Metalwerx Welcomes The Ultra Mod, Bree Richey

by Metalwerx on September 2, 2015

We would like to warmly welcome Bree Richey to the Metalwerx family! As it turns out, “jewelry” and “family” are concepts that are already fairly synonymous to Bree, because as she was growing up, her parents were running a successful jewelry business. As it turns out, Bree inherited not only her parents’ love of metalworking, but their business savvy too. Owner of Bree Richey Designs, this community-minded metalsmith and businesswoman will soon be adding “teacher” to her list of titles, as she prepares to lead her first weekend workshop titled ‘Hollow Forms,’ September 11th – 12th at Metalwerx.

Bree recalls her childhood chores including sweeping up the studio, and filing invoices for her parents, and dinner conversations on topics like, “Where do you think minimalist jewelry will go in the future?” William Richey is still a prolific jewelry artist. Marlene Richey is an author and teacher, who educates designers and makers on the art of being both creative and successful. These dual aspects of her parents’ trades really sunk into Bree. When I asked Bree if she didn’t rebel against the arts and want to become, say an accountant or some other “sensible” occupation, she said that she always loved art, and always had an aptitude for it, but she also knew that she wanted a stable career. Richey says that back then she never thought that she would be a jeweler. She figured she would probably go into something like graphic design. But when she began her formal education at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, she fell in love with the metals studio. Richey explored other institutions for her education, going on to the Revere Academy in San Francisco, which is where she says she got her technical skill. After graduating, she got valuable real-world experience as a jewelers’ assistant for artist Jayne Redman, (who will also be teaching a workshop at Metalwerx this fall- learn more here) whose regimented and disciplined practices further instilled in Richey an ability to take art and design seriously and make it work as a career. Bree says that her challenge, one that she always loved in design classes, was “to make something that expresses you, but make something that would appeal to a large part of the population.” And once she designed a plan, she hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped.

Bird pendant in Sterling Silver, available at www.breejewelry.com          Sterling Silver Bird Pendant with Pearl Under Movable Wing, available at www.breejewelry.com

 

Bree is a powerhouse of a metalsmith and businesswoman. Her production line is carried in nearly 150 boutiques and galleries across the nation. Her mod “mid-century classic” aesthetic paired with her love of fabricating, blend together to make a line of easy to wear geometric pieces that have wide appeal.The hollow constructed, geometric forms in silver and vermeil have volume, and feel luxurious, yet totally modern and unpretentious.

Double Petal Earrings, available at www.breejewelry.com            Double Petal Earrings, available at www.breejewelry.com

 

The artist is reintroducing colored stones into her work, which has largely been focused on the clean lines and monochromatic brushed satin finish of the metal.

Tray of in-process pieces from Richey's studio.                Tray of in-process pieces from Richey’s studio.

 

Used alone, her hollow forms make simple, unique pendants and earrings, and when grouped together for larger pieces, create designs reminiscent of textile patterns.  Richey says that, “if I were to pursue something new and creative now, I would probably go into fabric design.”

Bree displaying a very Mod necklace made up of many components form her production line             Richey displaying a very Mod necklace made up of many components form her production line

 

Although Bree’s business is booming, she is grounded in the values of family-business and community. Her studio space and office combo are in a quaint brick building, just off the beaten path in the arts district of Natick, MA.

Bree Richey's Studio and office in Natick, MA                 Bree Richey’s Studio and office in Natick, MA

 

Richey maintains a modest staff of just a few people at a time, and, like all good family business owners, she treats them as valued members of her team. As the business has grown over the years, Richey has had to make some adjustments, and it seemed to make Bree a little bit sad that she needed to start using accounting software and abandon her old hand-written ledger. The artist seemed truly invigorated when talking about Natick Open Studios, and the experience of having dozens, if not hundreds of members of her local community walking around her space, asking questions and eagerly supporting local artists. It was different than the wholesale craft show circuit; these were her neighbors. Although Bree sometimes misses the diversity and bustle of Somerville, where she and her studio resided for many years, she loves the community that she is a part of now and feels at home here in the Metro west. Richey has recently begun to design jewelry for Blue Nile, a venture that will surely be a profitable one, but it has been an experiment, she says. Richey doesn’t use CAD, and doesn’t see that changing. And sometimes she will propose an idea and it will be shot down because the audience needs to be even broader than it does for her production line.

Nines Earrings in Sterling Silver available at www,breejewelry.com                Nines Earrings in Sterling Silver available at www.breejewelry.com

 

And while some aspects of her production are outsourced for cost effectiveness and time management, quality is of the utmost importance, and she knows that something like a unique hand-made earring wire can bump your work up into a different price-point.

It’s clear that being a “maker” is where Bree Richey’s heart lies; yet she has always known what it takes to be a successful businesswoman. But Bree Richey’s jewelry seems to reflect in its 1950s-60s inspired patterns not just the artist’s taste in design, but her lifestyle, and ideals about her business as well. The geometric forms that she is so drawn to are emblematic of a time when prints were loud, neighborhoods were quiet, and a hard-working and talented craftsperson could earn their piece of the American dream.

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