Home Interviews A Ring For Every Fandom: An Interview With Paul Michael Designs

A Ring For Every Fandom: An Interview With Paul Michael Designs

When I first stumbled upon Pittsburgh based jewelry designer and CustomMade artist Paul Bierker the internet couldn’t get enough of  his now infamous R2-D2 inspired engagement ring for a client’s geeky proposal to his girlfriend Emily.

Since then, Paul has found a niche for himself within the geek community turning out one amazing design after another inspired from the likes of Star Wars, Adventure Time, Legend of Zelda and World of Warcraft to name a few. He recently even came full circle to complete the iconic droid duo for client’s Joe and Emily’s wedding, pairing a custom C‑3PO inspired wedding band with Emily’s R2-D2 engagement ring.




 Emily wasn’€™t the only one getting some geeky and gorgeous pizazz for her ring finger. The couple felt that they just couldn’€™t say “I Do” without making the perfect droid duo. The couple worked with the same Maker of Emily’s engagement ring, the talented Paul Bierker of Paul Michael Design, to create R2-D2’s best friend and prove that men’s wedding rings don’t always have to be a plain piece of metal. -CustomMade 


How did Paul Michael Design begin?
When I was born, I have always been making things and art, in the late 80′s I entered college seeking a degree in graphic design. At that pivotal moment graphic software such as Adobe Photoshop and illustrator were beginning to change the entire landscape of graphic development and communications. That being said, my college was not an early adopter. I saved my beer money and bought a new Mac and seats of the appropriate software and opened my first company. I was still in college and needed that tangible connection to my work. 3d was it. However the technology for computer generated 3d will not be fully developed for another 10 years (dagnamit) so I dove into a hands on tactile 3d Metals program at my college. I tried to break every rule and failed almost every time. Until I figured out how to just bend the rules and in a small way start innovating. With the foundation set I began creating interesting jewelry for the mass consumer and bespoke clients. In 1999, I purchased my first seat of Rhino3d and began  teaching myself how to use it. From there, as the computing power increased so did the capabilities of 3d modeling.


Today, Paul Michael design is still a small quirky design studio that focuses on crediting niche items and custom works for clients around the world. I am so blessed to have interesting customers who want me to do out of the box things. Innovation in creativity drives product ideas in my studio. We are always asking well, that’s cool, how can we do it better, make it cooler, more unique? By doing things this way we always seek different.




Has your popularity in the geek community changed your business?
It has,  I find that my new clients are OK with the internet. I make and sell things everyday for people from around the world. People who are Just like me. Passionate about what they love to do.  It reminds me of a great Morrissey song, “if I seem a little strange well, That’s because I am.” It is now OK to have quirky things that are not the mainstream. I create for “people” Not cultures. Every one of them is different every one is special.


What is your favorite piece?
 I am asked this a lot, My favorite piece is my wife’s engagement ring. Always will be. It was the gateway piece for live long love. It will never be recreated and never matched.


What is the process for designing a new piece?
A new piece is generally instantaneously inspired, or even sometimes an idea is planted in my head and then Pow it hits me when I’m driving to work or watching a movie. The most challenging part is taking the inspiration and converting it to a tangible piece of wearable jewelry. Sometimes the coolest ideas don’t work out and other times, the simplest solutions are the most amazing.




Do you consider yourself a geek?
The term Geek has always been used by mass society as a derogatory term.  Until you actually grow up LOL. Then you realize that the term geek is a pseudonym for one that thinks differently. One who is not so understood and ultimately the one whose “different” ideas and perspectives will literally save the universe.  I don’t think my jewelry will ever save the world,  but some of the guys I used to know in AP physics in high school have probably already effected global change.  So yes, I like to think outside the box, I like to be offbeat and fun . I like to make pieces for people who are passionate about what and who they love. I don’t care if her name is Zelda. YES, I am Geek.


Is there one geek inspired piece you’d love a client to commission you to make?
There isn’t just one there are millions. Each new commission is like a new friendship. There is a time to learn about the needs of your new client. Time to discover the details of there passion and time to say SHEESH how the hell am I gonna do that! So I am literally open to anything. I love to be Mutually inspired. When I met with Joe Pagnani the inspiration for the original world famous R2 Engagement ring, we both knew 5 minutes into the web meeting that we where meant to create this piece together. So if you ever wanted something but couldn’t figure out how to make it happen don’t give up. There is another Geek out there that would love to help you realize your dreams.  I say Bring it on!!!




Any new designs in the works?
I have been toiling over new stuff. Its sort of what I do.  I am always thinking how can I symbolize what I need to say, How can I abstractly connect with a person that likes my jewelry. Literal solutions are easy. Being abstract but still symbolic and immediately recognizable is the goal. Anyone can cut and paste some stuff together and make something cool. But true dedication to ones craft requires the onion to be peeled back. Allowing the essence of design and symbolism to be married in a cool piece. When an outsider looks at one of my so called “Geek Pieces” I want them to say WOW That’s beautiful I really like that design… They will then only understand the full meaning after some explaining from the wearer. This interaction then starts the amazing human communication that weaves all of our lives together.


What’s in store for Paul Michael Design? Well that’s up to a lot of things. I will continue to try to do cool things, invest every dime I make into being better (and kids braces) . Our future plans are to expand our retail studio in Pittsburgh and massively increase our presence online. We just launched our Etsy store pmjewelry  (real small) and will continue to be a force in the online custom jewelry market at  CustomMade. Later this month I will be launching an Indiegogo campaign to try to raise capital for expansion. I need new tech, people and more space. The future is so bright and exciting. We literally started from nothing. Poof, an idea and now we are growing thanks to people who like my stuff.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with everyone.