A Fish Tale – Meredith Restein and Moonrise Jewelry in Cape Charles, Virginia
The Tanning Process
The complete tanning process takes 30 days and the first phase is where the fish skins are turned into workable leather. The process is the same for any leather production. During this time, they are placed in a drum where chemicals alter the structure of the skins to preserve them. The second phase is when they are “leatherized” and made decorative by adding colors and dyes to make a fashion product.
Meredith said, “Leather is so commonplace, we don’t think about it or where it comes from. We’re so disconnected from the origin. That’s part of the story I want to share; once I explain it, they get it. I went to Iceland to have firsthand knowledge about the process of making fish leather. One of the reasons I took a professional photographer with me is so that we could also have the visual story.”
On the cutting edge of using fish leather in her designs, Meredith added, “Cows are not easy on the earth. If we make fish leather as a by-product of the fishing industry, it’s a greener alternative. It’s also acceptable for many vegetarians.”
“There are unique textures in fish leather not found in other leathers,” she went on to say. “Fish also have different sizes in the scales, depending on the species. For instance, salmon have small scales and perch have large scales. They form different patterns depending on the scale pockets. Salmon looks like snakeskin and wolf fish looks like cow leather; it’s completely different and smooth and supple since wolf fish don’t have scales. From a design standpoint, there are so many options. They are definitely conversation pieces.”
Meredith added, “The jewelry market is saturated. You have to distinguish yourself, keep evolving, find new angles, and go beyond making jewelry to be successful. An idea that I came up with about five years ago has been in the works and things seem to be aligning, so I hope to announce that soon.”
As the full-time designer, sales and marketer, developer, bookkeeper, employer of six part-time people, and a mother and wife, Meredith told me, “It was good to go to Iceland for five days and step away from the day-to-day business. It seems like I’m always putting out whichever fire is burning fastest when I’m home. In Iceland, I could focus on the source of the leather and developing products with it and immerse myself in the Icelandic culture. It was inspiring to see how other people are using it and evaluate the source. It helped me decide where I want to go and where to steer the ship. It was also educational and good to build bridges with people in other countries.”
Meredith is the 7th generation of her family to live, work, and raise a family in this quiet coastal region of Virginia. In fact, her family was in the seafood business. Her husband’s family is from the area as well, and one of the reasons they moved back home. She added, “The name ‘Meredith’ is the Welsh name for Guardian of the Sea. I have to think that somehow the fish leather came looking for me.”
Meredith just released her new line of jewelry with the leather products she is sourcing from Atlantic Leather. She is also busy working on the launch of another product line, so stay tuned.
You can purchase her designs at MoonriseJewelry.com or check her list of retailers on her website. Better yet, take a vacation to the Eastern Shore and visit Meredith in person at her store in Cape Charles, Virginia.
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