Meet The Maker - Our Story

Meet The Maker - Our Story

An introductory blog post - How I never thought I'd launch a jewelry brand

     Hello there! I'd first like to start out by introducing myself to those of you who might not know me. I'm Zack, the creator behind all things White Sage & Sapphire. Before we get into the nitty gritty, I'd like to extend the largest possible thank you to everyone who has helped me along on my journey; to all of my mentors, teachers, customers, friends, & family - I'm forever grateful for your continued support & encouragement as I wouldn't be here without you! I never thought I'd find myself standing where I am, & as I prepare to relaunch White Sage & Sapphire I'm finding myself reflecting on all the things that brought me here.

     As a child I was always told that I was creative. When I wasn't outside with my head down looking for "pretty rocks" & getting dirty, I could be found doodling, writing poetry/short stories, or trying my hand at a new instrument. I always knew that the typical 9-5 wasn't for me & I was constantly being drawn to a wide variety of creative outlets. My first experience with the arts was around the start of middle school when I discovered the magic of writing. I would spend hours with my head down & pencil scribbling, crafting short stories ranging from a young girl who led a double life (hello repressed sexuality!) to a pair of jewel thieves living in England (looking back that one totally gives me a laugh!) I thought for sure I'd grow up to be an author of sorts, that is, until I found photography. Why would I tell a story when I could show it? My Freshman year of high school I was gifted a Nikon DSLR by my family, and for years after I carried it everywhere I went (and sometimes still do!). Nearly a decade later, it's the same camera that takes all the product photos for the website. Somewhere around my Sophomore year I started experimenting in the kitchen with pastry & baked goods. Raised by a single mom who made everything from scratch, I understood the power of food - whether that be the memories we attach to specific items or how a good pastry can completely change someone's mood & make their day. The artist in me also understood the power of presentation & I would spend hours carefully hand-painting decorative flowers sculpted from fondant, crafting cupcakes that often received comments like, "Those are too pretty to eat!" At the age of sixteen, I was taking custom orders for my pastry creations, ranging from birthdays to anniversaries to a 150 cupcake display for a local charity event! During this time I was also taking a handful of sculpture classes in school, and I found that fondant and clay really weren't that different. That's when I discovered my first "true love" as an artist. From my Junior year through graduation I dedicated every possible moment I could to my ceramics work. I would skip my library hours, take my drawing and painting assignments home to get ahead and free up class time, and spend my lunch period with clay halfway up my arms. My senior year I sculpted ten life sized & individually themed mannequin heads, pushing myself in ability as well as concept design & execution. One thing led to another and through sculpture I was thrown into the world of jewelry.

