Marlene Meyer repurposes customers' memorabilia into jewelry and household items.
University Park resident Marlene Meyer had been embellishing jewelry for about two years when she received two sets of button covers from her friend and neighbor, Sue Constable, who thought Meyer could use it for her business, Marlene’s Finds and Designs.
These were not ordinary button covers. They once belonged to Constable’s late mother.
“This is a memory of your mother,” Meyer remembered saying to Constable. “Don’t give it to me to sell. I’m going to make you something.”
Meyer decided to use them to decorate a purse and a set of rings, and she said Constable was thrilled to have practical items she could use to remember her mother.
“It’s special as a memory,” Meyer said. “When she uses them, she remembers her mother.”
It was then Meyer began to embellish some of her merchandise with personal items that would have special meaning to her clients, rather than only using random items that caught her eye. The personalized merchandise now makes up about half of her business, and that percentage continues to grow.
Even though she was unable to participate in many of her usual shows, Meyer said business has been strong during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people have spent spare time cleaning their houses and figuring out what to do with old trinkets.
Meyer gets asked to repurpose pins, earrings and bows more than any other item. She said insect-themed items, especially butterflies, are very popular. The most common items people want to receive with their repurposed memorabilia are bracelets and napkin rings.
One of Meyer’s previous jobs as a kindergarten teacher helped her become more experienced with art, but food presentation was Meyer’s true passion for a long time. Before she started Marlene’s Finds and Designs, she was a caterer. Meyer said her background in food presentation is part of what helped her become successful in the fields of jewelry and decor.
For one, she said working in the food and catering business taught her how to use color in the design process. She said charcuterie boards are one example of a product people expect to feature arrangement and color in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, not just practical and delicious.
“If you're designing a platter, it's almost like doing a painting,” Meyer said. “It’s form, it’s shape, it’s color. It just transforms itself into something that you're buying for your house. You either have the ability or you don’t.”
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