It has been a while since I have shared, I was presented with some difficult hurdles the past 2 years and life got busy. Then the events of 2020 happened and here we are…time has practically stopped so I am taking advantage of it. With where we are in our world right now and watching as so many small business owners struggle, I feel it is a perfect time to resurrect my series showcasing independent small businesses who produce items “Made in America” and I want you to meet Mary Elizabeth Long!
I have lived in Nashville, Tennessee for 20 years now and Mary Elizabeth Long was one of the earliest creatives I had the honor to work with as a photographer. I have watched her grow and change, starting as my go to makeup artist and wardrobe stylist (and competitive ballroom dancer) to becoming a photographer, to learning guitar and songwriting to where she has landed today as an incredible jewelry designer. She is extremely talented, always has a smile on her face and exudes inspiration when in her presence. In her own words…. “life is short and I’m trying to get it all in!!”
Mary Elizabeth was in the professional photography industry for 30 years specializing in fashion, advertising and music. When her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 her life drastically changed when he moved in with her and her husband. His well being required constant supervision and she had to prioritize her time by making his care come first. She gave up all of her makeup, wardrobe and photography work in order to spend quality time with her dad because she felt whatever time she had left with him was more important. I quietly admired her Instagram post from afar as she shared glimpses of playing guitar, writing songs and practicing music with her father. She says that she saw a physical change in him through his joy of playing his harmonica. His love of the music and hers brought them both closer despite his fight with Alzheimer’s. She had very little time for herself during this period but when she was alone she started researching and collecting tools and supplies with the desire to try and create jewelry from home.
After a very challenging year she realized her father needed more help than she was capable of giving so she made a difficult decision and moved him into memory care. Today, he is doing well and they have figured out ways to communicate and share music despite the inability to visit in person due to Covid. Here is a recent visit via the outside of his facility.
Once she had her dad in a safe space, Mary Elizabeth realized how much she had missed the things that she loved doing outside of her time with her father. A true believer that “when God closes one door he always opens up something better!” It was then that she took her love of fashion and wardrobe styling and began working with wire to start making jewelry as a career…once she started she could not stop!
As a self taught creator, NashVegas Hippie went public in 2015. She began collecting crystals and fossils, working with wire and wrapping them up in different styles. She worked with clay and leather and continues to expand her knowledge of tools and materials available for her craft.
“It’s a wonderful creative outlet for me. When I am designing and making jewelry, all of my worries go away. I get lost in the process, in the art.”
Around this time she and her husband were on vacation in New Orleans, they walked into a cool shop in The French Quarter and of course she was wearing her jewelry. The owner of the store, Meredyth Renyolds, walked up to Long while checking out everything she had on. Renyolds admiringly said she loved the ring she was wearing, Long acknowledged that she had made it and gave it to her on the spot! Renyolds then asked if she had any other jewelry she could see and Long happened to have brought a box full of pieces with her at the request of her husband. Earlier he had said, “you never know who you will meet” and he was right. Renyolds ended up putting about 30 pieces in her store that day…and ordered more! Long was inspired to keep creating, and to grow her art, eventually a rep at the AmericasMart in Atlanta started carrying her unique jewelry. For several years her jewels were sold to shops all over the country.
Over time Long believes her style has evolved, she says it has become harder for her to give up her creations, “I know it sounds crazy but they are a part of me, my babies!”
Today Mary Elizabeth’s jewelry business venture is her new priority, but her interest in jewelry goes back to her childhood when she literally cut her teeth as an infant on her mother’s gold add-a-beads. Her father always wore jewelry and offered it to her for special occasions. Her Aunt Nan was a huge fashion influence, she handed down old Vogue and Bazaar magazines as well as old makeup. Long loved fashion and was intrigued with everything in the pages of those 70’s-80’s fashion magazines, she studied them and it became personal. She remembers as far back as kindergarten having to make a fashion statement with her red boots and bell bottoms! In high school she started making her own jewelry from paper, paint and beads as well as the oven baked plastic sheets, in a sense she had made a full circle and ended back where her early interest in fashion started.
Her latest obsession is collecting and incorporating antique jewelry dies and wood blocks from India, some dating back to the 1800’s hand carved by master engravers. She incorporates different colors of bronze, copper, and silver into her work and loves bringing them back to life. Over the years she has acquired a unique and admirable collection of items.
She has started creating jewelry from the dies collected using metal clay, it allows her to recreate ancient looking talismans and amulets.
Once the clay is dried, carved and sanded, it is fired in a kiln at a very high temperature where the binder is burned off and becomes solid metal. She then polishes and patinas each piece making them appear really old, almost as if they were excavated!
The entire process takes several days but she truly enjoys every step. Her background in makeup artistry, in particular, has helped her with jewelry making. Her close attention to detail and perfectionism can be seen in each and every one of a kind piece. “It’s like meditation. It’s still amazing to me that I can take a piece of wire, leather or clay and create a beautiful piece of jewelry!”
You can really feel the magic and energy in each piece of Mary Elizabeth’s work and I see her beautiful personality coming through every creation. Obviously the sales of jewelry in public has been halted due to the Covid virus. Because all of her jewelry is one of a kind, she has decided to put a few items in a pop auction each week (she calls it 3 at 3) on her Facebook Page to see what happens. Each of her bronze, silver and copper pieces will come with a certificate of authenticity. If you would like to see what she is selling or reach out for something in particular, be sure to check out her personal FB page or Nashvegas Hippie on FB and her main site.
I hope you have enjoyed Learning about Mary Elizabeth Long. I would love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave comments below. Stay tuned for more stories ahead!
*NOTE all Sheri Oneal blog posts are ©2020 Sheri Oneal. Feel free to share my blog link but any other use of photos or content must be agreed upon in writing.