewelry’s endurance.
Says Yurman, “you know, our collaboration- first Sybil and I and now with Evan, is a joyful dance, and it’s become our legacy.”
As seen in Jan/Feb 2017 of H&L magazine
Written by Laura Goldstein
Photography by Peter Lindbergh and Bruce Weber