For 2013 jewelry design and metalsmithing alumna Carly Mayer, hammers, anvils, fire and metal are the tools necessary for her trade — and for her sense of empowerment.
Mayer works alongside her friends Emily Kane, a 2008 sculpture and painting alumna, and Desiree Casimiro, a 2007 broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media alumna, at their studio on the corner of Coral and East Hagert streets in Kensington. The three artists create jewelry for their business Forge & Finish, which launched in 2015.
The three friends said they started their business after realizing they could advance a brand much faster if they worked together, rather than trying to promote their own personal brands by themselves. Their jewelry is now featured in independent boutiques throughout Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Missouri, and they also sell their jewelry on their website.
Forge & Finish’s latest jewelry collection was released in November 2016. While designing jewelry for the collection, Mayer, Casimiro and Kane realized that some of their pieces resembled hieroglyphics. After researching ancient Egyptian culture, they learned that women were treated as equals in ancient Egyptian society.
Casimiro said this inspired them to name the collection after the Egyptian feline goddess Men’et, as a tribute to ancient Egypt’s progressive ideas.
Men’et is the company’s first high-end jewelry collection, available exclusively on their website. The jewelry is made with topaz and tourmaline, and can be ordered in 14-karat gold.
Mayer left Tyler in 2009 and returned in 2013 to complete her degree. She said it took her longer to graduate from Tyler because she disliked most of the jewelry design program at the time. She said she did learn many valuable skills from newer adjunct professors, like jewelry and industrial design professor Doug Bucci.
“Even though I was not always a three-dimensional artist, I’ve always been very physical and very touchy, ” Mayer said.
Mayer decided to major in jewelry, design and metalsmithing after taking a sculpture class taught by Jude Tallichet, the department head.
Tallichet, who has taught at Tyler since 1987, said misogyny is normalized in today’s society, but artists can “resist and fight back” through their work. She added that art itself is “inherently political, especially in times of government and institutional threat to individual liberties.”
“Bringing ideas into the world through a fusion of thought and craft is, I think, one of the more life-affirming actions any person can take,” Tallichet added.
Although Casimiro did not attend art school, Kane and Mayer said she has always been an artist. Casimiro learned how to make jewelry as an apprentice under Mayer.
“Desiree has always had a drive and a want to make things,” Kane said. She added that Casimiro had many creative hobbies growing up, like photography, piano and dance.
Casimiro said that in the early days of Forge & Finish, the three of them sacrificed their “better health” for the business. They each had day jobs, but they would come to the studio after work every day to work on jewelry, sometimes until 1 or 2 a.m.
“I make stuff because I have to,” Mayer said. “I can’t live my life at a desk job. If I wanted to do that I’d be making a lot more money, but this is a labor of love.”
Meghan Costa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.