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Daily Inspiration: Meet Markie Zimmer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Markie Zimmer. 

Hi Markie, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
I always loved rock hunting, when we first moved to the Leelanau Peninsula, we were planning our wedding and it was STRESSFUL, so we would go to the beach and rock hunt with a bottle of wine and calm down. We started collecting a lot and became enamored with Leland Blue. I called a local business to get a quote on a basic ring with one of the stones that I had found for my “something blue” for our wedding…they quoted me $400.00! I hung up the phone and swore I would learn to make it myself. I signed up for a silversmithing class that winter; I only got to attend 3 of the 4 classes and had to leave halfway through them to get to work every day. I learned the VERY basics and was so frustrated it wasn’t natural for me at first. I burned through silver, couldn’t figure out the heat on the torch, and felt defeated. I sought YouTube and help from fellow smiths and kept at it and thought myself the rest. With practice came flow and my designs and aesthetic came out naturally. 

I started just smithing as a hobby, then friends asked for pieces for themselves, then family members wanted gifts and it just kind of grew from there. I did my first show and made some money and felt like a queen; my confidence was restored I pushed forward and have kept improving and growing from there. 

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
NO! I showed up to my first class with a creme brûlée torch and was seriously embarrassed. I have burned through silver, burned holes in countless rugs and tables, ruined pieces at the last minute, cracked stones while setting them. It happens, but you push through. Silversmithing is an expensive hobby and the more fine jewelry you go with it, the higher the price and the more equipment required. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
What sets me apart from others is we are a family business who does all the rock hunting and lapidary ourselves. Most silversmiths buy their cabochons (polished stones ready for jewelry) and we make our own. We go out in the lake during the freezing winter in our waders and go waist-deep hunting for our stones. The winter brings the bigger stones in, and let’s face it; we aren’t competing with the summer crowds hunting for stones during winter. We typically are the only ones crazy enough to be out there. We bring our finds home, and my husband cuts and grinds all the stones. I silversmithing and do all the designing in my She Shed Studio in my back yard. 

I’m most proud of how far I’ve come, I mean showing up to the class with a creme brûlée torch and now owning my own studio in a couple years is pretty amazing. It will never get old, seeing my jewelry and the sheer joy it brings people when they see it in person and try it on at art shows. So many people tell me stories about how special the piece they buy is and what it means to them. It reminds them of home, their summers with grandparents, a loved one that has passed on, their connection to Michigan, and it makes me smile that I made them something they cherish. 

What matters most to you? Why?
My family, hands down. I am so lucky that they support me and have encouraged me to keep going. It is the reason Silver, Slag & Stone has grown like it has. I feel so lucky that we created this business from nothing and have something to pass on to our daughters, I hope they think it’s as cool we do! I’m so happy that it is home-based and I can watch my daughters play in the backyard while I silversmith, that when we rock hunt and are working it also means family beach time, feel so lucky this is my job. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Laura Brouwer
JZ Photo
Tom Balata

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