The distinctive style of Q. Miller Jewelry makes it unique and identifiable no matter where you see it. And you can see if coast-to-coast, since Marcia Miller and her daughter and co-owner, Callie, travel to about 30 retail and wholesale shows during the year.
Marcia has had a life-long interest in art, and, as a Montana State University graduate, her degree in art and education has served her well. She’s worked in spinning and weaving, architectural stained glass, ceramics, fused glass jewelry and metal smithing.
Her daughter, Callie, began working for her at age 11, and continued during the summers while she attended college. After graduation she joined her mother’s business full time and was offered a partnership.
She had her first show out of state, in Tucson Arizona, in 1987 with fused glass. Then she included metal pieces and the sales took off. Her sister helped her, as well as her niece, and Callie became more involved as the business grew.
With retail sales established they began to develop the wholesale aspect. It’s a good mix.
“We have to do both. One carries the other,” Marcia says.
Callie agrees. “Having constant contact with those who buy your work gives you a clearer idea of what they want.”
“It helps us design, because we get feedback from the people who buy and wear our products.” Marcia says.
Every year they do two new design series, which includes about 20 pair of earrings. They have a fat notebook with the designs that have been created since they began. Starting with the #2 earrings, the number today is up to #1400.
“We have no trouble coming up with ideas,” Callie says. “We take into consideration what people tell us. We’ve never had a design series where we haven’t sold at least some of them.”
They track the best sellers, and there is one pair that have been the consistently best-selling earrings for years.
“The Cave Horse earrings always sell well. They were patterned after my own horses,” Marcia says. “One would trot through, the other would stop.”
The earrings reflect that, each pair showing one horse moving, the other static. The designs are done in polished pewter, with embossed details and soldered brass, a playful horsehair tail and small stone accent.
Every piece has a unique and meaningful name.
“It’s my own little soapbox,” Marcia laughs. “I’m a psychologist/writer trapped in a jeweler’s body.”
“It has a dual purpose,” Callie says. “It helps us give advice, and insight into what we see in a piece.”
They design it first, then reflect on how it speaks to them, ultimately arriving at a name.
“I choose empowering, positive titles or phrases in everyday language,” Marcia says.
The names are an important part of the marketing as well as a convenient way to keep track of the pieces.
“We want people to relate to them,” Callie says. It’s meaningful to buyers as well, and some have said they either buy or don’t buy an item depending on the name.
They design all year long and go on buying trips together.
“I like to grab what I like, then design around that,” Marcia says.
Callie and Marcia individually design their own series, then they critique each other’s, modify where necessary and refine the final product.
“I start with a sketch,” Marcia says, “but by the time I’m finished, it’s usually morphed into something else.”
The material they use is unusual. Most pieces are made of pewter, which appeals to them because it’s environmentally friendly and not many other artists are using it. The pieces are stamped with the distinctive imprints, and accented with red brass and silver ear wires.
Every piece is polished by hand, but it’s not always Marcia or Callie’s hands, something they are not apologetic about.
“You do what you are best at,” Callie says. “You don’t have to buff every piece yourself.”
The jewelry pieces complement each other, and one purchased years ago goes well with something bought today. They have a timeless quality.
“I think of it as wearing art on your ears,” Marcia says.
Fans of Q.Miller will be looking forward to new designs and old favorites from the mother-daughter team for years to come.