The pages of vintage dictionaries and world atlases and the gears and wheels of an old watch are not the first places one might suppose a jewelry maker would find inspiration, but for Meredith Blanchard, they serve as the perfect muse.
The designer and crafter behind Limetree Jewelry has built a loyal following since starting her brand of charmingly quirky jewelry, hairpins and paper products in high school, and with an Etsy store and inventory in the Green Door Trading Co., the Collierville, Tenn., native is set to find her way into more Chattanooga jewelry boxes in 2013.
Limetree Jewelry highlights Blanchard’s love of vintage finds and falls in line with the recent style wave where the modern is swapped for the rustic, the mass-produced for the idiosyncratic and the bold statement pieces for a softer look.
Putting her twist on the map
It all started in high school when Blanchard discovered a solution to the seemingly out-of-reach necklaces and earrings in magazines and stores.
“I would see jewelry that I really liked but couldn’t afford or wanted to put a twist on it,” Blanchard said. “So I started making my own.”
As it happens with many niche, handmade brands, Limetree developed a small following even before it adopted its official name. Blanchard opened an Etsy store in 2009 and found a place with college and high school students. One friend places an order almost every time a new design comes together.
The UTC student, who is preparing for a career in special education and juggles nannying and working at a special education program at the Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, took a two-year hiatus from the online business to focus on school.
Limetree recently reopened on Etsy and began appearing at the Green Door Trading Co.
“She has this personal touch I’ve not really seen before,” said Michelle Kuffrey, who owns the downtown vintage hub with her husband, Paul. “Meredith does such a good job of repurposing material, and she has very creative ideas.”
Always aware of trends, Blanchard has several lines of necklaces, earrings and hairpins. She noticed the Chattanooga preoccupation with mustaches and bicycles when she first moved to the Scenic City and created hand-painted pendants, earrings, hairpins and necklaces.
Her inventory includes Swarovski crystal necklaces in offbeat colors like olive green and plum; deconstructed antique watch faces hanging on short and long chains; vintage cameo necklaces, hairpins and stud earrings; and hand-painted wooden pendants featuring everything from rock climbers to squirrels.
The supplies come primarily from the Etsy community, and pieces can take five minutes to three hours to complete in the crafting haven that Blanchard’s bedroom has become.
She recently introduced lines of jewelry decorated with cutouts from vintage maps, dictionaries and encyclopedias, as well as wooden necklaces shaped like Tennessee with a heart cutout over one city.
Working with the Kuffreys to source the books from yard sales, attics, antique stores and wherever else she can find the weathered pages, the designer allows customers to name the place they most want to keep close to their heart or hair.
Be it Chattanooga, Madrid or Tokyo, a sailboat, Dalmatian or abacus, Blanchard finds a picture or point on the map, cuts out a square or circle of the paper, and adheres it to a metal backing.
“I call my stuff 'reinvented vintage,'” Blanchard said. “It’s for people who want something different. They want something that no one else is going to have.”
Given the fact that there are no repeat entries in the vintage books, Limetree Jewelry is truly one of a kind. The custom nature of the business adds another layer of individuality to each piece.
Blanchard will create jewelry to her customers’ extra specification or the vague ideas from a certain length of chain or the color of paint to the questions of whether she can make something like this or that.
With all of the custom detail, one might think Limetree Jewelry’s price point would be on the upper end of the scale. Think again: Necklaces run from $8 to $15, earrings $8 to $12 and hairpins $2 to $8.
On the flip side
The attention to keeping the inventory affordable to customers led Blanchard to look for creative avenues for cutting her own costs, which eventually led to a new addition to the Limetree brand.
She began making paper tags and backings for her jewelry, such as a lime green polka dotted tea cup-shaped cutout on which to pin her earrings. That grew into what is now the paper product line of the business.
Blanchard has designed and built invitations, graduation announcements, cards, mini-envelopes and tags, all with the same creative touch and customizable elements.
The paper products have also blended into the world of children’s birthday parties: Blanchard created a whole suite of pirate-themed accessories, from a fabric banner to ship-shaped cupcake wrappers.
She hopes to expand this side of Limetree in 2013 to wedding invitations and other paper categories where affordable but uniquely styled options are scarce.
For now, each customer receives an example of the paper possibilities with each order. Blanchard hand wraps every piece of jewelry she sells personally through Etsy and includes a handwritten note for the buyer.
She explains that though her grandmothers were not particularly crafting in the same way as their granddaughter, they showed her how to instill her work with a very special—almost vintage—thoughtfulness.
“My grandmas always did things for other people, and I really respected them for that,” Blanchard said. “They wanted to make something they would be proud to give."