The highways here are lined with evergreens and violet wildflowers. The skies are (rarely) blue or (mostly) an ethereal, incomprehensible grey. Whatever magic has lived everlong in the woods breaks through our earth like mushrooms after a summer storm: abundant, yearning upwards, and crystallized in the handiwork of artists, sculptors, and metalsmiths. Something is surely brewing in this corner of the world — a potent mix of curiosity and skill kindled by rainforests, nurtured by childhoods spent watching Twin Peaks, and set ablaze by an economy that lets no one sit still. Gathered up for your enjoyment are seven of my favorite jewelers, laying their treasures before you to rifle through, hold in eager palms, and steal away with. Come closer. Even closer. Take a look, won’t you?
Salt Circle Metals
Based out of Portland, OR, Salt Circle Metals’s aim is to “conjure self-contained universes.” Their offerings are rings and pendants created in parallel with work from a collaborating writer, “allowing the jewelry to act as talismans within a larger mythology, and connecting the wearer to this narrative.” A stunning previous collection, photographed atop a luxurious yet slightly ominous circle of salt, is paired with text by writer Naomi Washer, and the forthcoming ECTOPLASM series is based off of writings on the subject of Victorian spiritualism by antiques archivist Dani Tauber.
Allison Bartline’s eponymous jewelry line is carved from wax, cast, and finished by hand in Portland, OR — the first time I saw it in person was at Seattle shop The Belfry, where the sterling silver pieces looked perfectly at home amidst vintage taxidermy and other natural curiosities. Bartline is no minimalist, urging customers to pile these modern heirlooms on with abandon, and is always seen elbow-deep in bangles with creatures and sigils on every finger. Explaining her aesthetic, she says she is inspired by “mankind’s early interpretations of the natural world and the fear, worship, or desire to control it.”
Open the Cellar Door
Open the Cellar Door is made in Seattle and inspired by found and salvaged objects, ancient artifacts, doom metal, and high fashion. The necklaces are particularly intricate: delicate chains and vertebrae the color of ancient scrolls are “the perfect blend of spooky and beautiful,” which is creator Kristina Cullen’s mission. No piece here is like another, though many utilize bones, crystals, and antique coffin nails — plants and animals make many appearances in Pacific Northwestern jewelry, and ethical sourcing and respect for materials abounds.
I’m besotted with Portland’s multi-disciplinary artist Alice Rogers, who paints, sculpts, tattoos, and makes exquisite leather accessories which she paints by hand with complex patterns of eyes, snakes, and moons. “I believe that maintaining a sense of curiosity and wonder,” reads her artist statement, “about the natural world and all that may lie beyond it is an integral part of the human experience.” Rogers is currently clearing out much of her current stock to make room for new pieces, and the last remaining collars, all one-of-a-kind, are up to 30% off.
The Small Beast
The Small Beast is handmade from beginning to end in Seattle, WA by a classically-trained painter enchanted with the metaphysical. Shelby Lou Cypher summons each individual piece from the elements and adds powerful textural details to the silver, copper, and shibuichi metals she works with. Pendants from her Ossuary releases often sell out immediately, and the Familiar ring is beyond covetable — this heavy-metal designer is definitely one to watch, especially if you, like Cypher, fancy ancient grimoires, folk magic, and 1970’s witchcraft films.
Kimi Kaplowitz of Theeth Jewelry channels the deep wood and the high desert in her multi-sensory jewelry, drawing on her many wanderings and journeys for insight and motivation. A recurring muse is the scorpion, whose life-cast presence in her rings and necklaces represents the power jewelry has to transform the dangerous into wearable talismans. Silver mushrooms, natural stones, and long-legged spiders are scattered throughout, imbuing Theeth’s line with a wicked grace. Kaplowitz works and creates out of her home studio in Portland, OR.
Morgaine Faye is a painter, illustrator, and metalsmith in Portland, OR, whose logo evokes the “charivari,” an antique Bavarian hunting trophy with uncertain etymology — in other languages, the word means something akin to “a large group shouting,” or a wedding. Like the traditional charivari, Faye’s pieces are loaded with symbols, saint medallions, and vanitas skulls. Jawbones, fangs, and harpy wings adorn her folkloric collection, which also includes silver lapel pins and archival giclee prints.