This new Rio Jeweler blog series explores some of the stories from the #RioJeweler community. #RioJeweler is a way for jewelers to share moments from the bench on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Designers from around the world use the hashtag to chronicle their stories, their work and their lives as jewelers. We couldn’t be more amazed at the #RioJeweler photos, tweets and posts that keep streaming in—more than 50,000 and counting! We’re looking forward to exploring stories from the Rio Jeweler community in depth through interviews here on our blog. If you haven’t checked it out yet, search #RioJeweler on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and join in the conversation!
Anne Marie Strohbeck was drawn to stones, both polished and rough, as a child. She’d collect them from rickety shops lining roads that stretched through Nevada, Colorado, Utah and the Dakotas on road trips. Her collection grew as she did, but she didn’t put them to use until her college years. In a silversmithing class, she fell in love with marrying her collection of stones with metal, making something filled with both meaning and beauty. Her fascination has grown over the years and is now invested in Notch + Fletch, her jewelry business.
“Every time I pick up a saw, a stone or a sheet of metal, I’m reminded of those road trips, the dusty gift shops, the lake and the evergreens,” Anne says. “I’m filled with so much love and so many happy memories; it’s no wonder I’m addicted.”
We sat down with this Rio Jeweler to learn a little more about her business.
How did you get involved in making jewelry?
Growing up, I always had an interest in making jewelry. When I was younger, my materials were limited to tiny seed beads, yarn and plastic lanyards. In high school and college, I gradually started accumulating beads, shells and brass pieces from a shop in Ocean Beach, San Diego and from good old Michael’s. I made earrings and necklaces for myself and friends. It wasn’t until I needed to fulfill art minor requirements for my undergrad at San Diego State University that I was introduced to silversmithing by taking a jewelry-making and metalsmithing class. I instantly fell in love and couldn’t believe that I was actually getting college credit to do it.
I took the follow-up class the next semester; I couldn’t get enough! After college, I didn’t pick up silversmithing again until years later. I began making brass and crystal pieces in 2013, then eventually started selling on Etsy under Notch + Fletch not long after. I took a refresher silversmithing class last year and was able to get tools and a bench set up in my current apartment; I haven’t stopped since!
What inspires your designs?
I like to let the patterns and colors of the stones I choose dictate the design of a piece. Generally, the more intricate and interesting the stone is, the simpler the borders and settings. I like the stones to shine and the surrounding elements to be the ‘supporting actors.’ I also take into consideration the daily wearability of the piece, whether at work or a party. I make sure they are both comfortable and beautiful. Not limiting the day’s productivity for the wearer is always on my mind.
Do you have a favorite tool?
My dad’s beat-up hammer with chipping red paint and a worn-in wooden handle. When I moved to San Francisco after college, my dad put together a little toolbox with the basic tools he thought I’d need, and he included this hammer. Every time I use it, I’m reminded of his support and encouragement in making the things I want. I use it for stamping my maker’s mark on every Notch + Fletch piece now.
You also work as a barista. How do you find balance between that job and working as a jeweler?
Luckily, I work at a coffee shop that allows me to work three days during the week, so I am able to use the rest of the weekdays and mornings/nights before or after my shifts to work on jewelry projects. I use the weekends to reset, think about the coming week and catch up on computer-related business tasks, like tracking sales, sending out finished pieces, following up on emails, etc.
Are there any commonalities between working at a coffee shop and working as a jeweler?
Absolutely! With every job I’ve ever had, it all comes down to customer service and having pride in your process and product. To me, this includes making sure you’re taking the time to understand exactly what the customer wants, then giving that product your undivided attention and taking care at each step in the process until it’s handed off to the recipient. In both cases, it’s incredibly satisfying when you’re finished with that perfect drink or piece of jewelry. You can see the appreciation on the customer’s face for the care and work that went into creating what’s in their hands.
Where does most of your customer base come from?
Most of my customers find me on Instagram and word-of-mouth from friends and customers. Then they follow me to my Etsy shop.
What has been your experience with marketing your line, Notch and Fletch?
I made a few shirts, stickers and mugs with my logo and company name on them for fun, but it was actually received pretty well. I’m noticing that wearing my shirt or carrying my travel mug often starts conversations even if I decide not to wear my jewelry that day.
Still, as far as sales are concerned, wearing my jewelry seems to be the best form of marketing or advertising, as people are able to see and feel the quality firsthand, not just through their computer or phone screens.
Do you have any advice for other jewelers who need help budgeting their designs?
Don’t sell yourself short. It can be hard to compete with so many talented designers out there, but as I mentioned earlier, I stand by customer service and a quality product. Keep track of what you paid for your materials, the value of those materials and how much time it takes for you to finish a piece.
When you’re first starting out, it might take longer to get something done, but don’t take short cuts. With practice, you’ll get faster and still be able to make killer, quality work and get paid accordingly. There are still people out there who will pay for quality and a friendly, pleasant experience—if that is indeed what they are getting.