Nashville Local Continues Jeweler's Legacy
February 17, 2013
Artisan brand was founded 28 years ago
By Elayna Schranz
Job: owner and designer, Margaret Ellis Jewelry
Shifting vantage point: Mclaine Richardson spent her formative years in the arts-friendly environment of University School of Nashville, among the same teachers and 40 classmates she had known for 13 years. It took leaving her comfort zone after high school for her to identify where she best fit into the outside world. Nearly a decade later, Richardson is a full-fledged professional in her hometown as the newly appointed owner and designer of Margaret Ellis Jewelry, a local artisan brand founded 28 years ago by Ellis herself.
Concerning her entree into the independent business world, Richardson says, "I could not have laid it out better myself."
She majored in business and design at Furman University, then spent eight months in a corporate position before re-discovering her fine-arts roots. Dabbling in freelance design work reconnected her with Ellis, whom Richardson's mother had been buying jewelry from since the early '90s.
Right place, right time: The jewelry design elective classes Richardson had taken at Vanderbilt University and in Italy while studying abroad served her well when a spot opened up in Ellis' studio. She saw potential to finally strike the right balance between her business nature and inner artist. Ellis' open attitude to new design ideas and the studio's small team allowed Richardson to flourish in a supportive environment, earning her a permanent role as jewelry metalsmith and studio manager in 2009.
Intimate involvement with both the brand's aesthetic and enterprise sides helped Richardson to build a solid foundation in the trade. Upon retirement, Ellis offered Richardson and her mother, Connie, the opportunity to take over the business. Connie's advertising background and involvement with the creative Nashville community as co-founder of Nashville Fashion Week would complement Richardson's personal familiarity with studio operations.
After several months of mentoring by Ellis and a co-designed August line, Richardson made the tradition to owner and designer in January 2013.
Making her own mark: Richardson debuted her first independently designed Margaret Ellis Jewelry line during a trade show visit to New York City and says it was well-received by the brand's wholesale clients. She hopes that local customers will be as pleased. A major element of the brand's unique look is its handcrafted nature, she says, and her own mastery of Ellis' techniques ensures design continuity. To further emulate the brand's signature style, she intends to draw inspiration from 30 years of design catalogs.
The use of precious metals such as silver, copper and gold with accents of pearls and stones reflects in the brand's price range, with pieces retailing from $100 to $1,000, or more for custom design. Richardson says she aims to be more conservative with materials to cater to customers' pocketbooks and the rising cost of labor.
She and her mother have streamlined administrative aspects of the business, buying Richardson more hands-on time in the workshop. She will deliver three new lines a year for trade show visits and will continue to design special mini-lines for trunk shows in the spring and fall.
Ellis remains a mentor to Richardson, who says she was pleased to receive the founding designer's stamp of approval on her first independently designed line in January.