Off the Charts
FIELD TRIP-August 2010
by Veronique McAree | Photography Amanda Kowalski
Jewelry designer Charlotte Leavitt gets inspiration from nautical charts to create one-of-a-kind accessories that tell her customers’ stories
What do you get when you combine an innately creative woman with a lifelong penchant for sailing and a love of nautical charts? You get Charlotte Leavitt’s CHART Metalworks, a collection of handcrafted accessories housed in a tiny second-floor studio overlooking Portland harbor.
For Leavitt, her creative pastime grew into a profession when word of the distinctive jewelry she had been making for herself and her friends got around Portland. But it wasn’t until she referenced a nautical chart tacked up on her kitchen wall one day that the light bulb went off. “I suddenly realized that it would be interesting to incorporate charts into my jewelry designs,” Leavitt says.
Soon after, she was turning nautical chart cutouts into wearable art and—when requests and reactions rolled in—she swapped her career as a loan officer to pursue her talent full-time.
Nautical charts are beautiful in their own right, and to Leavitt they are not only her artistic muse but also her medium of choice. Each piece preserves the wearer’s story, giving new meaning to the notion of jewelry as conversation piece.
Here’s how it works. Customers commission CHART Metalworks (often via their website) to craft a custom piece of jewelry that commemorates an event, honors a special location, or simply tells a story. Then, after deciding on a specific point of interest, Charlotte and her partner—and fiancé—John Gutbill source the specific chart or map, set it in resin, and finish it with custom sterling silver or bronze.
While the couple is busy charting new wholesale-account territories, they are also partnering with the iconic Sea Bags company, which is located just across the street from their Custom House Wharf studio. There, you can find a lovely glass chest full of CHART Metalworks bootie, including an array of cufflinks, pendants, belt buckles, charm bracelets, and other accessories that capture the maritime landscape of Casco Bay and beyond.