An Interview with Independent Jewellery Designer Meghan Petersen

An Interview with Independent Jewellery Designer Meghan Petersen
31/07/2014 Jenny Cook

Meghan Petersen is a 24 year old self-proclaimed “crazy cat lady” and jewellery designer from Sacramento, California. She runs a popular Tumblr called Mangled Wurzels and sells her creations on an online shop called Petercat Jewelry. For as long as she can remember arts and crafts have been daily activities for Meghan. Her father, an artist, has played an integral role in all of her artistic endeavours. She often recycles and upcycles items for use in her jewellery making and enjoys giving new life to over-looked treasures. From worn-out, donated Barbie dolls, to found bottle caps, and shatter glass from broken bus stops, Meghan has an eye for finding and creating beauty in objects that are not commonly considered notable.

While taking a short hiatus from college Meghan enrolled in The California Institute of Jewellery Training, a trade school in Carmichael, California. She was incredibly nervous about undertaking this course since as a crafter and maker of “kitschy jewellery” (as her teacher would come to call it) this school seemed like serious business. At the school she found herself grateful for the opportunity to learn from exceptionally talented jewellers and work with some extravagant equipment. It was here that she learned the basics of jewellery work, and how to use the tools available to her to make immaculate and professional grade jewellery. Meghan graduated from CIJT with a certificate in jewellery repair but she wasn’t ready to settle for a back room job just yet. She really wanted to make jewellery, not merely repair it.

As for her current employment, Meghan works at a local restaurant and gets to wear cat ties and crazy earrings all day. This March she will be attending the prestigious Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina after desiring to do so for several years. She will study ‘Steel for Jewelers’ with practicing jeweller and teacher Sarah Holden and is currently attending a metal fabrication class at the local city college taught by jewellery artist Maya Kini. Meghan has 2 cats named Mozzy and Chloe and a turtle named Copper. She is also a very organized hoarder and avid porcelain cat collector. She has a partner of 3 years who is her very best friend and parents whom she is incredibly close to. Moving away from them this year will no doubt make her sad, but she is finally ready for this necessary change. Hopefully 2014 will be a successful year for Meghan, and for Petercat Jewelry which you should be sure to take the time to look at!

Cookie: Hello Meghan, we have a lot of ground I’d like to cover so I’ll just jump straight in! A lot of your jewellery is really playful. You use a lot of Barbie faces, doll parts, cartoon pins, ribbons, eyes and explosive colours! Where do you find your components and how do you go about choosing them? Do you use a lot of recycled items?

Meghan: A lot of the pieces I use in my jewelry are recycled. When I was about ten years old someone drove down our street with a bat smashing car windows, sadly my mom’s van was a victim. I remember thinking the shatter glass in the street was so pretty, so I swept it up and put it in two huge zip lock bags. I actually didn’t open those bags until a decade later for a project in my 3d design class. We were making a house out of paper and I used the shatter glass as grass in the front and back yard. I then realized how much I loved it and began making the puzzle necklaces. Every time I see a good amount of shatter glass on the ground, which happens often in our downtown area, I throw it in my bag. I’m sure I look quite odd doing it to passer-by. The Barbie and doll heads I use were at first all mine from child hood, since making more I find them at thrift stores and yard sales.

Cookie: What kind of tools do you use to do your jewellery making? Can we hear a bit about your design and manufacture process?

Meghan: Pliers are a must for any jewelry maker. I’ve been beading since I was little- making little necklaces for my plethora of stuffed animals, attempting necklaces for my cats etc. Flat nose, round nose, and needle nose pliers are a necessity. My round nose ones have a handy spot in the front for closing jump rings and cutting wire. Right now I don’t have workshop for extensive metal work, so all the jewelry making happens in a little craft corner in my bedroom. My dad is currently building a lapidary and work shop for both of us so hopefully more metal and stone work will come from that. Resin a favorite medium of mine and it tends to require either a lot of planning or a lot of clean up. I keep large pieces of flat cardboard as a surface to set up all my resin pieces before pouring and curing.

Cookie: Where did your jewellery obsession stem from?

Meghan: My jewelry obsession stemmed from my father I suppose. He is a major rock hound. Since childhood I can remember rocks being all over our house. When i say rocks I mean a plethora of fine gems, large and small crystals, and incredible and rare minerals. There are about 6 glass display cases full of rocks in the house, and still some large ones line the carpet along the walls. When I was younger he would always take me to rock shops and flea markets to check out the stones and jewelry. We even went gold mining at Donner Lake a few times. My father has an extensive knowledge of gems and minerals and excavates a lot of the pieces he brings home. He takes trips to go crystal mining at least once a year. In 2010 he gave me a huge bag of quartz crystals he had hand excavated at a place called Crystal Peak and asked me if I could do anything with them. Within 2 days I had wire-wrapped over 100 crystals and that’s where the light bulb went off that we had something there.

