When Mary Tuttle of Eden Prairie goes to work, she is surrounded by beauty. Pearls, amethyst, agate and moonstone are just a few of the materials lying around her studio. That’s because, as a gemstone jewelry designer, she is always crafting new pieces that harness the beauty of the natural world. “I notice colors and textures everywhere,” says Tuttle, who uses various wire-wrapping and metal-working techniques to bring her vision together—as some would say, in a “twisted” fashion.
The Twisted Pretzel, Tuttle’s aptly named rustic gemstone jewelry shop, opened on Etsy in October 2008, but she has been creating jewelry for more than 20 years. Like most hobbies-turned-businesses, she began small, with an interest in jewelry making and crafted a few pieces for herself. Gradually she began designing items for family and friends, and as her knowledge and skill grew, so did her fan base. Today she sells to thousands of customers all over the globe. “That’s one of the great things about the Internet,” Tuttle says. “I can look at my Etsy map and see that I’ve sold to people in Australia and Italy.”
Although there is no denying Tuttle’s work is beautiful, it isn’t traditional. “I make things grittier than you’d see elsewhere, more rustic,” she says. It is not uncommon to find dark metals and stones, such as agates, in Tuttle’s work. But she also adds softer elements, like pressed flowers that she picks and dries for pendant terrarium necklaces. Sometimes she’ll add a surprising element to an otherwise standard piece, like moonstone, a white gemstone that gives off purple and blue flashes in the light. “I enjoy making jewelry that evolves as I create it,” Tuttle says.
For all the variations, in one way the product is always the same: jewelry that is sturdy yet lightweight, because Tuttle understands that comfort and durability are just as important as beauty and originality when crafting functional jewelry. “Her jewelry is both simple and ornate at the same time. It has a beautiful rustic edge to it that works with everything … each piece has such a unique personality,” says one of Tuttle’s customers, Kim Carlander of Eden Prairie.
When Tuttle is feeling adventurous she uses a special process known as electroforming, a chemical/electrical process, which “uses electricity to deposit tiny bits of copper onto an object over several hours.” The end result of this seemingly magical process is “a solid, sturdy piece with a range of organic textures,” she explains.
“Mary takes something as ordinary as green glass and changes the look from boring to unique just by using a different wire wrap,” says Debbie Teeuwen, one of Tuttle’s customers.
But Tuttle is quick to point out that creating beautiful and unique jewelry is only part of it. Her goal is creating jewelry that resonates with the wearer. “I want the wearer to look at [their jewelry] and it will evoke a feeling or memory,” she says.
Tuttle herself likes wearing pieces that remind her of vacations or experiences. Her finished pieces aren’t meant to sit in a jewelry box waiting for that special occasion, and they aren’t meant for others to look at in awe. They are designed to be worn and loved.