Tim’s Story

Tim McLean's Story

From an early age, Tim McLean recalls spending hours with his father and grandfather in the basement-workshop of their home in Oakland, California.  He watched, and sometimes helped, as the two men fabricated toys and widgets out of discarded everyday objects, broken machinery, and various ‘odds and ends.  He remembers how they once made a skateboard with an aerodynamic louver on the bottom to add lift. It was there that Tim was inspired by the creative process— and the idea that, with enough imagination and know-how, one could make or repair just about anything.  

Because Tim’s father worked for Pan Am, the family traveled worldwide. When the family lived in Hong Kong and Tim attended a British school, he became fascinated by Asian art forms.  The simplified lines and mastery of material continues to inform his work today. 

In 1962, Tim went along with his mother to visit his father, who had been contracted by Pan Am to help Iran Air start its airline. The family took a two-week tour of Iran and Tim got his first glimpse of Old World metalworking. At thirteen, Tim was able to venture alone into the serpentine streets and underground bazaars of Tehran. He was mesmerized by the Master Goldsmiths as they placidly cast, welded and hammered gleaming metal in appointed booths amidst the bustling chaos. It was dimly lit, cacophonous, and mysteriously ancient, Tim recalls, and the men were just as curious as he was. Back then, they didn’t get young surf kids from California in the bazaar. 

Tim sizing a ring ..

It was here that the flame of inspiration, stoked in his father’s workshop, was set ablaze. To master an ancient handicraft became one of Tim’s passions.

When the family returned to Oakland, Tim picked up woodworking. Throughout his teens and into his twenties, in tandem with his metal work, he explored the medium of wood with a focus on the wood lathe and bowl making.

In his teens, Tim ran his first successful business. He started sharpening knives for his father who, by that time, was the Executive Chef for Pan Am Presidential Flights. His father created the menus, had the food sent ahead to the commissaries, and the finishing touches were done on the airplane. Tim made sure the knives were perfectly sharpened for the chefs who prepared dinner for the President.

It was about that time that Tim took up the guitar. This quickly ignited into a bona-fide passion and was to become Tim’s second career, something he has never put aside. He attended Merritt College as a Music Major. He then transferred to Cal State Hayward where he landed a job as an Assistant to renowned Jewelry Artist, Roger Baird from California College of Arts and Crafts. He worked for Baird at the Berkeley High Adult Education Program assisting him in the classroom and in his workshop where he made custom jewelry. Baird was an inspiration to Tim as a Master craftsman, inter-disciplinary Artist, and a great teacher. Baird continues to work prolifically as multi-media artist, painter, filmmaker, musician, sculptor, jewelry designer, and teach.

The Old Bank Building in Cayucos circa 1900

Throughout his college years, Tim made ends meet by playing music. His first paying gig was at the Old Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz with a band (guitar, string bass, sax, and conga drum) called Axploration. He also sold his custom jewelry made from the plentiful abalone shells he combed off beaches at Ano Nuevo north of Santa Cruz. He learned to blow glass at Cal State Hayward (on Friday nights) and sold wine glasses he called “Globlets” because of their unrefined heaviness. He worked part time for three years at the Griffin Company in Oakland building lithography presses which encompassed welding, machining, painting, carpentry and helping to restore the old brick factory building.. With all this work, Tim still found time to surf, body surf, play tennis, and drive his friends to rock concerts (Altamont, Avalon Ballroom, Fillmore, Winterland, etc.) in his VW Van.

In 1975, Tim moved to Morro Bay. He quickly knew that the Central Coast was where he wanted to stay. He began teaching Jewelry classes for Adult Education Programs in San Luis Obispo County. One day while walking around in Cayucos, Tim saw the building that was later to become his jewelry store. The old building was is a state of disrepair broken windows and all. With a little detective work he found who owned it and rented it over the phone sight unseen. It wasn’t until he got the key and opened the door that he realized he just rented The Old Cayucos Bank Building.

He moved into the building and started from the ground up to do what he’d learned from his father and grandfather— envision, invent, create, and build. What you don’t have or can’t afford, make it yourself from what you have. And so began a twenty-five-year restoration project. And in time, he bought the building.

Tim’s Instrumental Invention: The Pick n’ Grin X6000

Before Cayucos became the busy vacation destination it is now, Tim wholesaled his own line of earrings, pins and pendants. The line, called Planet Plannishing, became popular nationally, and in Hawaii, where Tim travelled extensively.
By the 1980’s, Tourism had increased in Cayucos, enabling Tim to move his business into the retail market and focus on creating original designs.

Tim specializes in designs that incorporate gold, silver, platinum and titanium with the highest quality gem stones and pearls from around the world. His topmost choices for most of designs are Tahitian pearls, Demantoid Garnets, Sri Lankan Blue Moonstones, and Canadian Diamonds. He has been creating custom pieces, restoring and revamping vintage pieces, and resurrecting damaged pieces for his customers for over thirty five years. Service is a priority and deadlines are always met for visitors and locals alike.

Next time you are visiting the Central Coast, stop in McLean Jewelry and peruse Tim’s sundry selection of custom and hand-picked gemstones and jewelry. Also for sale are Tim’s original music (solo and with his band, The Noodles who toured Japan in 1990), now available on CD, signed prints of Tim’s Travels of the Central Coast, The Island of Cayucos Map (a collaborative project with local artist, Abe Toke), Tim’s Neandergenius Industries products (such as the Please Butt-In’s cigarette receptacle and the Pick ‘n Grin Guitar Chair), and other curiosities,

McLean Jewelry is not just a jewelry store, it’s an experience. It’s an amalgam of past, present, and future —think nineteenth century alchemist “steam punk” vibe mixed with post-modern village R&D workshop, and a bit of Hawaiian “Aloha” thrown into the mix. It’s a jewelry store like no other.