Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Somerville's Jen Hintz: A jeweler who likes to 'futz with fire'

I caught up with Jen Hintz, a jeweler who works with Sterling Silver, gemstones, and produces beautiful  rings, earrings, and other pieces-- all at affordable prices.  She is self-trained, and started her own independent business. 

First off, can you tell us about your experience in Somerville as an artisan? Is it a good place for you to be?

Because I work in my home and conduct most of my business online I can technically work from anywhere, but I definitely like being in Somerville. I live very close to the Armory so I have that community access for events and meeting with clients, and I’ve enjoyed using some of the makerspaces here- although I’m sad to see Artisan’s Asylum moving to Allston. While they’re worth the commute, I’m hoping a new group might step in and fill that void here.

I love your brand name-- I futz with fire--a little Yiddish mixed in, do you actually futz with fire?

I really do literally futz with fire! I use handheld torches to solder metals and to fire enamels, so there is plenty of flame in my days.

You work with gemstones and Sterling Silver. Why do you choose these materials to work with? Perhaps you can tell us a bit about your process--how do you forge these materials into a piece of jewelry ?

I love working with silver because of not only its beauty, but it’s durability and versatility. It can be turned into the most delicate, lacy, shiny filigree, or a chunky, rough, distressed finish with grungy black patina. I also like that it balances quality with (relative) affordability- you might be able to achieve a very similar initial look with silver plated or other materials, but they just don’t hold up. A piece of sterling silver jewelry can last multiple lifetimes, yet costs a fraction of what something made from gold would. This is important to me because I believe everyone should be able to have nice things regardless of how wealthy they may or may not be, and silver lets me offer a high quality product while keeping the price point accessible to the broadest possible audience.

Silver is also just nice to work with. It solders and fuses nicely with a torch, it’s more pleasant to cut with a saw than other metals, and it responds well to a wide range of forming and finishing methods. I can use it for everything from stamping and hammering to engraving and etching, and it turns out great.

Some of the gemstones you work with are stunning. Can you tell us a bit about theses mystical stones?

Not gonna lie, having an excuse to buy all manner of pretty rocks is DEFINITELY a perk of this job! It’s amazing how many different kinds of stones there are. I love finding interesting new varieties, but I have to say labradorite is my favorite. Even just that one stone can be incredibly diverse, coming in a whole rainbow of colors and different patterns. I also like the fact that I can get good quality stones at reasonable prices- back to that point about making sure my work is accessible to as many people as I can.

Are you formally trained or are you self-trained?

I am purely self-trained at this point, unless you count YouTube videos and blogs. A few years ago I had bought a cheap jeweler’s saw just to try it out. I managed to cut out a few simple pieces, and one day while texting with my father I mentioned that I needed to look up a tutorial on riveting so I could start putting things together. He responded “Soldering is much better! Hang on.” A few minutes later he sent me a tracking number- he had ordered me a kit with jeweler’s torch and accessories. That feat of enabling snowballed quickly as he and I both began acquiring and upgrading tools left and right, and three years later here I am! Also I must confess I still have not learned to rivet.

How can people purchase your work? Have you displayed your work in any the events the Somerville Arts Council presents?

Right now my sales all run through my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/ifutzithfire. I’m available for custom work as well- people can check out my work on Instagram and other social media as ifutzwithfire, and message me to discuss details.

I haven’t yet been able to participate in any of the Arts Council events- just as I got my business going enough that I was in a position to do so, the pandemic hit. I’ve been watching as events have started up again, but I have a variety of medical issues that require a much higher level of caution than the average person. I just haven’t felt safe yet. I’m hoping to find a way to participate in at least one or two in-person market events by the end of 2021 but have yet to finalize anything. I’m also hoping to begin partnering with other local businesses like galleries/boutiques and perhaps doing some one-on-one custom work with local clients.

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