Two of my favorite mannequin heads, "Linda" (Left) & "Aphrodite" (Right). (2013)
      While working on a steampunk themed mannequin head I found myself in need of tiny gears & old school pocket watch movements, and through word of mouth I was referred to a local bead & jewelry supply store. Upon walking in I immediately noticed trinket dishes & trays filled with natural gemstone beads. As someone who always enjoyed collecting "pretty rocks" I ended up leaving with much more than just a few watch movements... While I finished up my high school career I continued to explore the world of gemstone beads & basic jewelry making techniques (mostly stretch bracelets if we're being honest!) Back in 2014 the "bracelet arm" trend was very much alive so you can only imagine how many stretch bracelets I churned out!
     Upon graduation I didn't have a clear sense of a direction since the standard 9-5 never appealed to me. I decided to take a year off to explore myself and the world around me, during which I ended up taking a part time position as a shop keep at our local bead & jewelry supply store. It was there that I learned the basics of bead stringing, crimping, & wire wrapping, all the while adding to my bead stash. 
The very first pieces of jewelry I made, featuring Lava Rock & Czech Glass. (2014)
     The more time I spent at the shop, the more I fell in love with jewelry making. Soon I began teaching the same techniques I had learned only a year prior under the stores guided "Make & Take" classes. During these classes I was introduced to people who shared a passion for making pretty things, some of which I'm still friends with to this day! (On occasion we still get the "Beading Babes" together for lunch or a faux "Make & Take" at someone's home, which usually doesn't involve much jewelry making but rather catching up over an afternoon glass of wine while we pretend to make things!) During my time at the shop I also juggled a full time position in food service management and a handful of classes at our local community college. Up until 2016 I only took jewelry making for a hobby, only selling a piece to the occasional friend or coworker, but I soon discovered an interesting problem with my hobby - I had crafted all of these beautiful pieces of jewelry, but they were all designed for women! (And while the middle of an introductory blog post isn't the proper time to dissect what I believe to be the problematic gendering of inanimate objects, I'd just like to say that jewelry, clothing, and accessories are for everyone, gender is a construct. XX) So in late 2016 I toyed with the idea of actually selling some of my pieces for profit, I kicked around a few names for what I would call myself, & even hired a graphic designer to create a logo for a name that I thankfully didn't stick with... I'd like to think Eight Ten Designs doesn't have quite the same ring to it! Fast forward to mid 2017: the year literally everything happened. After what seemed like endless weeks of brainstorming I had my "A-ha Moment."
"White Sage & Sapphire"
     If I were a simple guy I'd say something like "and the rest is history!" but when have I ever been a simple guy? After finally landing on a name for myself, my boyfriend at the time sat down with me and helped me turn my vision into reality utilizing my ideas plus his background in digital art & graphic design. Not only did he design my first logo, he was pretty much a sounding board for any ideas I had. Though we parted ways a few years ago we're still close & he remains my "go-to" for any design work I need, including all of White Sage & Sapphire's updated logos, packaging, & business cards! The timeline during this period gets kind of fuzzy as it's all a bit of a whirlwind! My first "show" was at a local brewery, and as far as set up goes I look back and go, "wow, I had NO idea what the hell I was doing!" 
 My first event as "White Sage & Sapphire" (2017)
     After this first show I had a newfound sense of direction that I hadn't experienced before. I was standing behind a display of pieces that I created and people not only liked them, they were buying them too! It was all kind of surreal & sometimes still is. Through the rest of 2017 I could be found set up at our local farmers market (Ligonier Country Market) on Saturday mornings. Between 2018 and 2019 I focused on expanding White Sage & Sapphire in a variety of ways. I launched my own set of classes at our local art center (Latrobe Art Center), left my position at the bead & jewelry supply store, completed two seasons as a full time vendor at the farmers market, organized several multi-vendor pop-ups (Holiday Sip & Shop 2018 & 2019), and took on the challenge of selling at a 3-day arts festival (Fort Ligonier Days). I also challenged my own growth as an artist during this time, teaching myself the basics of silversmithing, hand fabrication, & taking related classes whenever I could. This included multiple PMC classes led by Donna Penoyer & a fabrication class lead by Eva Sherman. By the end of 2019 I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to continue on with White Sage & Sapphire in 2020, but I think we all know 2020 didn't go as planned for any of us.
Our booth set up for our first 3-day festival @ Fort Ligonier Days. (2019)
     During those few weeks that we were all collectively locked up at home, I had a lot of time to sit alone with my thoughts. I quickly realized the 2020 I envisioned wasn't going to be possible. I also realized that I was the only one standing in the way of myself. Sure, I had been taking classes when I could, but how much was I really pushing myself? If I continued on the path that I was on, the chances of becoming a full time, self-sustaining artist seemed slim. Could I even count on becoming a self-sustaining artist in the wake of Covid-19? As the warmer months approached and things started opening back up in my corner of the world, I knew that I needed to start taking myself seriously as an artist if I wanted to succeed. I applied for & accepted a position as an intern bench jeweler at Beeghly & Co. Jewelers, left my food service job, and was lucky enough to still be able to sell at our local farmers market. I saved every penny I could along the way and at the end of the 2020 season I started to lay out the framework for a Spring '21  Rebranding & Relaunch.
Left to Right: Chrysoprase/ Aquamarine/ Kunzite Cuff & Ring Sets (Sterling), on the job @ Beeghly & Co, Carved Moonstone w/ Diamond Accents in 14K (Original Design for Beeghly & Co.) (2020-2021)
     As we inch closer and closer to our "2021 Relaunch Event," which at the time of writing this is FOUR DAYS AWAY, (EEEP!) I can't help but feel like all the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together. My love of photography is helping with my product photos, my background in sculpture is playing into my methods of fabrication and PMC usage, and my lifelong appreciation of gems and minerals is impacting the mediums I use in my design. I often find myself telling people I never dreamed I'd be in the jewelry biz, but looking back on my journey so far it seems like I'm right where I need to be. XX
Thank you for being here.
All the Love,
xx Zack

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