Wilmington, NC, jewelry designer Colby Byrd founded his company, Shelton Metal, after spending several months in Italy. He brought back the inspiration and skills needed to design his beautiful organic jewelry that is deeply influenced by the ocean. His jewelry was recently showcased at the Spring Milano Fashion Week as part of Italian fashion designer Sabato Russo's collection and he will have a solo exhibition this Fall at the Milano Jewelry Week. We caught up with Colby to learn more about the man behind the designs.
Story By Chris Martin
Photography By Logan Tudor
Tell us about your background and how you started in jewelry design.
I grew up in a small town in North Carolina with family here in Wilmington. I was fortunate enough to have a simple life in the country and enjoy life here on the coast. From an early age, I was interested in art, mostly from being surrounded by a family of creatives and people that supported individuality. In college, I studied art, focusing on design, but it wasn't until studying abroad in Italy that I found my passion for jewelry. The programs I studied under allowed for a cultural appreciation for craftsmanship and pride in every lesson I was taught. Something shifted in my mind while there, both within my personal and professional life.
What is Shelton Metal, and what do you focus on?
Shelton Metal is me, my brand, the jewelry I make, and everything I have worked for throughout my life. When I finished my studies in Italy, I had the confidence to continue this creative path while holding on to the business mentality I observed from my Italian peers. We are so fortunate to live a life of so many opportunities, and I knew this was my chance to make my passion my career and life. So, I started taking on custom jewelry orders and building a brand that quickly grew into over 20 retail locations around the US. This balance wasn't easy as I worked multiple jobs and was still fresh out of college. Over the years, the balance leveled out, and despite the sacrifices, I can say that it was worth it, and I couldn't be more proud of the evolution. Shelton Metal is now nearly 10 years in business with a more focused mission to connect with individuals in creating custom quality treasures with a story to be passed on for generations.
Where do you draw your inspiration from as a designer?
Since I can remember, the sea has inspired me. The life and environment around the coast have drawn me into exploring every aspect I can. When I design, I hand carve from wax, then cast it into solid metal or hand fabricate and forge. This is when I think of the sea; that flow inspires me and often reflects in the jewelry I create. I also find inspiration from each person I meet to design for. Their stories inspire me and give me purpose or intention in every detail while designing for them. It is so fascinating to learn of heirloom jewelry, the traditions, the memories, and the generations of lives its been a part of. Jewelry has such a journey, one I am often jealous of.
You were recently part of Milano Fashion week - tell us about that and what pieces you showcased.
Yes, I was so honored to have the opportunity to design a jewelry collection for Italian Fashion Designer Sabato Russo. We showed during Milan Fashion Week in the Spring of 2022. This collection featured many elements true to my brand while respecting the garments Russo designed. Organically carved edge cuffs and dripping gold rings allowed for larger-than-life adornment, while chain link earrings and necklaces reflected a more approachable side for retail. For me, this is the Olympics of fashion and my career. Especially returning back to Italy, where it all began for me nearly 10 years ago. I took every opportunity to network and learn from a seasoned designer, all while attending shows from designers I had never dreamed of meeting. Not only did this take Shelton Metal international, but it led to an invitation to return this Fall for my first solo exhibition during Milano Jewelry Week, opening October 20th.
What medium do you like to work with the most?
Recycled Gold- I love to take old jewelry, melt it, and create something new.
How does the process work when a client wants a piece of jewelry designed by you?
I try to make this process as fun, stress-free, and interactive as possible. I want my customer to truly have a say in the design, a connection to the treasure. Whether it's an engagement ring, wedding band, or something to treat yourself with! Customers can contact me via email or Instagram to schedule a design consultation. I then meet virtually or in person at my Downtown Wilmington office. We can discuss every design element, from metal type to stone options. I always encourage bringing old or heirloom jewelry to utilize and recycle within the new piece. Still, I can also source sustainable new materials for the design and conflict-free stone options. I occasionally book custom meetings in other cities, mainly between Los Angeles and New York.
What do you like to do when you're not designing?
This is the balance part I mentioned before- something that has leveled out over the years, but like any balancing act, it can sometimes be challenging to maintain as a business owner and artist. I often travel between LA, NYC, and Italy for work, but while there, I enjoy my time with friends, always searching for new inspiration, great food, and a good glass of wine! When I am home, I spend as much time with my family. They are my home and the roots that keep me grounded.