By Emy LaCroix | View eMagazine
Oftentimes fashion comes with a price. High-end glamour costs more than just money; it costs resources and manpower that sometimes come at a high price to the earth and its people. That’s not the case with Restored by Design. At Martha Jackson’s shop, you will find unique pieces ranging from chunky and bold jewelry, to delicate and feminine dresses – but they all have one thing in common. They’ve been created by hand from recycled materials like vintage fabric, factory cast offs and precious stones. Her green intentions coupled with her focused eye for design create some of the most beautiful pieces around, and it all started at childhood.
TS: Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your craft?
MJ: I grew up in Canada, in Montreal and Ottawa, in a very creative and “alternative family,” lots of art and music and intellectual conversation. My grandfathers were big influences, especially my maternal grandfather, Charles Comfort. He was a well known artist, I was always in awe, I suppose, of his work, in his studio, I’m sure my exposure from such an early age had an impact on my life- colors, beauty…
TS: What was your dream growing up?
MJ: I remember an interview when I first started college, what and why was I studying goldsmithing and textiles/fashion. I believe I expressed that I wanted to put it all together one day!
TS: Where did you study? Do you have a funny story from school?
MJ: I studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I went to study interior design but didn’t like the vibe in that department; but rather fell in love with the jewelry department, and dove in!
TS: What do you believe is your biggest influence or inspiration?
TS: What brought you to RI?
I had fallen in love with a guy from Rhode Island School of Design…who later became my husband (but now ex), and we raised a wonderful family together!
TS: Did you have any fears when you started out, and what was your biggest fear?
MJ: My biggest fear that had been a roadblock for a long time, was having enough money to own my own business- to be able to get through the ups and downs financially.
TS: Where have you worked in the past, and what made you decide to become independent?
MJ: I have had a 30+ year successful career in the fashion jewelry business working for some of the best companies in Rhode Island & New York City such as Victoria Creations (Givenchy, Jones New York, JC Penney), Swarovski, Trifari Inc, Frank Lloyd Wright, RBC Industries, The Winkler Group (Chico’s), Tanya Creations( Macy’s, Belks, Christopher & Banks) , my own company. I became independent a) after a big layoff, b) because I was becoming disillusioned with the manufacturing all being done overseas, and c) because of always wanting to have my own business
TS: What’s your design story? What brought you to this point of having an amazing gallery and being able to create art for a living?
MJ: I love the creative process, being creative in the fashion realm is my passion-mixing materials, colors, patterns in unique ways, doing my part to preserve our precious past and make a more sustainable future, share beauty with the world and inspire people- inspire more creativity. I feel it’s vital for our souls. Amazing to now be able to do this within my control.
TS: Were there any moments when you thought, “Uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into?”
MJ: Every month when I have to pay the bills…
Jackson has made being environmentally conscious central to her lifestyle and design. She has trained herself to choose the greenest path to an elegant outcome, but it all started with one simple action: reading a book.
TS: When did being green become a part of your design goals?
MJ: After reading a book ‘Green is the New Black,’ and understanding the huge waste, contamination of the earth, unfair treatment of artisans around the globe; seeing, first-hand, how factory work is done in China, all generated in the fashion industry…this was a real eye opener. I asked myself, “how are we going to survive in the future?” I felt – I saw a lot of disrespect for people, talent, our natural and valuable resources- what can I do about it?
TS: How does ecological responsibility manifest itself in other parts of your life?
MJ: It is throughout, such as recycling/being responsible about my own waste- I separate it etc, use less wasteful products, reusing, my food choices, business resources etc., buying local wherever I can, Eco-friendly materials wherever possible, not shopping at Walmart, buying American made
TS: Finding and making all of your items locally must be a challenge; can you tell me a bit about that and explain why it’s so important to you?
MJ: I believe strongly that there is so much local talent, that we don’t necessarily need to outsource. More local support from everyone can provide jobs here instead of sending everything overseas, it builds positive community, it increases awareness for what matters around us
When working from a conventional standpoint, a designer envisions their product and finds the materials to create it with little regard to where those materials come from. Because of Jackson’s green philosophy, her process is a bit more unorthodox.
TS: What is your design process? How do you begin making a piece? Do you start with a vision or is it a fluid process that becomes apparent as you find bits and pieces?
