For more than 10 years, Juliet Ames has turned items that others might throw out into art. The Baltimore artist is the owner of The Broken Plate Co., a business in which she re-purposes dishware into jewelry and other specialty pieces. Here, she talks inspiration, her favorite creations and more.
Q. Why broken plates?
I’ve been crafty since I was a kid, I loved taking things apart, learning new processes and making jewelry. I graduated from Towson University in 2005 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Craft. I needed to get a “real job” after college, so I began work in the nonprofit art world.
I quickly learned that I needed to figure out how to make money, making things. After making myself a mosaic mailbox with a plate from Goodwill, I couldn’t bear to throw away the leftover shards, so I made myself a necklace. I wore it to work the next day and instantly got orders for more. I did my first craft show in November 2006 and became a full-time plate breaker.
Q. Do you have a favorite material to work with?
Vintage plate patterns inspire me, I love how even the ugliest plate can make pretty necklaces when broken down.
Q. What are some of your favorite pieces to make and why?
I adore making custom collections from my customer’s sentimental plates. Many people hang on to shards of broken plates because it reminds them of their mother or grandmother, for example.
I am so honored to get to make those pieces into jewelry for the whole family. I’ve had people send me plates that were damaged in house fires, hurricanes and even a plate damaged in war! I’m so happy to get to turn these bad memories into something new and beautiful.
Q. How have you reached customers during this time?
The past few months of COVID-19 have been a whirlwind. I brought most of my tools and materials home and set up a home studio in my sewing room. I wanted to hunker down and be there to help my son with home school.
I was so worried about my friends in the service industry that I began making donations to the Baltimore Virtual Tip Jar for every sale that I made. Chef Cindy Wolf of Charleston even generously donated a plate from her restaurant so I could make a collection for that cause. I’ve been so busy that it feels like the holiday season, and I am really grateful for that. It seems people are breaking a lot of plates, being home all the time.
I’ve also been plowing through my fabric stash, making tons of masks. If you had told me in March that by June 1, I would have made more than 400 masks, I would not have believed you! My only promotion is sharing my days on Instagram.
I think IG has been a great tool to help people feel a little less lonely while we are stuck at home. I’m always sharing what I’m working on, what my dogs are up to and what I am cooking up in the kitchen. I think keeping busy and having loads of projects in the craft room and the kitchen has kept me sane through COVID. Control what you can, you know?
Q. What does reopening look like for you?
I’ve found a great grove working at home, so I think I will be doing that a bit more. I love “going to work,” but I am trying to make peace with the fact that the school year is still uncertain.