How a Fort Wayne jewelry-artisan-turned-retail-entrepreneur is supporting fellow makers

Fort Wayne is home to artists and makers of many crafts, but one hot item at local boutiques is the ever-growing selection of made-in-Fort-Wayne jewelry.

From poms to macramé to leather, resin, and polymer clay, young female artisans are creating earrings, necklaces, and more to suit many styles.

Chasms earrings are made in Fort Wayne.

To help customers navigate the options, a boutique called The Find in downtown Fort Wayne created a local Jewelry Makers Guide in March, has been promoting local artisans on its Instagram. It hosts Saturday pop-ups in its entryway featuring local makers, too.

The move to support Fort Wayne artisans is a nod to Shop Owner Melani Wilson’s personal journey as a jewelry artisan and retail entrepreneur

Before opening The Find, Wilson owned two iterations of retail stores in Roanoke and launched her own jewelry line, Melani Wilson Designs. Her jewelry is inspired by the timeless bohemian styles she admired in the Sundance catalog and seeks to showcase the natural beauty of pearls and semi-precious stones.

Wilson shares a pair of her own earrings at The Find's local earring display.

Wilson often uses natural materials in her designs.

In 2016, Wilson opened The Find with two partners in downtown Fort Wayne. Its first store was about 900-square-feet on the ground level of the Ash Skyline building, and while Wilson was leery that customers might be dismayed by parking downtown and other logistics at first, the venture took off.

“It was just a really great first year we had,” she says.

Wilson opened The Find in downtown Fort Wayne in 2016 and has since expanded her shop.

Since then, Wilson has expanded The Find to its current location on the corner of Wayne and Harrison streets. She describes the business as a “lifestyle shop,” which is equal parts 1) gifts, décor, and furniture, 2) baby products and unique toys and 3) women's clothing and accessories.

About a third of The Find is devoted to children and baby items.

As the owner, she doesn’t prefer to work the retail floor, but she finds a deep sense of purpose in managing the shop’s robust community connections, which have been numerous.

Recently, The Find and Wilson were partners in the City of Fort Wayne’s “Meters with a Mission” project, turning old parking meters into works of public art, which provide artists with commissioned work and offer nonprofits free advertising. The Find’s own meter was designed by local artist Lyndy Bazile of AfroPlump and supports the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast.

The Find and Wilson were partners in the City of Fort Wayne’s “Meters with a Mission” project.

The Find’s meter was designed by local artist Lyndy Bazile of AfroPlump and supports the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast.

Designed by entrepreneurs Kristin Giant and Ty Simmons, and housed with the Fort Wayne Community Foundation, the Family & Friends Fund seeks to create greater equity in the city by infusing a formerly redlined district with economic opportunity.

Prior to the Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Fort Wayne last summer, Wilson had planned to meet with Giant, to discuss her own impact investing firm called Hyper-Local Impact. But by the time they met, two protests had ended in police dispersing crowds with tear gas and minor damage to The Find’s building. As a result, Wilson and Giant’s conversation shifted to current events.

“The Tuesday morning after the protests, the store was all boarded up,” Wilson says. “We were sitting here in the dark, and Kristin really didn't want to talk about Hyper-Local Impact. Instead, she told me about how, that weekend, she'd had this idea for the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast, and I was like, ‘Do it. This is so cool.’”

Kristin Giant of the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast models a necklace by The HEDGE at The FInd.

Since Giant and Simmons launched the fund, Wilson and her team have been donors and active supporters, promoting it on social media. Wilson realizes that she has prime real estate and a voice in the downtown community, and she wants to use those assets to help others.

“I'm fortunate enough to have this space, so when I hear about positive things happening in the community, it starts propelling me into partnerships,” Wilson says. “That’s what really excites me about this work. I’m always trying to ask local creators and innovators: How can we help you?”

Behind the scenes of a photoshoot by Ruth Yaro at The Find featuring the women of Courageous Healing Inc.

Along with supporting the fund, Wilson and her team’s desire to help local changemakers and artists has manifested itself in Saturday pop-up shops in The Find’s entryway for local makers and innovators.

“We try to be very focused on supporting women, children, and art in our partnerships,” Wilson says.

Just before Mental Health Awareness Month in May, The Find hosted a pop-up shop (and did a product photoshoot) with the women of Courageous Healing Inc., which offers holistic mental health services designed by and for People of Color.

“We don’t charge our partners for our pop-ups, and non-profit partners get 10 percent of our proceeds from the day, in addition to the chance to sell their own products,” Wilson says. “We tend to get a lot of foot traffic downtown on Saturdays, so it’s been really amazing.”

The Find sells women's clothing and accessories, children and baby items, as well as unique gifts and home decor.

Hosting pop-ups has also helped Wilson grow her selection of locally made products at The Find and keep a pulse on what her buyers want.

“What I love about Fort Wayne is that there are so many great opportunities for creative partnerships here, and people are often excited to support each other’s visions,” she says.

About 10 percent of the items at the shop are regionally made.

One large motivating force for her is helping other jewelry artisans, like herself. She says that when she first started making her own jewelry, getting noticed and marketing her products in a smaller Indiana city had a lot of hurdles.

“Back when I started making jewelry, Etsy had just started, and there was no Squarespace to help you build a website,” Wilson says. “So for me, it’s fun to see these young women making jewelry today and selling it online or locally. They’re able to express themselves creatively and make a little money on it.”

Below are a few highlights of the local jewelry artisans in Fort Wayne you can shop at The Find. You can also discover a whole range of locally made products on The Find’s website.

Local Jewelry Makers Guide

Chasms

Local artisan: Ana Pierson

The Chasms Earring Collection features cool clay pieces in modern shapes, fun textures, and versatile colors, and the brand adds new styles all the time.

chasmscollection.com

Chasms earrings made by Ana Pierson of Fort Wayne.


Knotoday Studio

Local artisan: Cheyenne Adams

Knotoday Studio creates handmade jewelry and other goodies, often involving fiber art, macramé, and fringe for all the boho vibes.

etsy.com/shop/KnotodayStudio

Knotoday Studio earrings made by Cheyenne Adams of Fort Wayne.


OFabz

Local artisan: Olivia Fabian

OFabz brings a bright and joyous approach to daily life (and jewelry) with pops of color in poms of all sizes that are sure to cheer you up.

ofabz.co

OFabz earrings made by Olivia Fabian of Fort Wayne.


The HEDGE

Local artisan: Julie Wall

The HEDGE offers fierce, laser-cut jewelry inspired by various forms of nature. It is very lightweight, maintenance-free, AND it is all created using ethically sourced materials that would have otherwise been discarded. So you can look great guilt-free!

thehedgestudios.com/collections/jewelry

The HEDGE earrings are made in Fort Wayne by Julie Wall.


Sailor & Ruby

Local artisan: Rebecca Dodds

With natural accents and nautical themes, Sailor & Ruby’s jewelry is ideal for making a splash this summer.

sailorandruby.com

Sailor & Ruby earrings made by Rebecca Dodds of Fort Wayne.


Melani Wilson Designs

Local artisan: Melani Wilson

The Melani Wilson Designs collection features timeless, elegant and personal jewelry crafted from fine metals, semi-precious stones and freshwater pearls. Build your jewelry wardrobe with thoughtful pieces that will stand the test of time and be treasured by generations to come.

melaniwilsondesigns.com

A necklace made by Melani Wilson Designs.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
Signup for Email Alerts