INTERVIEW: MEGAN-MARIE HANDMADE JEWELRY

  1. Hello Megan-Marie! Congrats on your latest line of fine jewelry, “The Althea Collection.” How did you come up with the name, and the concept, as a whole?

Hello everyone at Vents! Thank you very much for the opportunity to chat with you. I’m really excited about my new Althea gold chain collection. The Althea Collection started as a mini passion project, and has evolved into a bigger purpose for me. One that unites individuals together through traditional design and storytelling, and one that also celebrates individuality and self-expression through choice and customization.

The collection began in March of 2022 with just one chain. I had just finished selling my first limited collection from late Fall of 2021, the Spearhead Collection, and I was ready to focus on a new concept for myself. I wasn’t anticipating making a new collection at the time. There was no plan, really. Just creative exploration.

A lot of my initial jewelry designs tend to be minimalist or textured spinoffs of what’s currently out there or trending. In this case, I wanted to revitalize chain necklaces again because they’ve been around for generations without much change. I hadn’t seen anything new or unique in ages, forget anything hand-crafted. Most necklaces and chains nowadays are machine made or designed using computer software. I really just wanted something new and modern, yet timeless and traditional.

I created my first chains, the Hera Chain and Helios Chain with a lot of intention behind them. I wanted them to look clean, uniform from afar, yet beautifully textured and unique from up close. I spent hours designing multiple links for each chain so, whenever they are assembled together, every finished chain is incredibly unique.

I fell so in love with making them that I couldn’t stop, so I currently have about 9 chains designed. I have many new designs in mind for the coming weeks and months, too.

They’ll individually be drawn out on paper, then designed using a special wax technique, then created into gold for testing, and then made public once everything is perfect. All my chains are gender neutral in style, due to their balance in thickness, texture, and linear design.

What makes these chains especially unique, though, is that they’re meant to be individualized to a person. Every person and body is beautifully unique in size – e.g. neckline or wrist – and style, so I wanted to offer something special with the Althea Collection. You can choose how to wear any chain – e.g. as a bracelet, necklace, or ankle – by ordering the chain to a length that suits you. Perhaps you create a bracelet and necklace set for yourself, or gift a matching anklet to a friend. All orders include a choice between two clasps to finalize your piece with. When finished, you have a gorgeous chain that is curated for your body and your style, and is 100% unique to you. With good care, it will last decades and beyond, which really makes it worth it.

As far as the name “Althea”, it comes from ancient Greek mythology, where the Althea goddess represents healing and compassion. As a Doctor in Physical Therapy by degree, and a first generation woman of Greek (and French!) descent, titling the collection “Althea” seemed quite fitting. You’ll see that all the chains in the collection are named similarly and each has a story that I connect with.

The Althea Collection is one I anticipate to build for the next several months and year, which is why I am thrilled to share it with the world. I believe my chain wearers will love it too!

2. How did you get into jewelry?

When I started working for myself in Physical Therapy and Wellness years ago, I needed my own outlet from the work. Something that would get me away from my phone, computer, my future-thinking mind, and back into the present.

Ever since I was young, I loved using my hands to create, and I always adored window shopping jewelry as a kid, especially in Greece where my extended family lives. I’d look through the glass panes and wonder how a ring was designed, or a bracelet’s link made. I was, and still am, a “how” and “why” person, always trying to deconstruct anything into its components for better understanding. More often, though, I’d look at a ring or a bracelet, and imagine how I’d design it differently if I could.

When I was yearning for that creative outlet from work in my mid-twenties, I randomly started Youtubing “How-To” jewelry videos at night. I’m not sure how it came about, but all I remember is the cascade of events following it. From watching hours upon hours of videos, to finding an intro metalsmithing and lost-wax class in San Francisco – where I lived at the time – to sketching in my bedroom.

