The Garden by Shel Silverstein is a lullaby filled with images of sapphires, rubies and jade. Abigail Houff used to read the poem over and over again until the vision of a garden full of exotic jewels went from dream to reality for her. Now the everyday colors of life inspire her creations and her imagination as they become elegant jewelry at her tiny workshop on Truman Avenue. From the sky to the ocean, Mother Nature is reflected in her semi-precious and precious gemstone jewelry. She is known for her brilliant maritime blues and sunset emulations. Reading through her product list is like taking a trip through a radiant Key West kaleidoscope. Aquamarine, mandarin and rose are all in the vocabulary of her rainbow. From Peruvian opal necklaces to spectrum earrings, Abigail makes everything by hand from the heart and a vision that all started with a single poem and a search for fulfillment.
“I started taking classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art,” Abigail explains, “Realizing quickly that I was not talented enough in painting or drawing to make a living at it, I knew I still wanted to do something creative, but couldn’t identify my outlet. I was waiting tables and bartending in my early twenties when I started making beaded necklaces for co-workers.”
Before her epiphany Abigail attended the University of Maryland on a full scholarship for vocal music. Before that she performed nationally in a Broadway tour before reaching the age of 15. However, neither impressive accomplishment gave her what she was looking for. She would soon discover that her talent was in a different kind of artistic expression. Something a lot less judgmental and a lot humbler.
“I was just not cut out for the endless nasty competition and the endless rejection of showbiz,” she says. That’s when the beaded necklaces started appearing.
Abigail first started selling her custom jewelry in friends’ living rooms, at craft shows and at times disastrous street fairs. What started as a hobby quickly flourished into the beginning of Gilded Peach Inspired Studio when she moved to Federal Hill, an up and coming neighborhood in Baltimore, Md., and discovered a 300-square-foot storefront that was up for rent. With a little encouragement from her friends and family, she made the brave step that would unfold her future. Abigail was only 24 years old when she opened her first retail store which she successfully ran for five years before moving to Key West. It is here where her business would continue to blossom and grow.
“I had been coming to Key West since I was a little kid and when I was 29 I decided I wanted to live in several different interesting places in my 30s. I decided this would be the first place and it also became the last.”
She also adds that she is about to celebrate a decade on the island.
When Abigail first arrived in Key West she opened a storefront on Duval Street during the economic crisis of 2008. Unfortunately, the struggling economy forced her to close the doors after two short years and instead she joined an artist co-op and partnered with a few local businesses such as Wanderlust, Rubies and Clay and Ocean Key House. Today her jewelry sells at six different locations around the island, including her own, which she reopened in 2013 at a new location on Truman Avenue, the main road leading into town. She also has a booth at the Artisan Market that is held at the Restaurant Store once a month from October to April and hosts various pop-ups, events and fundraisers. She has even added a jewelry-making class to her repertoire where students can learn how to make their very own piece of adornment while indulging in a little bit of wine and cheese.
When asked why she loves what she does so much, she says it’s all about making other people feel good.
“Each Gilded Peach design is created with the intention of making its wearer feel beautiful. With a definition of beauty from wearer to wearer, I try to create pieces that span the spectrum, to try and create something for everyone,” she says.
It’s worth the extra distance to visit her store at 1114 Truman Avenue. Or if you are near Duval Street you can also shop her jewelry downtown at Anahara Spa or Wanderlust, or visit her online Etsy shop @GildedPeach. You can be sure that everything Abigail makes is one of a kind. She also will happily custom make a piece for a special occasion or as a locally made personal gift to bring home to that person you’ve been thinking of. Let’s just say you will never find this stuff in a T-shirt shop. A creation by Gilded Peach is one of those things that can be passed on for generations. And if it’s just for yourself, well then know that you are in the possession of art that is reflection of the island created by someone with an eye for nature and with the skill of turning precious gemstones into a wearable garden. ¦
Gilded Peach Studio 1114 Truman Ave. www.gildedpeach.com 410- 456- 2135