Do you remember what it was like to see something truly special for the first time? Moments like that can shape us, and it is Mary Liz of M.Liz Jewelry whose insight is a reminder of this.
The type of person we are is often reflected in our work, and such is the case with Mary Liz, a SCAD alum. She is one half of the Mamie Ruth/M. Liz storefront on Liberty Street, where the theme of peace and good vibes from Mamie Ruth designer Emily Bargeron rings true for Mary Liz’s personality as well.
Her outlook on life is reflected in the jewelry she creates. From her early family life to discovering her passion, the best conversations are the ones that are both relatable and leave us ready to take chances and follow our hearts. Mary Liz’s jewelry is now being sold by Free People, but how did she come to know that she was meant to make jewelry?
Mary Liz grew up in Akron, Ohio with parents who were supportive of the arts. After applying only to art-based colleges, Mary Liz was accepted to SCAD, her first choice. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in metals and jewelry, and it was while attending SCAD that she discovered her passion for jewelry making. Initially, Mary Liz went to SCAD for interior design, but after arriving here, she learned about all of the other opportunities SCAD offers. Mary Liz decided to take the introductory classes for both fibers and jewelry, and was then able to see a future for herself in jewelry.
“Think about what would make you happy, because you can turn it into whatever career you want,” said Mary Liz.
Mary Liz is a role model that leads by example. She explained to me the importance of working under somebody, as well as working for somebody to learn proper business practices. Before starting her own jewelry line in 2013, Mary Liz worked for Zia on Broughton street for three years.
Mary Liz emphasized that taking your art and turning it into an actual business is one of the most difficult things for young designers and entrepreneurs. Still, making and designing her own pieces felt worth it, and after selling them on her own website for a year, Mary Liz began doing wholesale, which was right around the time that she and Emily opened up their storefront.
While the storefront serves as an overstock, Mary Liz makes all of her pieces in her studio within the store. Using some recycled metal, all of her stones are natural; therefore they are not polished, which saves on cutting excess stone.
Materials like leather and feathers sourced from an Indian preservation are also present in her collections. To create two collections per year, Mary Liz goes on a buying trip once a year to purchase all of her stones. She builds off each of her collections by removing styles that aren’t selling well and enhancing the ones that are.
In school, Mary Liz wore small, understated pieces of jewelry before growing into bigger and bolder pieces. Her own designs include small necklaces for the minimalist and cuffs meant for stacking.
“I feel like my style is very eclectic, in things that I not only make, but things that I have found in my travels,” explained Mary Liz.
In her classes at SCAD, Mary Liz was taught everything, down to old metalworking techniques, the same techniques that machines do now but were once done by hand. The purpose of this, she explained, is to make sure students know everything that goes into the process of jewelry making from the beginning.
Of course, Mary Liz credits SCAD for focusing on teaching students to prepare a proper resume and portfolio. Mary Liz also wants to encourage us to take advantage of the lectures SCAD offers, to listen to all of the inspiring speakers they bring to us.
“SCAD does so much to include you in this great artist community that they have built in Savannah. I slept on Broughton Street four years in a row to get tickets to the fashion show,” she said.
Resumes and sleeping on Broughton Street are all memories that can accompany life at SCAD. But what is her life like now, and how does it affect her work? The truly special things we experience can shape and influence our artwork, and for Mary Liz being a mom is the most special part of her life.
When I asked how she stays inspired, she answered, “I automatically love what I do, but I have a fourteen-month-old son.”
Finally, Mary Liz said with a big smile, “You see a little person seeing everything for the first time and it reminds you of everything that is beautiful in the world.”
Written by Carly Walker
Photos by Liam Graham Haehnle