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Beehive Silver: Sandra Bonazoli and Jim Dowd

July 4, 2015

I love this classic anchor necklace, a symbol of hope made in Providence, R.I. Here’s a conversation with the husband-and-wife team who make them:

 

“We’re a couple that was brought together by our love of the craft of metalsmithing, working with hand tools, and making meaningful things. This was back when we were in art school, back when the idea of trying to earn a living making our own artwork seemed practically impossible.

 

A few years later, while living in an old New England farmhouse we had an idea for a collection of metal kitchenware. We took our inspiration from the practical and beautiful vintage kitchenware that we found at flea markets and estate sales, and got to work designing a collection of cups, spoons, and utensils.

 

When we took our first samples to the American Craft Council show that winter, we never could have imagined the incredible response that our collection received. Realizing that we couldn’t run a metalsmithing shop out of a farmhouse, we moved our studio to a 19th century mill in Fall River, MA and partnered with a generations old silversmithing company near Providence, RI to help with production. In 2015 we moved our studio to the historic harbor town of Bristol, RI.

 

In the years since 1999 when we first began producing our work, a few things have changed; we finally finished renovating our vintage cottage and we now work in a beautiful, light-filled studio, but the things that are important to us have not – making objects with meaning that are built to last. And finding time for long bike rides, and living and working close to the cool, blue, sparkling sea.”

 

 

At which school did you two meet? 
 
Sandi and I met at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. The jewelry and metals studio was located in downtown New Bedford. The UMD metals program traces its roots back through the Swain School of Design, to the Boston University Program in Artistry.
 

 

Providence once had a thriving silversmithing industry; how difficult was it to find a manufacturer?
What was that experience like? 

 
We founded Beehive in 1999. From the beginning we knew that we wanted to be near Providence for that very reason. Taunton, MA, about 30 miles north of Providence, was also a silversmithing town home to Reed and Barton which filed for bankruptcy in 2015. All of the primary manufacturers that we work with are now run by second or third generation family members. Finding manufacturers to partner with was as easy as opening the phone book (remember, it was 1999).
It is important to our business, and to us personally, that the local economies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island continue their tradition of manufacturing. Many of our original partners have closed down over the last fifteen years. As metalsmiths, it’s difficult to see that happen, because once those craftsmen mothball their tools and equipment, it is likely that those skills will be lost from our culture forever.
 

 

What makes Bristol remarkable? 
 
We moved our studio to Bristol, RI this past July after fifteen years in Fall River, MA. Our new studio is located in the former Kaiser Aluminum wire and cable building, built in 1864. Bristol is a small town with a long manufacturing and maritime history and we were excited to find a great workspace just three blocks from main street.
 

 

There are so many styles of anchors – which did you base yours on?
 
The design for the anchor on our necklace was inspired by a visit to the Herreshoff Marine Museum around the corner from our studio. Herreshoff built eight America’s Cup defenders, which are beautiful sail boats, but we were most impressed by the displays of brass marine hardware and anchors. Rather than attach the anchor to the chain with a jump ring we connect ours with a simple slip knot. It’s a small detail, inspired by the lines and rigging of vintage Herreshoff sail boats.

 

 

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