THE METAL WORKER

Byline: Anita J. Finkelstein

ATLANTA — “I like things you can hold in your hands,” explains Sarah Cavender, watching a visitor play with one of her dragonfly pins. This is why the 33-year-old, who majored in sculpture at the Philadelphia College of Art, scaled down her designs into pins, earrings and necklaces and created Sarah Cavender Metalworks.
The 10-year-old company recently relocated from Philadelphia to Oxford, Ala., and is making a big hit in the southern market. Cavender showed her line of intricate, yet simple designs for the first time at the January Atlanta Apparel Market and picked up about 15 new accounts. Last year, the company brought in $529,000 in sales and is ahead 25 percent for 1995.
Most of Cavender’s jewelry designs use metal mesh and screening as a base. She forms her pieces by rolling and folding the material into a variety of shapes, from flowers and bugs to more abstract geometrical designs. The mesh, which is made of brass, comes silverplated, gold-toned or in shades like pink and blue, which are created using oxidized bronze powders.
“It’s a very unique look that covers a broad range of style,” says Cavender. She points out that some of her pieces have an antique Victorian style to them, while others are big and bold and look very modern. “I pick different ideas and then reinterpret them in mesh,” is how she explains it.
All the jewelry is made by hand in her factory right in the middle of the small town of Oxford. Downstairs, she’s opened a small store that also sells her pieces.
Wholesale prices begin at $12 for a pair of earrings and go up to $90 for a belt, with most items falling in the $30-to-$50 range. The line is carried in stores such as Rexer Parkes, Atlanta; McClure’s, Nashville; Gus Mayer, Birmingham, and Nordstrom, Seattle, which is her largest account.
She currently employs seven people in her factory, has reps in Chicago, Dallas and New York and has just started doing some advertising. “Designing jewelry is something you can do to make money. You have to be dead to make any money as a sculptor,” laughs Cavender.