Friday, September 9, 2011

Metal Earth: Rebecca and Meghan

The lucky winner of the Damages videos is Libby of  D-Scribes. Congratulations Libby! (Btw, my Damages piece was also on Huffington Post (UK) - thanks Susanna of BritMums for guiding me there.)

During the Metal Earth  Giveaway I promised a visit to Meghan and Rebecca to hear their story. Here we go...

As I stroll towards Meghan and Rebecca's wooden studio above the hot-tub, the sun blasting through the bamboo, I hear an explosion of laughter. I see a few dance steps and that unmistakable Tinkerbell sound of their jewelry.  In the middle of the tools and the gold and silver is a chicken salad Meghan has whipped up from her latest organic box delivery. Hang on...this is work?

Meghan and Rebecca
Rebecca Longenecker and Meghan Zimmerman, both 43, of Metal Earth Studios have lived across the road from each other in Rockridge, Oakland for ten years. They've worked together for two years and became partners a year ago. They seem to be having waaay too much fun, but in fact they've been working 12-hour days  - fueled in part by chocolate-covered coffee beans -  getting 250 pieces ready for their first major retail trunk show tomorrow (Sat 10th Sept) at Margaret O'Leary on 4th Street, Berkeley.

Their range of 45 different necklaces, earings and bangles are gold and silver  - sometimes featuring a diamond - with hand-hammered and textured tabs on chains and are best worn layered with air of gypsy freedom. Though of course with the price of gold, it can veer into Gyp-set.

Both women have been stay-at-home mums since their children were born (the eldest being 15) and they and their husbands have been best friends for eight years. Before babies, Meghan was a professional modern dancer and photographer and Rebecca worked in post-production film units and for auction houses, selling American Indian jewelery from pawn houses.

1. Why did you start Metal Earth?
Rebecca: I've always been interested in ancient jewelery and four years ago I took courses at CCA and Studio One ....It's about remembering who I was before the kids. (They each put in around $10,000 at the beginning of the year and are currently breaking even.)
Meghan: Creating jewelry with Rebecca has evolved naturally, finding a place in my life alongside my other artistic passions. Wearing it makes you feel beautiful and strong and we wanted to share that with other women.

2. What has been the easiest thing about the business - and the hardest?
Rebecca: The jewelry sells itself. We get stopped in the street all the time - I had one woman who wanted the "whole look" and bought $8,000 worth. We walk into SF Moma and stores and the managers ask how they can buy it.
Meghan: I was just in Outer Banks in North Carolina and sold most of my personal collection to my friends there. The challenge has been how to get help. We spent hours compiling a detailed manual on how to make every piece to train another artist. But his pieces looked too similar, too shiny. Maybe no one else will notice that all those tabs were the same but we did. It has to be and look hand-forged, hand-rubbed and hand-hammered. It always comes back to doing it ourselves, but we don't want to become little elves just doing the same thing over and over.

3. How do you spend so much time together?
Rebecca: We're very similar people (from very large families, high-powered fathers and with an artsy bohemian aesthetic). I can be a bit sprinkling the fairy dust, maybe a bit scattered and floaty. Meghan hones its all down to practicalities; can we get 40 pieces together in this time? how should the photo of this necklace look?

4. How do you balance family life and growing the business?
Rebecca: Ha! That's what we're trying to work out. My husband Phil (Brewer and Chief of Operations at Anchor Brewing Company) said to me the other night: 'You used to make things in the oven.' My daughter (Emma, 14)  joked: "Mom, you cleaned out the fridge on Sunday. It's now Wednesday - are you gonna buy some food to put in our nice clean fridge?" But this is unusual, we're getting ready for our first big retail show. Sometimes it's overwhelming: there's nothing for dinner, I haven't taken the dog for a walk, I've been driving, driving the kids to sports all afternoon, then I come over here and I feel centred and grounded.
Meghan: You have to ask yourself; how many of my kid's baseball games am I willing to miss? None? Then maybe we can't be really huge. I don't ever want to feel strangled by the business and we don't want to borrow money. And our kids still need us, they can float in and float out, we're here. Our advice to anyone is: don't try and fit in with a specific mold or business model, do what feels right. And of course we always make sure we get to our dances classes.

Maya, 12, helping out
5. Where do you see the business in one year's time?
Rebecca: We would like to be in SF Moma and a few boutiques. Eventually I would love to see us in Paris and in Barneys, and showing in exhibitions with other artists. Our next step artistically is to make even more primitive-looking jewelery, using 18 and 22 carat un-mined diamonds and leather and black and oxidised silver. My friend sees a psychic who said our next line will be inspired by Peru.
Meghan: We have realised you can't make money in retail (unless you sell tons) so I see the bulk of our sales from direct sales and trunk shows. We hope to be selling around 100 pieces a month and be here in the studio making jewelry two full days a week.

