written by Lee Wiser McIntosh
For the grammarians in the audience, make/made is the present tense and past tense of the infinitive verb “to make.” For the jewelers in the audience, Make | Made Jewelry offers some New Year’s inspiration from the Upstate with a different kind of duality: retail and education.
Located on Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina, Make | Made Jewelry is part of the vibrant downtown scene. Finding the right space at the right price was a year and a half long process, and you’ll be thankful for their patience because, upon discovery, there’s a sense of being an insider. The store is located below street level via stairs or an elevator. It is not so much subterranean, as it is middle earth for jewelry lovers. It may be sunny or rainy up top, and you’ll never know it because you are now immersed in the world of Make | Made Jewelry.
Make | Made Jewelry opened Thanksgiving of 2019. The novel coronavirus had not yet reared its ugly head, and business partners Danielle Miller and Katie Porterala had their business plan in place. It maximized their collective strengths as disciplined artists and innovative educators, and most importantly, it provided different income streams:
- A retail gallery with a thoughtfully curated jewelry collection
- Custom design made completely in-house by one or both of them
- Jewelry repair all done on site
- Workshops and classes for different levels of students
- Private in-depth instruction for advanced students
Longtime friends and colleagues, Miller and Porterala initially met on the art and craft show circuit, and it is here that their precious collection of relationships with various artists began. Over twenty artists are featured on a rotational basis. There’s something here for the curious design aficionado at every price point, and it has been curated by two jewelers with eyes that are trained to see the real deal. The initial wave of COVID extended the rotational period, and they added locally made gem-themed masks to the retail line up.
Custom design is the natural extension of these award winning jewelers’ innate skill sets.
Their work complements each other’s. Danielle’s work has a measured, geometric refinement that is the result of showing up everyday and doing the work for over twenty-five years. Her expression in metal is direct and concise. Katie’s work is organic. She utilizes faceted stones, and is enamored with textures and surface treatments. Needless to say, bridal is a huge category for them, and they effectively leverage technology with online and in-store search capabilities for diamonds. The showroom is bright and warm with a fluid path that leads to each case and the wall displays.There’s a coziness, and the sitting area is actually inviting.
The partners’ benches face out to the gallery space. One glance at the orderliness of their workspaces and you get an immediate sense of their personal discipline. Behind this area is the expansive metal smithing studio which leads to a room devoted to casting. Every inch is thoughtfully utilized—a place for everything and everything in its place—and over half of their 2000 square feet is devoted to education.
Make | Made Jewelry represents a pivotal point in their metals journey from art and craft shows to a retail space which is so much more than that. It really is a learning laboratory. Both Katie and Danielle taught at the Tryon Arts & Crafts School in Tryon, North Carolina. Danielle has a long history of developing jewelry making classes and is well known for her Wedding Ring Workshops, where couples make their own rings, grain to finish, under her tutelage. Katie received her MFA from Arizona State, subsequently teaching metals there and regionally at Winthrop College. These experiences translate beautifully for the students who take “Make & Sip” classes or a five-week course to focus on technique. Make | Made Jewelry has built a devoted community by offering unique learning experiences.
I had the opportunity to sit in on a bezel-set stone ring class recently and witnessed students experience the thrill of soldering for the first time. Eyes lit up watching metal liquify and then cool into a structure. There’s very little chitchat amongst the masked and socially distanced students from diverse ages. There is a seriousness—a respect for the craft—and a deep desire to learn.
When the impact of COVID-19 became acute, their business plan provided them with a filter to gauge opportunities and also to act quickly. The ability to move decisively was richly rewarded by the Greenville CARES Act, which provided them with immediate reimbursement for having to retro fit their studio to safely continue business. Six benches, spaced out and each equipped with a full set of hand tools and flex shafts were immediately put in place.
Their website, makemadejewelry.com, works as hard as they do at selling and building community. Their online presence is inviting and informative with e-commerce for both product and classes. It is easily navigated, and they’ve anticipated a visitor’s questions and provide thorough answers. They also support their offerings with testimonials, a blog, a responsive chat function and Sezzle, a buy over time interest-free option.
So when, not if, you get to Greenville, here’s another insider tip: Save yourself some parking anxiety and park in the garage located on Laurens Street, right behind Make | Made Jewelry. With a popping downtown, street parking seems to always be at a premium and is limited to two hours… because it would be difficult to fully explore jewelry middle earth AND grab lunch in that amount of time.
Your turn: What steps are you taking to COVID-proof your business? Do you and your associates have talents that could be re-packaged and monetized? Could you be building community through lectures or special jewelry related speakers at private events? Is your website effectively picking up the slack and working as hard as you do?
I’d love to hear from you: lwM@thejewelvox.com