Name: LUTZENHISER JEWELRY
Location: STEVENSVILLE, MONTANA, USA
Mission: IT’S OUR JOB TO MAKE YOU SHINE
It was by pure chance that I stumbled upon an Etsy shop run by a couple in America. I was looking for a birthday present for my boyfriend and found a lovely handmade turtle pendant with a spiral on it. I offered to write a Spiralling feature on them to say thank you.
Robert and Kate Lutzenhiser met in 1981 in a biker bar in downtown Missoula, MT. “Robert’s cousin was Kate’s best friend. Kate was studying Anthropology at the University of Montana and Robert had a wood shop in the basement of Luke’s Bar where he made cabinets and other items. We were married in 1984 and planted our roots 25 miles South of Missoula in Stevensville, MT in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley.”
Robert studied Art for several years at the University of Montana and became interested in making jewelry.
After they married 1984, Kate took a job bookkeeping for a local business and Robert began doing craft shows at the University. However Kate was unhappy with the bookkeeping job so she began learning how to make jewelry. “We have been working together ever since. We have a lot of experience with the craft show circuit, which for many years took us coast to coast.”
Since 1989 they have been designing and creating jewelry. “From pieces with whimsical charm to high, fashion fine jewelry, we love creating versatile and unique jewelry that compliments people of all ages.” Using the medium of lost wax casting, they design their own jewelry, make their own molds and forge their own metals. “We also do some lapidary work, enamelling, forging and fabricating.”
Living in Western Montana, the couple are surrounded by mountains, rivers, and breath taking scenery. “We are inspired by everything around us. We appreciate the natural beauty of the world around us and incorporate that into our work. We also take inspiration from art and culture throughout the world. We have Celtic, Chinese, Persian and Mayan inspired collections, to name a few.”
The Lutzenhiser’s moved into their property on Main Street in 1989. “It had an adjoining building and the property became available for purchase in 2000. We were able to expand our business and have two separate areas of our store. On one side of the building is our Primoris Gallery, dedicated to limited edition and one of a kind fine jewelry art pieces. The other is our production side, Lutzenhiser Jewelry, and the two are separated by a large and inviting foyer. Our studio and workshop is located in the back.”
They have many local and loyal customers who stop in not just to buy jewelry, but to say “Hi” and share a laugh or three and perhaps enjoy some time in their new courtyard. “We have a shop cat, Maizie, who came to live with us in 2013. She spends most of her days soaking up sunbeams in our large West facing windows in the gallery and greeting customers.” When I asked the couple if they had any funny stories to tell they recalled a time a lady had walked in wearing her bathrobe. “Well she handed us her wedding ring. She explained she was getting divorced and wanted to watch Robert melt down her ring into a puddle of gold! That was one for the books.”
In November 2014 they celebrated their 25th anniversary as a Main Street business. “That was huge. It was great to have friends and family come from all over to share in our celebration. Our customers are our friends and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to keep the lights on, so to speak. It was great to be able to thank everyone with a live music, excellent food and beverages and happiness all around.” Things haven’t always been plain sailing for the business though ” The largest thing we’ve overcome would have to be keeping a Main Street business in rural Montana open for 26 years. With fluxuations in the economy, we’ve seen neighboring businesses have to close their doors or struggle to stay open. We’ve also seen neighbors thrive and succeed in spite of economic hardships. There have been good and bad years, but we love what we do and are happy as long as we can continue doing it.”
In 2000 they held the inaugural ‘First Friday’ in Stevensville, something that would become a permanent monthly event. “Other towns and bigger cities in the area had been holding events on the first Friday of the month where they would be open a little later and offer refreshments. It was a great way to invite people who many not stop in otherwise to see our work and get to know us.” They often have live music by local bands to entertain the crowds. “We also do our best to contribute to local charities whether it be by donating a jewelry piece, collecting food for the local Food Bank, or just helping with advertising and hosting special events. We live in a vibrant little town with a strong sense of community and pride that is hard to come by these days.”
In 2015, they hired their friend Tina to expand them a bit further into the 21st Century. “We met Tina at the Blacksmith Brewery, which is conveniently located next door to our store. We had a lot in common and became great friends. She has been building and maintaining our new Etsy shop Lutzjewelry, as well as our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.” Artistically, the pair hope to keep evolving with new collections and techniques and perhaps some large scale sculpture.