I attended the Foundations classes and worked with metals like silver, brass, and copper and learned the bare minimum skills like sawing, soldering, wax carving, etc. I could barely afford any of it at the time, so I’d complete the 8-class course and then take a break for months to keep building up my healthcare job. Somewhere during that time, I decided to transform my itty bitty bedroom closet into a small workbench, using a metal shelf and plyboard for a desktop. I bought the minimum required tools, and started designing pieces there.

That lasted for about 2-3 years, until I left San Francisco just a month before the Covid-19 global pandemic. I spent the entire pandemic re-building and restructuring my healthcare business, and it wasn’t until I moved to the New York City Metropolitan area 1.5 years later that I started making jewelry again. In the Fall of 2021, I found a jewelers bench and an experienced mentor who got me working with gold right away. I decided to share my designs using Instagram and finished my first mini collection, the Spearhead Collection, within a month or two. It sold out quickly, which was exciting.

Since then, I’ve been designing and sharing all my pieces and I am incredibly humbled by the great feedback and sales I’ve made. It’s been a really soul-filling journey, and one I can honestly say has come from a place of self-love and personal expression. At this time, I handcraft all my designs and continue to get inspiration. My design style focuses on a modern and timeless aesthetic for every day, with occasional touches of organic texture. Each item is made for daily comfort and finished in solid 14k yellow gold, though other colors and karats can be purchased too!

How important is it to promote healthy body image in young women? How have you done that with your creations?

That is such a great question. As a Physical Therapist by degree, promoting a healthy body image is of significant value to me. In my years working with women (and men!), much of my time has been spent educating and reframing the role of the human body. Sometimes the discussion is around the role of a particular joint, and sometimes it’s around the importance of managing our nervous systems. The body has so much to offer us and, while aesthetics is part of nearly everybody’s story, it is incredibly important to see the body for its beautiful capacity and resilience too. It is the one thing we are guaranteed to have for our entire life, and it deserves to be appreciated.

As it relates to jewelry design, we, as individuals, deserve to be seen and accepted for who we are at our core. Our bodies are the same. They deserve to be seen for their

innate magnificence. So, when I design my jewelry, I am mindful of this truth. I want my jewelry to enhance your natural beauty, not steal the spotlight. And it does just that.

I also believe in balance, where it’s okay to value how we look, so long as we do so from a place of love and compassion, not criticism and unworthiness. My new chains from the Althea Collection are designed to be worn all the time for this reason. I wear my necklaces in the shower, my bracelets when I work out, and my anklet when I walk in the city. I change from loungewear, to fitness clothes, to night-out clothes without ever changing my chains. I believe this is how jewelry should be worn. It should make us feel beautiful all the time, without a second thought. It should also give us the space to remember all the other beautiful things we have that make us feel vibrant and healthy.

It’s all about balance and intention.

You grew up in Boston, and moved to New York. When did you make the move? Was it because of the industry you are in? Do you still cheer for the Red Sox, or the Yankees?

I love these questions! I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and actually moved to San Francisco for 6-7 years after grad school for Physical Therapy. I was looking to move to New York years later so I could be closer to family after so much time away. The pandemic inadvertently forced my move a few months sooner than I’d planned and led me to stay with my folks instead of New York. It was such a special time that I’m deeply grateful for. I was able to rebuild and transition my healthcare business into a virtual one without the stress of rent or isolation. Most importantly, I was able to spend precious time with everyone I loved, who I hadn’t seen much for almost a decade. In that time, I’d also been yearning to reconnect with my jewelry outlet. All my jewelry supplies were in storage for that year and a half I stayed at home, until I finally moved to the New York City Metropolitan area in 2021. Within a couple of months I found a jewelers bench and expert mentor to refer to for new skills and projects.

The move to New York was inspired by my desire for growth in my healthcare career, but also, by my dreams to design jewelry again. I was aware that New York had so much to offer in the jewelry industry, so I was eager to dive in after a couple of years without creating. Within weeks of starting back up, I’d designed, created and sold my first exclusive collection of 14k solid gold pieces. Since then, I’ve been building up my online store and my home jewelry studio!

