Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

An Interview With David Quarles IV, Visual Artist and Jewelry Designer

Cover photo by Kim Thomas

David Quarles IV isn’t just a jewelry maker. He’s the consummate artist, one who carefully sketches each piece before its creation, resulting in a unique array of culturally inspired designs. The Memphis native started his jewelry line, IV in 2004 as a way to make extra income as an artist. Eventually his hobby became a passion, resulting in him leaving a marketing job at St. Jude to pursue his artistic dreams full-time. Since then, his designs have grown in popularity, landing him special projects including an upcoming line for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.

We spoke with the designer about the inspiration behind IV, his creative process, and upcoming projects.

Photo: Kim Thomas

You have an extensive arts background, graduating from the University of Memphis with a degree in Interior Design; but not only do you make jewelry, you sketch and paint. When did you realize that you had a love for the arts?

I knew from early on that art would be my way of expressing my existence. According to my parents, since the age of three years old I was always drawing, or if I had a box of Legos, creating the oddest of buildings. I don’t think it was ever a question of if I would be an artist. Rather, it was when I’d start to manifest my passion. And growing up with a dad and sister who are both artists, it was only a matter of time.

How would you describe your jewelry line, IV?

It’s the modernization of my history. So much of it is based in my ancestors and what I’d picture them wearing. My grandmother is Dominican, Creole and Irish and her husband was Liberian and Jewish. And my mother’s parents are Native American, White and Black. So I have a lot to pull from culturally.

Describe your creative process when making jewelry?

The first step in production is setting a chill and escapism mood with my playlist including Quiñ, Erykah Badu, Moonchild. I’ll also always have incense and candles burning. Then, and only then, can I start successfully creating.

Once a theme is set, I then choose colors, materials, and visual weight of the pieces. For instance, I’m now in production for a new line entitled “Herencia”, or “Heritage”. This will be a visual description of my African heritage, rooted in Ghana and Mali, and using materials mainly from those two regions. I’d usually start with the larger pieces (necklaces) first, since they carry most of the detail and visual weight. Then I’d follow with earring and bracelet creation that fall along the same color scheme of the necklaces created. Since I’m a heavy believer of balance, I make sure to have as many warm-toned pieces as I do cool-toned. Once all pieces have been created, I name them to give them an identity; most names are either names of celestial bodies or inspired by the languages of my family’s heritage.

What’s been the most exciting thing about your jewelry-making journey?

A mistaken DM to a well-known fashion blogger, Kyrzayda. I thought I was sending it to my friend and I accidentally sent it to her because I was on her Instagram page. In the message was a picture of my jewelry and she responded, asking if I could send her a piece. I thought, “Duh! Of course.” Since then it’s kicked off my following on the East Coast. And those who follow her have become my repeat customers

What do you love most about creating jewelry?

Despite the personality most witness when they meet me, I really enjoy alone time and working out the four million plus thoughts that run through my head daily. Creating jewelry for me is like problem-solving. And oftentimes, the same thinking pattern I use in bringing the designs from my thoughts to manifestation, I’ll use in figuring out daily challenges in life. Jewelry making and design offers me the time I need and enjoy while actively meditating.

Do you have a favorite piece that you enjoy designing the most? 

Earrings come easy to me. They’re like little art work. I love making necklaces. They’re moreextravagant and dramatic. I sleep with a drawing pad next to me and sometimes I’ll wake up with a design in my head. Necklaces are always like the biggest pieces of art to me that I really enjoy doing

What’s been the most challenging part of  being an entrepreneur?

Breaking away from the corporate work and deciding which pursuit I wanted to pour all of my energy into. I worked for St. Jude and loved it but it was hard to focus on my passion. Being an entrepreneur will definitely test all of your strength. The challenge is making sure I’m not automating my designs and automating the art to get customers.

Photo: Kim Thomas

Despite the challenges, what motivates you to keep pursuing your passion? 

Other than the fact that I have to make money and eat (laughs). I’m always drawn back to jewelry no matter what I begin to pursue. Jewelry making calms me and it’s like my way of getting out my mental storms. Knowing that this is the medium of art that I’ve always been drawn too and its where I find my most passion, peace, and calm, keeps me going.

What can we look forward to from IV?

For a year or so, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of having my line carried in Stock and Belle, a local lifestyle store that can be described as an incubator for local creatives. As of August 10th, I released the news of an exclusive line for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens entitled “Heavenly Flora”, which was inspired by the lush vegetation of the Dixon. I’m still extremely excited to have my jewelry in The Dixon – I mean, it’s the Dixon! There are also plans in the works to do an exclusive event with Phillip Ashley. So be on the lookout for those details!

David will also host a pop-up shop where he plans to release his “Herencia” line at Everbloom Design Memphis (August 31, 6 PM). You can also check him out at this year’s Cooper Young Festival (September 15).

To shop IV, visit the website here.

Or follow IV on Instagram and Facebook.