Knoxville resident Sarah Brobst turns the old into the delightfully new again with her one-of-a-kind salvage jewelry.
Brobst, who has been making jewelry since high school, repurposes elements like vintage watches, elaborate brooches and antique knick-knacks in her work. She scours thrift stores, flea markets and eBay in order to select the antique curios that she will transform into quirky and unique creations.
From there, the 31-year-old entrepreneur hits the drawing board and waits for the right inspiration to seize her.
"I just look at all the pieces that I lay out on my art table and start picking through," she said. "Eventually the puzzle comes together into a beautiful piece."
This can sometimes be a time consuming process.
"It takes a lot of rearranging and going back to the drawing board because sometimes the ideas don't work," she said.
Brobst then takes her finished hoard of bangles, necklaces, pins, rings and earrings to the Farmers Market held in Market
Square every Saturday morning. Her whimsically arranged booth draws a sizable throng of admirers.
"Her work is very unique, it looks sort of up-cycled," said customer Caroline Broady as she fingered a bracelet that may have served as a belt buckle in a previous life. "It's clean, it's wearable and it's interesting."
Her younger brother, Adam Broady, chimes in.
"It reminds me of a time when there weren't really big businesses that mass produced stuff," he said. "Things were handcrafted by artisans, one thing at a time, and things were made to last."
Prices run the gamut from $2 up to $500 for the large, intricate brooch bouquets Brobst fashions for brides.
Besides the Farmers Market booth, Brobst supports herself by working full time at Ijams Nature Center, where she co-teaches a class called the "Eco Make and Take Workshop." The class, held the first Sunday of every month and costing participants a reasonable $10, provides students with the opportunity to make their own heirlooms akin to Brobst's wares.
"It's a way to find ways to repurpose, reuse, transform and make new old things that people have laying around the house," Brobst said. "Everyone has that junk drawer or closet filled with old shirts, broken jewelry, worn books and more, and it all just sits there."
Brobst helps her students see new potential in old things.
"People can see how their old, crummy stuff can be new and fun again," she said. "Plus there is a huge sense of social fun because everyone can become a teacher and help each other out. There is always food and drinks. Sometimes it's just nice to craft and chat with friends or neighbors."
Brobst, who comes from an artistic background of painting and sculpting, has a few new creative and business ventures lined up in the near future.
"I am working on some bigger sculpture pieces out of old clocks and I'm making 'I Spy' table tops out of jewelry and other found objects, so I am working on bigger scale items," she explained. "Plus as far as deals go, I am coming out with frequent buyer cards so that those who buy my things regularly can get free stuff."
The ambitious craftswoman hopes to get to the point one day where she can take her unique merchandise on the road.
"I would love to travel to different shows and festivals, and then do the market as well as sell to shops around the country," she said. "I already have my stuff in six stores locally, one in Asheville, and another in Wisconsin, so I feel like I am well on my way."
In the meantime, Brobst finds fulfillment in the love of her craft and dedication of her fans.
"I just love creating. I have always been the one who loves transforming things," she said. "And I like walking down the street and being able to see one of my pieces on someone and know that I made that and someone else is enjoying it. I couldn't do this without my fans."