Delicate & edgy. Can those two elements coincide? With T's line, Upper Metal Class, she makes it work. Her silver and bronze jewelry is something special; it makes a statement while still managing to "play it cool." Meet this lovely lady in our interview below!
Describe your personal style: My style is pretty relaxed and simple. I love dressing up for occasions, but I'm normally a t-shirt and jeans girl. I'm a workaholic so anything that's easy that I can throw on without much thought so I can have more time to get down business is usually my thing.
Favorite Portland Restaurant: What a tough question! There are way too many restaurants I really love, but if I had to choose one that's always on my mind it would be Tasty n Sons for breakfast. Their sweet biscuits, potatoes bravas and shakshuka are my number ones. My favorite bar is the Driftwood and that includes my favorite bartender Mike. He's got jokes, makes excellent cocktails and can make you smile for days.
Best Stress Reliever: My two dogs Gizmo and Koi are the ultimate stress relievers. Their best super powers are giving sweet hugs and kisses. What a way to melt my heart every time.
Favorite Hobbies: I love shoes and although I've done a good job at editing my collection down, it still ends up growing to the point where I think I might have a little problem.
Favorite Getaway: I've been to a few different cities and countries, but something that I love and find easy to do without breaking my pockets is staying in a nice hotel. So one of my favorite things is to be in a room all by myself to block out everything: to relax, eat junk food and watch tv.
How did Upper Metal Class come to be?: When I started making jewelry it was just something fun to do while I was in between jobs, careers and not knowing what I was going to do with my life. I never went into it thinking I was going to make a business out of it, but after friends and people I didn't even know started asking to buy my jewelry I was encouraged by them all to try it out. I figured why not it could be a nice side gig and a little bonus if I had a few sales here and there, but after 2 1/2 years now it's become more than I ever expected. I continue to do this because it feels good to be independent and to make something that comes from the heart.
What inspires you/your designs?: My inspiration comes from the drive my mother had as I was growing up. After the Vietnam war she came to the US bringing along 3 young children and me in her stomach to raise on her own in an unfamiliar country. She dealt with learning a new language, culture and my brothers illness to leukemia. She never gave up and she inspires me to push hard to create things that I can be proud of.
Most rewarding part of your job:
I grew up very modestly living in very low income neighborhoods as a child yet there was a sense of community and a common goal to better ourselves by striving toward the idea of an upper middle class lifestyle. With that comes strong values, hard work, determination and knowing where you come from. Upper Metal Class symbolizes and embodies all these things. I think one of the best things in life is giving back and that's one of my goals with Upper Metal Class: to be able to support my efforts to help others in the community. I'm excited about an upcoming trip this May where we're looking to bring a little relief and some smiles to people in need during our journey in Vietnam.
Hardest part of your job: Letting go of responsibility is the toughest part of my job. I'm learning day by day how to let others take care of things and knowing it's all ok.
Favorite materials to work with: I like bronze a lot because it has a similar look to gold but without the cost. I also love silver; it is such a cool color. They both are beautiful metals and who says you can't mix your metals? I love it.
If I wasn't making jewelry, I'd be a: heavy-set foodie.
Favorite b&i piece(s): No doubt the Bridge collection because it's genius!
Wow. T's story is so powerful! The inspiration gained from loved ones moves mountains. I am so happy and proud to be able to introduce customers to her sweet jewelry here in the shop, and knowing the hard work that her pieces are inspired by makes it that much better.
***Song of the Moment: Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs ***
(All photos provided by T.)