Adornment from the Inside Out
written by Merlin Varaday | photographed by Tim Sugden
Katy Kippen, the founder and owner of Grayling Jewelry (1609 NE Alberta St.), was inspired by artistic family members from an early age. Her grandfather was a stonecutter, her father a hobby painter and a wood carver, and her mother a musician. Kippen began learning how to make jewelry at age eight and was selling her creations while still in high school. She took her first metalsmithing class when she was 16.
In 2009, after 12 years of working in the fashion industry, Kippen decided to make her jewelry business a full-time endeavor, focusing first on selling her designs wholesale to retailers around Portland (you can find Grayling products at many Portland boutiques, including Adorn on NE Fremont Street and EcoVibe Apparel on NW 23rd Avenue). Grayling Jewelry has now grown into a flourishing wholesale, online, and brick-and-mortar business with a staff of in-house jewelry artisans. If you stop into Grayling Jewelry’s storefront, you will see pieces being created by the staff while you are checking out the finished products.
The name of the business was inspired by the grayling fish, a freshwater creature with a beautiful rainbow dorsal fin that flashes in the sunlight as it leaps. Kippen believes that is a reflection of how nature inherently values beauty and adornment for its own sake. Grayling Jewelry’s creations are uniquely interactive and playful, as well as personal and insightful. The Symbolism Collection – a ten-piece capsule – is inspired by mantras such as “strength” and “protection.” Kippen originally created the designs for herself, as a daily reminder of her growing interest in natural healing and self-discovery. After receiving many questions, comments, and compliments about the wearable mantras, she decided to add the collection to Grayling’s offerings. “They have really resonated with people,” she says. “Our ‘unity’ symbol is often given as a gift to a close friend, or for a wedding or other celebration. We try to put meaning into each and every one of our pieces.”
Another Grayling product line made with a great deal of foresight is the Convertible Collection, twenty or so pieces that can be worn either as a long chain or as a shorter necklace, ideal for travelling or for those with limited space in which to store their jewelry (you really have to see these pieces to appreciate how ingenious they are). “There is a lot of thought put into the creation of each original design,” Kippen says. “Is it comfortable? Can it be thrown in a carry-on? Will it stand out from the pack, but still be low-key enough to fit in? These are the questions I ask myself when I’m designing.”
Every product in Grayling’s collection is suitable for people with sensitive skin or an allergy to nickel, so even those who haven’t worn jewelry for many years due to a metal allergy can once again boost their confidence with an incredible necklace or pair of earrings. Kippen sends out this message: “It is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of people are allergic to nickel,” she says. “We are creating jewelry that is safe, versatile, and fun for everyone to wear.”
When asked about her favorite part of operating Grayling Jewelry, Kippen states, “I love being a part of this community, and I enjoy trying to make a difference in our customers’ lives by helping them to feel beautiful and special. I am also excited to provide fun, quality local jobs. Lastly, I like to be able to provide an enjoyable experience for visitors to Portland by showing them how local handcrafted artisan goods are produced.”
If you are looking for jewelry that will ramp up your fashion game in an interesting and personal way, you will love the consideration and detail that has been put into every gorgeous piece at Grayling Jewelry. Shopping for a present? Ask about gift sets with less predictable jewelry combinations. As Kippen puts it, “We offer smart jewelry. Nothing is basic – even with pieces that will be worn every day, we strive for something unique. We want people to know that we genuinely care about providing jewelry for our customers that is right for them.”
Grayling products are beloved even by celebrities and tastemakers, including Courteney Cox, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Romijn, and Katie Couric. Additionally, Grayling Jewelry was a finalist in the Martha Stewart Living Magazine 2014 American Made Awards. The national publication recognized the Portland store for their innovation and creativity, and for using high-quality materials sourced primarily in the United States.
Kippen invites jewelry shoppers to watch for upcoming events at the store in the Alberta Arts District. “As a way of connecting with neighbors, Grayling hosts a variety of in-store events,” she says. “Whether collaborating with a stylist for a personal styling seminar or throwing a fundraiser for charity, the team at Grayling likes to party in style. Grayling Jewelry is a fun place to explore – come and play!”