Cookie: What do you study at the moment and what other creative interests to you pursue to keep your mind cogs oiled?

Meghan: Right now I’m attending the city college here and I’m taking a metal fabrications class. I wanted to have an easy semester since I’ll be out of town for Penland. I took a business class last semester that I surprisingly really enjoyed so I think I’ll be looking to take more in that field in the coming semesters. I’m not far from getting my AA and I hope to eventually get my BFA from somewhere.

Cookie: Your web shop on Storenvy is called Petercat Jewellery. Where did the name come from? I love it! It really suits your whole aesthetic and it’s one of those that I found myself memorising after only having heard it once.

Meghan: The Petercat Jewelry name kind of has an embarrassing birth. A few years ago I was really bad at keeping phones. My average phone had a 3 month life span before it was broken, lost, or stolen. One night my friend had a show at her house and at around 2 am I realized my phone was gone. I didn’t want to tell my parents I had lost yet another phone so I woke up around 8 am and biked to the cellular store to get a replacement. The person who helped me was an impressive salesman and somehow talked me into getting an iPhone. I had the iPhone for 29 days before deciding to return it. I went back to return it and upon entering there was good ‘ol Byron. “I thought I’d be seeing you again”… “What?” I asked confused. “Don’t buy expensive electronics when you’re drunk.” I didn’t remember being that bad the morning after, but there was a lot of sangria consumed the night before. I guess the AT&T workers had a big chuckle that day about the little girl who bought the iPhone and signed it Meghan Petercat. I got my first name correct and the first part of my last name but then I just decided to draw a cat face. I’ve kept the receipt as a memento.

Cookie: Do you ever sell your work via any other platforms? Fairs etc. or are you purely web based for now?

Meghan: For right now I’m entirely web based. I would like to look into selling at boutiques and cute stores near and far, but I think I need to get a bigger collection before even attempting to make those connections. I sold at a craft fair last year in this adorable little town called Nevada City. It went really well and I surprised myself with how much work I shelled out for it. I wish Sacramento had more craft fairs like that one. Renegade Craft Fair is hopefully in the future for me.

Cookie: I’ve followed your blog Mangled Wurzels for about two years now and as you may have noticed I’m quite a fan! Do you feel that blogging has helped when it’s come to getting your work out there and how so? What is the best thing about being a part of a creative network online?

Meghan: I made the blog when I had a desk job at a hostel, my co-worker had one and it seemed to make the time go that way. I never thought I would have met so many awesome people and artists through it. Had it not been for the blog and encouragement from my followers, I probably wouldn’t have opened an online store. It’s difficult when a hobby becomes a business and you need to start looking at it a different way. Not underselling yourself, pricing things the right way and using the right amount of promotion. I still struggle with the promotion part. I always wonder how much is too much, and if I’d be annoying my followers who follow me for weird cat pictures, or I don’t know what else. I made a separate blog just for my jewelry if my personal blog was not their cup ‘o tea.

The best part of being involved with a creative network is how helpful everyone is. When I was looking in to going to Penland I just searched it in the tags and kinda creeped on some people. I sent some messages just asking some basic information and suggestions, and everyone responded so kindly. I follow a lot of jewelers and crafters who are such inspirations to me. I just recently made an Instagram (after being told to for a year) and I’m getting sucked into all the wonderful progress shots that people post. It really gives you an eye into how the jewelry is made and how you can get into it yourself if you want.

Cookie: And finally what does the future hold for yourself and Petercat?

Meghan: The future is a big mystery for me; the one sure thing so far is my trip to North Carolina. I’ll be attending Sarah Holden’s session: “Steel for Jewelers” at Penland and I’m incredibly excited. After that I’ll be heading back home to Sacramento and saving up to move out. I’m 24 and still living at home. My parents are my absolute best friends and my biggest inspirations, but I am definitely ready to move out and be on my own. My mom has multiple sclerosis, so I don’t plan on going far. She means the world to me and would never want to hold me back from anything. Regardless, I can’t imagine not being close to her. I’m excited to be able to set up a proper workspace for myself and come back home when the lapidary is finished and do some work with my father. Moving out has always been a scary thought and I think everyone should wait until they’re fully ready. I know now that I am definitely ready, and hope that my soon to be diminished Ebay shopping problem is too.

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