MJ: Hmmm, it is both. Quite often, when I find just the right treasures, they will inspire and fuel an idea, a vision of what I want to create will come into my head, then it’s a matter of executing and taking/flowing the idea into a final result. Many times I sketch in a book or roughly layout the bits and pieces to plan it out. It is better when I can follow my idea by gathering all the materials at that time. Many times, I don’t want to break my focus until my “sketch” is done-hence the expression “in the zone”. I find looking through magazines can trigger ideas-they are like windows into the world…or going to shops to see other things, a piece of fabric, lace, or flowers can get me going….
TS: How would you describe your aesthetic, and who is your ideal customer?
MJ: My aesthetic is rustic and romantic, feminine and bohemian, chunky vs. delicate, somewhat eclectic, vintage yet modern. My ideal customer is age 25-60 with the confidence to express her style in unique way, who loves similar things to what I love. I believe there are a lot of women out there!
If you’d like to start your life with a significant other off on a green foot, Restored by Design is the place to start. Jackson offers styling, gowns, even decoration, to make your special day green and completely unique.
TS: You offer styling for weddings; what do you offer a bride that they can’t get anywhere else, and what kind of bride would you like to work with?
MJ: I love to work with brides of all sorts, but the aesthetic appreciation has to be similar… I offer a bride a very personalized service to create her own one of a kind look (and that of her wedding party) that fits her budget and her vision. It is very unique to find someone who can create the jewelry, clothing AND style to coordinate it all together for one grand and special presentation!
Jackson is very proud of the space she’s created, and wants to welcome everyone into it, not just for shopping or styling, but to learn to create themselves. Her passion for design and the environment is something that she’s more than happy to share, so she’s created a perfect space to accommodate classes and togetherness.
TS: What are you most proud of?
MJ: Creating an inspiring space where people walk around in and feel exhilarated!
TS: Can you tell me a bit about your location and space?
MJ: My new location at 128 North Main Street is an amazing space in a historic building with wood floor, exposed brick walls, high ceilings , and large Art Deco styled front windows, providing lots of light and exposure to passers by. I have a dedicated space for my jewelry making and sewing studio, workshop/class space and retail display! I have a unique boho and rustic style in mixing my fashions with vintage home accessories, botanical accents and rare finds, merchandising them together by theme or color. I believe (and from many positive comments) that I have created an inspirational environment and delight to the senses, leaving customers with a lasting positive impression of the beauty that can be created! I have an expression on the wall (from previous tenants) that says ‘God is in the Details’ which makes many smile and feel empowered!
TS: You offer classes in your shop; why? And what can a student look forward to with your classes?
MJ: I want to inspire others to create! It empowers people! I believe in the art of creating by hand, something in today’s fast fashion that is disappearing. I have basic sewing classes to learn how to use a sewing machine, cut and sew following a paper pattern, also how to repurpose jewelry, and string beads, how to repurpose your old knitted sweaters, how to hand sew/simple embellishing to “up style”. I also have regular “gathering events,” free networking for creative hearts and minds to share ideas and inspirations. I chose my new location to accommodate more people for workshops and classes.
Jackson says if not a designer, she may have become a farmer, or a teacher. In a way, she’s doing both. Using the earth to create something wonderful, and sharing her knowledge with anyone who is interested. Though there are always complications, she has made the most of this career path.
TS: What are the biggest hurdles of an artistic career?
MJ: I would say not getting frustrated and staying creatively inspired, following my heart when juggling the real world demands versus my aspirations and my mind full of ideas!
TS: Where do you see yourself five to 10 years from now?
MJ: With a thriving business, recognized brand, small cottage industry and/or larger studio that employs, perhaps, 10 talented individuals who are creating pieces for my boutique, as well as pieces going out across the country to other shops. Many happy students.
TS: If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently?
MJ: Nothing, other than start my current business when I was younger
TS: What advice would you give someone who is interested in following in your footsteps, both in design and in green living?
MJ: Be persistent, dedicate yourself, be willing to try new things, explore and listen while you create! It is in the moment that makes it a thrilling journey. I’m always pushing myself, testing the limits. It’s a balance, when you design, between a crazy idea and what women want.
TS: What can readers look forward to from you?
MJ: New pieces, new collections, more array of sizes. Little girl dresses and a pet collection…
If you’re looking to add a little sparkle to your life while keeping the earth bright and green, look no further than Restored by Design, and the remarkable work of Martha Jackson.