Cara Romano isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.
Whether it’s soldering her own necklace settings or felting raw wool to make it into bead shapes, the jeweler takes the meaning of “handcrafted” seriously.
Romano’s work can be seen at KoT Contemporary Functional Craft inside the Maine Grind Building at 192 Main St. in Ellsworth. The shop, about seven months of the year, also features the work of as many as 30 artists from Maine and beyond. The handcrafted creations vary from glossy pottery to waterproof placemats brightening the display table and shelves
Romano’s jewelry, created in her studio one flight down on the Maine Grind’s ground floor, combines sterling silver and vibrantly hued felt.
The Maine-born artist loves juxtaposing the unyielding, smooth metal with the fuzzy, pliant wool.
“That’s really what a lot of this was — a way to bring color into my work without having to set stones,” Romano said.
Romano buys her hand-spun fleece sometimes from as far away as New Zealand. The wool is pre-dyed. If she dyed the wool herself, it would be more difficult to keep the colors consistent through different batches.
She pieces together her metal settings by soldering bezel wire, a flat wire often used for jewelry, and sterling silver sheets.
If she’s creating one of her popular bubble necklaces, she will solder several settings together —but she never makes the same pattern twice.
“Nobody is really the getting the same one ever,” the artist said.
Romano, who grew up in Gouldsboro, knows many of the artists featured in the store through the Maine Crafts Association, where she is serving her second term as president.
When choosing the other artists, Romano looks for quality craftsmanship, of course, and she favors work that is simple and “tells a story.”
“When you’re curating a space, you try really hard not to just take things that you like,” she reflected. She enjoys being able to help the featured artists get the recognition they deserve.
Romano hopes that her shared space will bring handcrafted products to a younger crowd —the millennials.
“I believe in curating a collection of work that has a young, fresh feel,” she said.