The 33-year-old cultivated his jewelry-making skills in high school and spent years in Wisconsin perfecting the trade. But the mountains and weather of Colorado Springs called to him, coincidentally at the same time Luisa Graff was expanding with a new location at 5901 N. Nevada Ave.
Llanas took a job there and soon distinguished himself as the only goldsmith there who uses computer technology to design jewelry.
Tell us about your job at Luisa Graff.
I’m a goldsmith at Luisa Graff Jewelers and am the only designer there who uses computer-aided design. I am able to set a full array of stone shapes and sizes in any precious metal. I talk with customers daily and help them to design their custom pieces of jewelry.
I take designs and either hand carve a wax or use a computer-aided design — CAD — to create a visual rendering or picture of the jewelry. From there, I will make a wax from the rendering or use the hand-carved wax to shape a metal piece. I use the lost wax process, which means I take the wax and put it in a mold and melt the wax out to leave a cavity which will then be filled with molten metal. I then take that metal piece, polish it and set any stone into it for a beautiful finished piece of art.
How did you get into jewelry design?
I started my jewelry career back in middle school, when playing with fire and banging on metal was fun. I continued taking metal art classes in high school, winning scholastic art awards and recognitions from industry businesses. During my senior year, I participated in a youth-teaching-youth program, where I would teach metal art classes at another area high school.
A teacher of mine knew of a position opening up in a small trade shop and referred me to the owner. I began an apprenticeship there in the summer of 1998. My training started with small repairs and sizings. In a few years, I began setting diamonds and other precious stones. In 2005, I took training courses to learn CAD software. Every day I try to learn something new.
How has what you love about your career changed over the years?
I believe I have evolved from a young fool who played with fire and hammered out metal into a knowledgeable, experienced adult who plays with fire and hammers out metal into finely crafted works of art. I love how the industry has adapted with the use of technology, mixing computers with handcrafted elements, allowing jewelers to keep their designs available with just a few clicks of a mouse.
What brought you to Colorado Springs; how did you choose it?
The weather and beauty of the mountains brought my family to Colorado Springs. We wanted a change from the cold, long winters of Waukesha, Wis. My first experience of Colorado Springs was on an extended road trip that took us to South Dakota, Yellowstone Park and to Pikes Peak. The area captivated me. Much like my hometown, it is a large, spread-out city. After a few more vacations here, we decided to move in 2011.
What are some of your career goals?
My career goals are to design and sell my own line of jewelry, and to work one-on-one with clients to create their personal custom creations. I would also like to set up an apprenticeship program so I can teach this fine craft to aspiring young artists.
What advantages and challenges do you feel young professionals have in Colorado Springs that they don’t have in other places?
An advantage of Colorado Springs is that it is a smaller city and there are better opportunities for a young professional to meet and learn from their peers and feel more connected to their industry’s community.