FIELD TRIP-January/February 2011
by Veronique McAree | Photography Amanda Kowalski
Exquisite jewelry, fresh flowers, and an opera singer take center stage at Compositions, an eye-catching shop in Portland’s Old Port
Even among the ranks of Maine’s many fine jewelers, John McVeigh stands out from the crowd. But then again, McVeigh is used to standing out. In addition to designing jewelry and running a small business, McVeigh is a professional singer who has performed with some of the most celebrated opera companies in the world.
Although he still sings his way around the globe, McVeigh has called Portland home for nearly a decade. He bought a house here in 2001 to find some peace and distance from his busy life as a tenor for the Metropolitan Opera. What he also found was another passion: metalsmithing. After enrolling in an intensive class, he became hooked. So with the encouragement of his teacher, Lauren Fensterstock, he set up a working space at the Artist Studio Building and began designing jewelry in between roles and road trips.
Last year, he opened Compositions, a lovely little shop in Portland’s Old Port, with his partner James McBride, a florist. Compositions provides a showcase for floral arrangements, home accents, and of course, McVeigh’s jewelry: an assortment of necklaces, earrings, cuff links, rings, brooches, and bracelets.
One thing that makes McVeigh’s work stand out is that none of his pieces are mass-produced. McVeigh’s designs are all made in his tiny “backstage” studio in the Compositions store. “My pieces are all one-of-a-kind, handmade from gold and silver, and based in large part on the beauty of natural forms,” says McVeigh. “I use stones, fossils, and other artifacts as the focal points, and then complement the material with textured metals and interesting details.”
As an opera singer, McVeigh roams the far corners of the world filling his mind with ideas and his suitcase with materials. Gray beach stones from Portofino inspired his Wave collection, and a budding Maine fern became the “muse” for a stunning bracelet. “My design inspiration is all over the map—literally—from exotic stingray fish to pottery shards found on Maine’s own Squirrel Island,” says the artist.
His clients certainly appreciate the distinguishing details and small unexpected twists that make the jewelry unique. “It’s good to try new things,” says McVeigh. “I feel lucky that, through both my singing and jewelry designs, I’m able to tell a story and engage an audience.”