National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

Chicago designer awarded Carelle-WJA grant

July 07, 2014

New York--Kelly Jacobson, a Chicago-based jewelry designer who started her own studio and also does custom design for four stores, has been awarded the 2014 Carelle-WJA grant. 

A 2001 graduate of Southern Illinois University with a BFA in Metalsmithing, Jacobson learned forge- and pattern-welding in school along with fusion techniques, such as mokume gane. She also learned about industrial casting and fabrication through a post-graduation internship and was then hired as a bench jeweler, where she practiced small-scale soldering, laser welding and working with gold, platinum and palladium alloys.

Jacobson received an MFA in sculpture from Alfred University in 2009 and then was hired as an assistant buyer for a jewelry company, becoming the company’s first custom designer within a year. 

Today, she runs the custom jewelry design department for four stores and designs her own jewelry at her studio in Chicago, Small Metals Studio, while working to earn her graduate gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America. 

Jacobson also has taught jewelry-making skills and said she plans to go back to teaching, as well as continue her custom design and studio work. 

“The best memory I have from all my years teaching was showing a class of primarily female students how to weld. Knowing how to make something is so empowering. I remember in college when I first began to have that confidence in knowing how something was made or how some mechanism worked, and it literally changed my life,” she said. 

The merit-based Carelle-WJA grant is $5,000 and is intended to aid in the establishment of a designer’s business. In order to receive the grant, candidates must be a current WJA member in their first five years of business. Applicants must submit an essay explaining why they deserve the award.

The grant was created in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath, who died unexpectedly in January 2011 of a rare blood infection at the age of 28. McGrath’s family was in the jewelry business and, at the time of her death, she was living in New York working for Carelle. 

The WJA scholarship jury, headed by Lisa Slovis Mandel, evaluated Jacobson for the award. 

The Carelle-WJA grant was one of a number grants the organization awarded to women around the country recently. 

RELATED CONTENT: WJA awards 26 educational grants for 2014

This year, the organization gave out a total of $13,000 in member grants in increments of $500, with the monies going to female, professional-level WJA members in good standing.  

The national WJA organization and its member chapters nationwide raise money for these member grants, with much of that fundraising happening via the silent auction and raffle at the WJA’s annual Awards for Excellence gala. This year’s gala is scheduled for Monday, July 28 at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

To purchase sponsorships or tickets for the gala visit