6. Which public personas embody your look?
A mix of Frida Kahlo, Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Aphrodite and maybe a little fairy dust from Tinkerbell.

As I leave, Rebecca tells me what makes it all worth it. Her hairdresser said: "I can't stop looking in the mirror watching my bracelet." Another friend told her:  "You should call them them 'love chains.' My husband just loves the sound of them and -" Say no more.

Have you ever thought about turning your passion into a business?


  1. The jewelry looks fantastic!Great to see them build up a business ,doing something they have a real passion for!!

  2. Love their jewellery, the hand-made effect looks brilliant. Congratulations to them for doing so well.

  3. I admire them!! Love their jewelry collection!! Very unique!

    Have a great weekend!! xoxoxo

  4. Their jewelry is so beautiful and I love knowing a little more about them! Can't wait to show you photos of the earrings!

  5. Great post. Nice to hear how moms are doing it successfully. I think about turning my passion into a business daily. Problem is I have too many passions :)

  6. I love this post and that interview! They seem like some fun ladies, for sure. And I'm obsessed with that necklace!

  7. Great interview! Beautiful jewelry. I think it's everyone's dream to turn his/her passion into a business. You just have to want it badly enough, to work hard and to have a little luck too. Wishing you a wonderful weekend! xo

  8. The jewellery is just gorgeous. Love the photography too!

  9. Fantastic! I completely enjoyed this interview. I turned my love of treasure hunting into two Etsy shops selling vintage jewelry and other vintage wares and I love it so much it doesn't feel like work - even though I put in about 14 hrs a day. Having a partner would be great. I've never even thought about it until I read this. Fantastic jewelry those two are producing.

  10. I'm always so happy to read these types of stories... more specifically- to read about these types of *women. It's like a little positive energy ("fairy dust") is magically 'sprinkled' out of the screen, and on to me :).

    (and boy, did I need it today)

  11. I love their work! What fabulous ladies and a fabulous interview as well, my dear :)

    Have a great weekend! xoxo

  12. i don't think there's a market for anything involving "eating Nutella", which is my current passion. Actually, exercising at the Dailey Method is what i've been doing much of, so maybe one day i can become an instructor. you never know.

  13. yes, i have! :)

    i dream of having my own little coffee shop one day. i want to sell cute pastries and other baked goodies. gotta go to school and practice baking more though. ;)

    <3, Mimi
    $25 Apothica Gift Card Giveaway :)

  14. That's a great story and I love their creations. My job is a passion but I admire the fact to thrown oneself into a new adventure : work for yourself, create your own business, use your time as you want and OF COURSE raise your child ! I would love to do a thing like that.

    Sorry for my english... :-)

  15. I think to have a successful business you need to have a passion first.
    I dream of being a personal shopper.... been doing a lot of practising lately....

  16. What a beautiful feature. I absolutely love the pieces they've created! :)

  17. WOW! I have never heard of metal earth but I am loving them now! The beauty and earthiness of the jewelry is amazing. Thanks for sharing them with us! AWESOME

  18. I love this story Jody, and so glad you profiled them, I love how they are making their company work. It's so true about not trying to follow a set plan if you want your own life. I had a couple of friends who started their company when I did, one husband was a Harvard MBA, they both sunk 250k into the start-up. Anyway they ended up imploding and don't speak to each other anymore. I kept plodding on and here I am, still on speaking terms with my cat, the best business partner ever since she can't argue with me.
    xo mary jo

  19. What amazing ladies and amazing jewelry. I can see why they would have so much fun each day at work. Being surrounded by such beautiful pieces would have to lift your mood.

  20. love the jewelry! would love to turn a passion into day.

  21. I really like the jewelry! Thanks for sharing :D Also I really like the interview :D


  22. This is such a fantastic interview. I love the questions, I love their answers. Its always tough to balance work, family, life, and even time for yourself. Beautiful jewelry, beautiful women.

  23. I really, really loved this post. I'm thinking of starting my own business and after reading this, I feel like it is possible! I love how they balance making beautiful jewelry, running a successful business together (and are still great friends!), and family time...awesome work!

  24. What a wonderful interview! Their jewelry is amazing! So inspiring to hear about their business has grown. I think about turning my passion into a business all the time!

  25. How absolutely awesomely cool! I would love to be able to work with metal and create jewellery - and these ladies really rock!

  26. No mention of the original co-creator of the jewelry line, Kristen Kwan, and the loss of friendship between Kristen and Rebecca when Meghan replaced Kristen after Rebecca promised Meghan had no interest in the jewelry company. Hmmm. Maybe all is not so perfect and pretty after all.


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