Braddock Company Handcrafted Fashion Jewelry to Last

You can watch the pieces being hammered through a window above the workshop.

Every pounding is part of the process of creating items that are made to last. This old-fashioned technique is applied to fashion jewelry that has a vintage look with a modern twist at Studebaker Metals.

This traditional Braddock-based metal forging workshop was founded by husband and wife Michael Studebaker and Alyssa Catalano, who use classic methods and the highest quality materials to forge and handcraft their collection of utility parts. .

Each heirloom quality item is ready for everyday use and comes to life through the use of one of four anvils – from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

The process of making a cuff bracelet begins by cutting a mixture of bars and sheets, rolling it by hand in a mill, forging (hammering) the metal to stretch, tapering and flaring the ends, cutting the ends, heating to to anneal (soften) the material, hand stamp the name of the company and the city of origin, sand and polish the ends of the cuff and form a bracelet-shaped cuff around the horn of the anvil.

“There is some fatigue with the pounding, but if you use good body mechanics and stretch forward and drink a lot of water, you should be fine,” Studebaker says. “Although I still grab my thumb every now and then when I hammer. ”

They produce cuffs, rings, necklaces, tie clips and money clips. The company’s handcuffs, bread and butter, are unisex and come in sizes small to extra large and can be customized as well. They plan to add more gift items to the store’s selection ahead of the holiday season.

The couple started the business in 2013. They started working in Studebaker’s basement, then in a studio in Wilkinsburg before finding the perfect home in Braddock, not far from where the couple live.

“Alyssa saw the potential of this piece of metal that I was hammering with a hammer,” says Studebaker, whose last name inspired the company title. “We make a good team.”

Catalano joined the company full-time in August 2015 when she left a full-time job at ModCloth, a vintage and retro-inspired independent online store founded in Pittsburgh.

“These are quality heirloom pieces that will last a lifetime,” says Catalano, who says life has gone from dating Studebaker to getting married, buying a house and having a baby girl, Betty Louise, who comes to work with the couple. ” Everything went well. We had a strong common goal that made us fall in love faster.

The words “Slow is Fast” are inscribed on the wall of the workshop. They service accounts all over the world. Having social media has helped spread the word, Catalano says, as has been featured in publications such as Guideboat magazine.

This is where client Robert Hooton discovered Studebaker Metals. He noticed it was a Pittsburgh business and stopped by the store one day. They were out of his bracelet size, but Studebaker told Hooton it would be made the next day.

They are trying to source from the United States. The packaging is made from recyclable materials and is clean, simple and straightforward.

Seeing the process live was a plus, says Mount Lebanon’s Hooton.

“They are amazing creators,” Hooton says. “They make such a clean, quality product. And they create a sense of community in their store where people come to view the pieces as well as to chat. I’m a high school art teacher, so it was nice to talk to Michael about his artistic journey. We really connected.

Studebaker worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a mount maker and at the Carnegie Museum in Oakland as an art manager. Studebaker accompanied Hooton through the creation process.

“Now every time someone in my family or friends has a birthday or a special event, I have the perfect gift in mind,” Hooton says. “The quality and the know-how are still there. ”

Studebaker and Catalano love the old-fashioned process that every part could be done entirely without electricity. They use some power for sanding and polishing – but just for efficiency; It is not mandatory.

As the holiday season approaches, they will produce a minimum of 300 to 350 pieces, and that number will increase over the next two months. Prices start at $ 42 for a cuff ring and $ 48 for a cuff bracelet.

Catalano says they wouldn’t be able to handle the volume without the talented staff – Joe Pillari, Malique Dees, Sarah LaPonte and Mike Swaisgood.

“It’s a great team of skilled craftsmen who work with us. We want people to know that we couldn’t do it without them, ”says Catalano. “They are committed to this business and care about creating a quality product.”

Shawn Aversa, who co-owns the Von Walter & Funk lifestyle store in Lawrenceville with his partner Jamie McAdams, says he had no plans to sell jewelry until he met the couple.

“I went to their store and saw with my own eyes how they made the products,” says Aversa. “I learned a lot about jewelry and metallurgy. They are fantastic and we are committed to supporting local businesses like Studebaker Metals. ”

Aversa started wearing the line in the summer with the cuffs and has since added more pieces.

“We want it to be an experience where you buy a piece of jewelry from us and it lasts a lifetime,” Studebaker said. “We pay attention to detail, and these parts are for people who are interested in quality and those who are not part of a throwaway culture.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is the editor of Tribune-Review. Contact her at 412-320-7889 or [email protected]

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