Enter The North Way Studio where you will find heirloom jewels and carved nature-inspired forms. Maria is the goldsmith behind these magical, handcrafted talismans. Her creations are inspired by antique jewelry, giving each piece an aura of mystery. Read on to discover more about Maria’s inspiration and process.
Describe the path you took to become a goldsmith and business owner. Tell us your story.
The North Way Studio began in 2011 when my husband and I were living very far away from home, family, and everything we knew, and felt comfortable with. Creating art has always been the way I express sadness, anxiety, or just when I’m feeling a little pissed off even, so it didn’t surprise me when that shifted to tinkering with simple wire-wrapping.
I watched videos on Youtube and rented books to learn more about techniques, trying them out on gold-fill wire and gemstone briolettes. It quickly became my obsession and soon I was wanting to try out soldering, setting, and just about anything else I could imagine. It really didn’t go all that well.
When we moved back north for my husband to finish his degree, I enrolled in an arts program at a local college, hoping to learn a bit more. I figured out more with soldering, a few other techniques, but I was absolutely miserable in the other classes.
The vision I had in my mind for my shop wasn’t coming along, so I decided to shift again, dropping out of art school. That was one of the best decisions of my life!
After lots of e-mails and reaching out, I was fortunate enough to become an apprentice under two incredible master goldsmiths, and that’s where everything really began to come together for me.
I was sizing countless rings, setting tiny diamond stud after tiny diamond stud, polishing until my fingers were raw, but I had never loved doing anything more.
The two master goldsmiths encouraged me to follow what I found as beautiful, always letting me work on my own projects for The North Way Studio throughout the day, giving me tips, and helping when I tried a technique that really was way above my skill level.
It has still taken quite a few years to find my aesthetic, but it’s starting to resemble what I’ve always seen in my head for my shop.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian actually!
Can you describe the workspace where The North Way Studio magic happens? Looks, smells, sounds…
The North Way Studio is tucked in our home in eastern Washington. It smells of coffee, sleepy puppies, blown-out candles, and is filled with antique curiosities stuffed with dried florals. It’s a little dark and dreary, which is always magical to me.
What is it about gold and gemstones that captures your imagination? Do you have a favorite stone or material you love to work with?
Working in gold is a filthy and sometimes dangerous journey, but after all the polishing compound is scrubbed away, something beautiful is left behind—I’ve always loved seeing that transformation.
Gemstones that are more included and rustic, completely unlike others in their flaws, are my favorites to work with. Natural emeralds riddled with wispy fractures or an imperial topaz that looks like a crystallized honey droplet will always just make me fall in love with them.
Where do you find inspiration while away from your bench?
From old fairytales, piles of books, walks through the darker edges of the forest, a bottle of red wine (or two), history documentaries, and antique paintings.
Is there another art form, era, or art movement from which you draw inspiration for your own craft? What about it do you find inspiring?
The 1700s has been a fascination of mine this past year—the art, the jewelry, the fashion, the guise of beauty over some of the bloodiest times in history. Maybe my soul just belongs in that time period, but I can’t seem to stop wanting to learn more and more about it.
The general public seems to be becoming more interested in handcrafted wares. Why do you think this movement is gaining steam in today’s world?
I think we actually just took a break from caring about handcrafted wares as a society these past fifty years or so, but it seems like that’s coming to an end.
Personally, I would always rather have a piece created by hand with so much love and attention. They’re not just an object anymore, they become treasures when they’re handmade—and I think we’re realizing that again.
Can you give a shout-out to another vintage or handmade seller we ought to know about?
Oh gosh, I could write a whole book of talented people that deserve to have their names shouted from the mountainsides! Cheyenne Weil is incredibly phenomenal—her wax carving may be some of the best in the world and is always so inspiring. Sarah Brown is another. Her work just captures nature somehow in the most ethereal of ways.
Where can we find you online?
Do you have any upcoming events, fairs, etc.?
I don’t have any scheduled yet, but I hope to start making my rounds in shows and renaissance fairs very soon!
Any final thoughts?
Fill your studio (and life!) with things that you find beautiful—and read lots of books!
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