The Silver Garden: A treasure trove of handcrafted baubles, bangles and beads
Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
CALLA LILY AND AMETHYST HAND WROUGHT CUFF-$549
While barreling down the highway of life, eyes straight ahead, the simple wonders of the world often pass in a blur—until something grabs our attention. Sometimes the awakening comes like a bolt of lightning in the form of a serious illness, a loss of something/someone important, or an unexpected life change. But often it’s a subtle tap on the shoulder or a small whisper, “Psssst. Look over here.” And like the final step of a treasure hunt, there it is: the glint of gold hidden in the rock.
That’s how it happened for Jim and Linda Saylor when a hobby-turned-business-opportunity put their retirement plans in reverse. The result is The Silver Garden, an artisan jewelry market, tucked away in a tiny nook in The Village Exchange shopping center on Hilton Head Island. The Saylors’ path was never a straight line but a series of meanderings, culminating in a sudden knowing.
Ten years ago, both Jim and Linda were rocking successful careers in Cincinnati when a string of events led them to early retirement and a six-year detour via Orlando. The next blind curve came when, off on a girls’ trip, Linda strung her first bead. What started as a diversion quickly became somewhat of an obsession as she collected boxes of beads and began making jewelry, mostly as gifts for loved ones. Next she began buying broken pieces of jewelry from department stores and crafting new pieces from the parts.
“She was her own walking billboard,” Jim said, as the unusual jewelry she wore began attracting attention and resurrecting her sales spirit. She initially set up an e-Bay store and later an Etsy shop, which she currently maintains with over 450 handmade pieces available for sale online.
Linda and Jim Saylor
In spite of Linda’s urging, Jim was having no part of this except to encourage her and help with a few repairs. Yet his fascination with metal work gradually grew, and soon he was dreaming up designs of his own, honing his skills along the way.
Still, going back to work full time was not on the radar screen…until the next directional shift. By this time, the Saylors were living on Hilton Head Island. Approached by friends in the jewelry business about a possible partnership, Jim and Linda agreed to look at properties for a small store. The friends ultimately changed their minds, but the Saylors had a sudden epiphany. Linda, a former commercial real estate broker, saw potential in the storage space that they would convert to a workshop and storefront. They viewed the property on a Tuesday and signed the lease on Thursday, she said.
Restoring an overgrown wasteland of weeds and a broken down wooden fence to create an enchanting garden entry with an arbor and brick pathway was a labor of love, Jim said of the renovation process. A former corporate CFO, Jim always enjoyed building and once dreamed of being an architect. “I like detailed work, and I enjoy solving problems,” he said, explaining his passion for the space and for his newfound craft.
“He has a lot of MacGyver in him,” Linda said, referring to the fictional secret agent known for solving complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects.
Island residents for five years and in business here for three, both Jim and Linda continue to create new jewelry on a regular basis, rarely repeating a design. While some popular pieces are duplicated, the couple is always looking for innovative twists and ways to make each item unique and meaningful to the customer.
Many of the custom designs as well as standard pieces have names. For example, double-sided earrings with a sterling bar on the front, a hammered silver backdrop and a stone dangling from the back post are called the Taylor Swifts, inspired by dangles the popular singer/songwriter wore at the 2015 Country Music Awards. Another popular design is the God’s Love bracelet, which looks like a heart shape, but upon close inspection, also spells out the word God.
Wire-wrapped island and beach themed hook bracelets make statement pieces for locals and beautiful gifts and souvenirs for area visitors; personalized copper and silver coordinated cuffs and memory cuffs can be designed to include meaningful images, navigational coordinates, or other sentiments—particularly popular for commemorating special places and dates as well as for memorializing pets.
One of Jim’s favorite parts of the work is the challenge of repurposing old jewelry or coming up with special occasion pieces. “It’s not unusual for people to be emotional about the things they want from us or want us to do,” Linda said. Customers often come in with an idea for a piece that will have personal meaning or they bring in pieces with sentimental value that they want to re-create into something more useful, she explained.
For example, a customer brought in her sons’ silver baby spoons and a strand of heirloom pearls. Out of this, Jim crafted bracelets which she gave to each of her daughters-in-law. A couple getting married wanted unique wedding jewelry, which Jim fashioned out of silver and turquoise with the wires intertwining to subtly reveal their initials.
One of Jim’s most elaborate and symbolic creations to date is a commissioned pendant for Michaela Paige (runner-up, Season 3, The Voice) by her father, Frank Kaman. The silver cross, which the singer/songwriter wears when performing, consists of 30 pieces of silver (representing the price Judas was paid to betray Jesus), two rows of 12 wires (symbolizing the month of the Jesus’ birth and the 12 disciples), and a crown of thorns (representing the crucifixion of Christ), all encased in an upside down teardrop (symbolizing the way Peter was crucified).
Jim admits that inspiration often hits on sleepless nights, when his brain goes into problem-solving mode and churns out novel ideas. Last month, he was working on a pendant he calls Peas in a Pod that literally came to him in the middle of the night. Stop by to see the finished piece and ask about the smaller pea pods in the works for Mother’s Day.
Relying mostly on word-of-mouth and repeat business, perhaps the biggest challenge for the Saylors is being found. A hidden jewel, The Silver Garden occupies a space wedged between two other tiny storefronts (Delisheee Yo and Marche de Macaron), opposite A Lowcountry Backyard restaurant. Blink and you might miss it.
??The Silver Garden’s tagline reads: “Life is too short to wear department store jewelry.” Maybe life is simply too short to go speeding along and miss the side roads and tiny pathways where the real treasures await.
The Silver Garden is located at 32 Palmetto Bay Rd., in the Village Exchange on Hilton Head Island. Stop by and see what Jim and Linda are creating or ask them to make something special just for you. Store hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sat. For more information or a sneak peek at the treasures on hand, visit thesilvergarden.net.??