The brass piece knots around itself and curves into a polished crown. It’s contoured in a natural way, like the very tip of a cornucopia or a perfectly plaited dutch braid nestled along the nape. This particular adornment is No. 114 in the Spark + Pepper collection. A simple, unassuming, and elegant ring.
For Meredith Peck, designer behind Spark + Pepper, making jewelry was an art she fell in love with while searching for greater creative energy and freedom. “As a [graphic] designer I felt very limited in front of a computer and I wanted something a bit more organic that I could create with my hands,” she says. “I wanted to leave a little bit of myself, literally, in the pieces that I’ve put together, foraged, or designed.” The desire to create organically led her to experiment with brass and gold, two metals she now works exclusively in. And like those metals, she found that she had the ability to mold, change, and reshape her life and goals, and even the way she views challenges. “I just realized that when you stress out about the littlest things that you have no control over, it’s all encompassing. I think that’s one of the reasons why I started doing [Spark + Pepper] for myself.”
Meredith explores the organic nature of jewelry through three avenues: letting nature dictate and inspire; physical carving, filling, and cutting of wax to create shape; and manipulating restrictive materials into jewelry. Much of her current collection revolves around the physical act of rope tying and the textures created by casting metals from pieces of rope. In the past, snake femur bones have inspired delicate brass brooches. Dried mistletoe berries currently lie in her jeweler’s box waiting to be casted and turned into adornments on rings or bracelets.
“Metal has this very restrictive quality to it,” she says, “but when you melt that metal, it’s completely liquefied and you can form it into anything you want. You can go from hard to soft to hard again, and form something completely different.” Her interest lies in understanding the balance between these hard and soft elements and creating pieces that embody both. “The hard could be the weight of the piece. The soft could be the curvature of the piece. It could be any two things.”
For Meredith, balancing elements of hard and soft is more than a creative endeavor, it is a way of life. Her formative years were split between a childhood in Korea and an adolescence in New Jersey where she grew up with her adopted family. At a young age, she found an inner strength that shaped her outlook on life and work and propelled her through all the variations of life, family, and relationships. “As a person who’s always wanted structure with the whole business of ‘being,’ I was very focused on finding balance,” Meredith says. “Being lost as a kid, not really knowing why some things were, or why some paths were laid out the way they were, once I found balance [in life] I wanted even more of that. All my life I’ve never strayed from who I am and where I was going, and in that way I’m very sure about the designs that I come up with and create. I’m pretty confident of the pieces I put out.”
With Spark + Pepper and a newly released fine jewelry line called Mer, Meredith continues to explore the softer side of her personality. At a youthful 40 with a newborn baby girl, she aims to create pieces that resonate with customers and have an enriched personal story unique to their wearers. “Spark + Pepper is very personal to me; it’s about memories, goals, ideas, and power,” she explains. More than simple adornment, jewelry can be a statement of inner beauty and inner empowerment. “I want girls to feel powerful in what they wear,” she says. “When I put something on, it’s not a statement to someone else, it’s a piece around my neck that has weight and balance and makes me feel confident and secure.” Spark + Pepper is for women who are self-assured and exude quiet strength through simple and classic style. “There’s no doubt about who you are as a person.”
What are your preferred metals?
MEREDITH: Anything yellow. Gold tones aren’t more beautiful, but there’s something that happens with it. I think that there’s a bit of history when you receive a piece of gold or gold-toned jewelry. It never changes color, it’s the softest metal but still very hard. It feels like there’s a very enriched history that comes with the piece. In the back of my mind when I work with gold, I know that it’s forever. You could pass it down to your kids and their kids. The life cycle of this piece of metal is kind of amazing. You kind of want those pieces that were in your family for generations because they have so much meaning behind them. It’s about the longevity of a piece. A piece that has this representation of ‘forever’ to me is kind of interesting thing. And I try to wear and create things that have that kind of feel. Forever.
How did you learn to make jewelry?
MEREDITH: I took classes, very basic classes that taught you how to saw a metal, how to join two ends of a metal. I fell in love with the fact that there was this chemistry element which was very scientific, and there was this organic element that was very like art related which you could be creative in. So I kept taking classes for a couple years and I started to realize that there were craft techniques that need more [in-depth] learning. I thought about going for a full certificate but I’m a firm believer of learning as you go and all the mistakes that you make are the way you should be learning anyway. There are so many different ways to learn about the craft, so I try to take a class at least once year.
How would you describe your style?
MEREDITH: I think my jewelry style is definitely a balance of the functional and sentimental, while still being elegant. I’m a huge believer of easy pieces that you don’t have to think about and you almost forget you have on. I think that’s basically my personal style. I want to be comfortable. It’s that easy going, perfect flowy top that makes you feel like you could go from walking in the park to going to a 5-star restaurant at the end of the night. And I think that’ kind of where I am with my design in my jewelry.
What is your inspiration when it comes to jewelry?
MEREDITH: I think it’s kind of all over the place. Traveling is definitely one that influences my work. What’s around me in my environment and what I come across. It could be as simple as a pebble I found in Iceland when we were traveling.
Why do you number your pieces?
MEREDITH: When I first started I thought I had to have meaning and symbolism for every piece that I put out there. And I soon realized that that wasn’t me — it sounded really bullshit. So I quickly decided forget it. I’m not the kind of designer that needs to go out and look at the moon and the stars and have them all align for that to become my collection. I’m just not that kind of person. That’s why all my pieces are named as a number. To me they’re just like specimens that I’ve come to know.