The Metalsmith’s Meaningful Work

In her Johns Creek studio, jewelry designer Michelle Rhodes is a natural. Wearing a simple white linen tee and well-worn jeans, she is barefoot with blond tresses reminding us its summer. She is free from pretense but ultimately stylish. The petite 54-year-old is often accompanied by her leggy Vizsla puppy Jordy, who Rhodes declares, “Looks into your soul and loves you anyway.” Rhodes is truly the visual representation of her art and the personification of the successful brand that bears her name.

Her working studio of creams and beiges and plenty of light is a stimulating den of creativity with both masculine and feminine elements: hammers, chisels, chains, diamond chips, color-rich African beads, vision and design boards displaying her new fall and winter lines. (Looks like modern BoHo in charcoals and brushed brass are on tap!) In her aspect, her work space and her product lines, there is nothing too slick, too shiny or overly manufactured.

At a time when the fashion industry trends toward cheap and disposable, Rhodes is scaling back her national business model to connect with her customers in a more intimate way. Many of her designs, crafted by hand, have a vintage vibe–a nod to nostalgia, heritage and authenticity–values that endure.

“Jewelry has always been more than a piece of metal,” she says. From crowns for kings and queens to wedding rings, charm bracelets and dog tags, jewelry is tied up with identity. It makes a claim about who we are, what we value, where we have been and where we are going.

“We have emotional attachments to jewelry, and I want to honor that. I aspire to provide that for my customers. It fits me right.”

Rhodes’ artisan jewelry lines include an Everyday Collection of mixed metals and natural stones and an Equestrian Collection (the hand-hammered horseshoe necklace is Rhodes’ best-selling piece.) Her Custom and Private Label gives anyone the opportunity to afford a one-of-a-kind piece. It is these that she most enjoys creating. For one customer who had just lost her mother, Rhodes designed a diamond-rimmed medallion engraved with all her mother’s favorite sayings.

The artist also finds great worth in designing for charitable causes. After the devastating Northern California wildfires, Rhodes’ necklace #SantaRosaStrong raised funds to aid those who had lost their homes. Currently, she is working with the families of two local boys who were severely injured in a home explosion. She designed two necklaces inscribed with a Bible verse that coincides with the date of the accident (6/12/18): 1 Timothy: 6: 12 & 18 “Fight the good fight of faith…” All net proceeds from the overwhelming response will go to the boys’ continued care. 

When asked what the future holds for herself and her business, she simply replies, “I don’t want to know the answer to that. All I know is that I will be pursuing my art. I believe that authenticity and intuition are powerful guides. I am excited to find out what comes next!”