Salt Grass is a very tolerant grass that can grow in the mountains, the desert or the coast. It is common in New Mexico where I’m from. It is also known as desert saltgrass or seahorse grass. When I was choosing a name for my company I wanted something that paid homage to my upbringing, the versatility of my work and the natural world which I find so inspiring. SG was born in 2016 after I moved to Portland, Maine. My move was very calculated as I saw Portland to be a great home to grow my business. Salt Grass has always been with me though. I am the daughter of two self made entrepreneurs so I think owning my own business was always in the cards. Prior to moving to Portland I had spent 6 years in New York where I worked for a number of female-run jewelry companies. This time undoubtedly gave me the foundation and confidence to launch SG.
My design process is very hands on and intuitive. The idea usually starts with something totally random inspiring me like the fold in a shirt or a texture on a wall. Sometimes I draw a sketch of my idea before but usually I don't. I prefer to start making shapes or forms out of metal or wax or sometimes both. Sometimes I use other found objects as a base. My hands know what to do, how to make. Once I've created my form I usually sit with it for a while and try to figure out what the heck it is. What it wants to be or how will it work? Eventually it becomes clear but sometimes it takes a while.
I intuitively found jewelry. I’ve always related to the world through art. Color, shape, and texture form a language that makes sense to me as opposed to verbal communication, which leaves me wanting more. This early affection for visual expression eventually lead me to art school after a few false starts at other colleges and universities. I had no preconceived notion of what exactly I would focus on but quickly found sculpture and then metal smithing. It wasn't until after school that I started thinking more seriously about designing jewelry to financially support myself.
Everyday is different! I am a restless person by nature so the spontaneity of my day to day is great. Mornings start with coffee and my two pups. After a quick breakfast I head out to the woods for about 30 or 40 minutes with the doggos. It’s a great way to clear my head and prepare for my work. Once I’m back home I head upstairs to my studio, coffee #2 in hand and tackle the day. I usually make a b-line for my jewelry bench and begin assembling components, setting stones, or soldering forms together. The best days are when I get to create all new or one-of-a-kind items. Some days it's all admin computer stuff, those are very challenging days. Other times I’m fighting deadlines for custom orders or working alongside my assistant. I usually have about a million plates spinning at once. There's often some stretching in the middle of the day, more coffee, lunch and afternoon snacks. Snacks are most important. Sometimes I work late into the evening, other times I just can't emotionally or physically and end up putting my tools down by 1 or 2pm. Producing jewelry with my own two hands is deeply connected to my self care. If i’m feeling off I can't solder and have to wait for the inspiration and energy to return. There is no forcing it. Luckily, I have learned over the years about the importance of my self care and how to avoid these untimely meltdowns. Their infrequent appearances are good reminders that I am only human and it is only jewelry.
It all started with an email…
A message appeared in my inbox from Kristi Frank. The greeting read "Good Afternoon Meredith and the Entire Amie Team." I could only have dreamed of seeing this line in print. Rather than the one-woman operation that Amie was, Kristi believed that there were other women behind me making making it all possible. She envisioned a team of like-minded creatives that had one goal, one vision to support Female, not factory-made products and to invest in women--period.
Kristi shared, "I am so excited to finally be reaching out to you folks, as I have been following you since you launched last year. Your ethos of sustainability and good clean local production truly resonates with me. I am the owner and designer of Salt Grass Jewelry which is an eco conscious modern jewelry company based out of our lovely Portland area. I believe we have a social and moral obligation to create beautiful products in a way that does not harm our planet or our people. I use post-consumer recycled metals, low or non-toxic chemicals in the studio, and all recycled packaging for both web orders and wholesale orders. I make everything on site by hand, one at time, and feature many one-of-a-kind items with natural stones. I would love to be considered to be a designer for your online store and local pop-ups." Her email was genuine and thoughtful. She had done her research, effectively articulating Amie core values. I clicked the link to her site and was in awe of her collection.
Kristi and I met at Speckled Ax coffee shop, my go-to Amie workspace in the heart of Portland's Art District. It was bloody freezing outside, but I was jazzed to meet her on a Maker Monday, a phrase I had coined to make Mondays more desirable. It was the 5th of February. She was bundled up, buzzing on caffeine, and ready to share her designs. I felt like a child playing Pretty Pretty Princess, hoping to advance around the game board and collect a complete set of jewelry by landing on each designated space. I tried to contain my excitement when asking for permission to try on each piece. Soon enough, I was covered head to toe in the SG collection. An upgrade from Hasbro plastic costume jewelry.
Kristi has become an Amie, a girl friend who just gets it. She understands the Amie brand and aligns her SG products with our aesthetic, while staying true to her New Mexico heritage and design techniques. Each time I see Kristi, we laugh about stupid stuff and openly share our personal and professional struggles. No airs, no alternative motivations. Just amies being ourselves.
I spent a day in Kristi's loft studio studying her multi-layered, labor-intensive process. Each piece was cut, trimmed, hammered, soldered, and polished by hand. Approximately 8-10 steps. I witnessed this woman in her element. At home, hammering away with her furry side kick Nash close by. Salt Grass is an Objet d'art: designer jewelry for every gender and generation.
-Meredith Brockington / Founder & CEO