As far as Red Sox vs. Yankees go, I default to Boston sports teams most of the time, but I suppose I might convert to another team if the players wore handmade gold jewelry! Kidding, of course.

5.  You are a Dr. in Physical Therapy. Do you feel that has helped or influenced your business in any way?

Without a doubt! If anyone follows me on Instagram (@meganmarie.handmade), then they know I still practice in healthcare part-time because I post stories on the days I’m in the clinic or working from home. I actually have my own business in Women’s Health Physical Therapy and Wellness. I work primarily with women, though not exclusively, and I almost always discuss the significance of defining and investing in one’s unique “wellness cocktail”. It starts by creating awareness around what an individual needs to feel her best, and then slowly taking steps to live it out.

For me, creativity is essential to feel and be well. It has always been my emotional therapy. From watercolor painting, photography, macramé or knitting, to now crafting jewelry. It’s how I process life, get grounded, spend time with myself, and find peace. Without it, I’m not nearly as balanced, patient, or vibrant of a person or healthcare provider. It is especially important I honor this, so as to make sure I am fully present with my patients.

On a more technical level, I’m fortunate to have some foundational experience in growing something from the ground up. I built a concierge Physical Therapy practice that fully evolved during the pandemic, and I believe it is part of why I’ve been able to find early success with my jewelry. My healthcare business required that I’d take risks and try new things when I had no real idea about the outcome, especially when virtual healthcare hadn’t really been a paved avenue before. I believe the uncertainty provided me with a learned confidence to try, despite ambiguity and fear.

Through this adventurous time, and practice of resilience, I believe I felt more prepared and open to making my jewelry designs public sooner than I’d have done otherwise, and it has also given me the humility to put myself out there with less expectation, as well.The way I see it now, is that, the more I create from a place of creativity and personal expression, I can never lose. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, “In the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a giftto the audience.” I believe this wholeheartedly. The act of creating is what matters. Everything else is a bonus.

6. Tell us about your previous line, “The Spearhead Collection”.

Yes, of course! Thank you for asking. The Spearhead Collection was my first limited collection in solid 14k gold. More specifically, limited collections include pieces that are capped to first-come-first-serve buyers. Once a limited collection piece has reached the cap, I stop selling it. It will say “sold out” when that happens. I did this because I want wearers to feel extra special knowing very few people share the same piece as them.

Between me and you, though, I might do a flash re-sale of certain pieces in the collection sometime in the future. If I do, it will still be very limited, so as to maintain the essence of exclusivity.

The Spearhead Collection was the first collection I’d designed after the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It included a pair of earrings, a necklace, and a ring that I initially designed while daydreaming in isolation during the pandemic. I wanted them to complement each other when worn together, as well as look great on their own. I finally designed them months later using jeweler’s wax, gold material, and special tools.

The collection itself was inspired by my desire to always and unapologetically embody my whole self, the assertive and the soft parts and everything in between. In each piece of the collection, you’ll see angular lines, arrows, and points alongside soft, round edges and curves. A balance I very intentionally wanted to convey, and believe I did, by how quickly it sold.

7. What’s next for Megan-Marie Handmade?

What a fun question! While I have plans up my sleeve, creative expression is the foundation of Megan-Marie Handmade. I believe too much control and expectation can close off opportunities for flow, creativity, and imagination. It’s important I remember this because I feel freer of mind and more connected when I design jewelry from a place of openness versus force. And sometimes, prioritizing how something makes us feel is what matters.

With that said, I certainly have some ideas in mind. For now, I anticipate continuing to build the Althea Collection over this next year with another 5-10 new chains. I have so many sketches I haven’t even started on! I also anticipate more limited collections in 2023 and 2024. I enjoy textures, architecture, and observing culture so I’m hoping to design collections that are inspired by my own adventures and travel. I’m also currently in a phase where I enjoy mixing modern textures with traditional design, so travel-inspired collections sound like a dream to me! One thing that is for sure, though, is that I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. It feels too darn good for my soul.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with the Vents’ team.

RJ Frometa
Author: RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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