“Friends don’t let friends buy corporate jewelry,” fine artist and jewelry designer Eileen Baumeister McIntyre often jokes. Though any client who browses the abundance of one-of-a-kind, handmade, customizable pieces glimmering throughout her Garden of Silver boutique in Westhampton Beach is likely to take the tongue-in-cheek mantra to heart.
A certified art teacher, Baumeister McIntyre’s foray into jewelry began a decade ago, when putting what she learned in an introductory glass fusing class to good use, crafting jewelry that quickly became the envy of her friends. At her first jewelry party, she made $2,000 in one night, which was reason enough to evolve this new hobby into something more lucrative. Following that decision, she spent two years studying metalworking and stone setting under the tutelage of master jeweler Kathleen DiResta.
Baumeister McIntyre began her professional jewelry career in wholesale, selling her custom designs in bulk to other stores. “I’d get an order to make 50 of these and 50 of those,” she says. “The money was good, but the creativity wasn’t there.” When she opened her first pop-up in Grand Central Station, she could finally spread her creative wings. The much-needed inspiration boost helped her produce stunning new pieces that attracted attention from icons including Lady Gaga, who’s been photographed wearing Garden of Silver’s signature Golden Sunflower Necklace. “[I love] the freedom to follow an idea from a sketch to a finished piece in a week’s time or two weeks’ time, and then I can do something else, and then something else,” she says of her liberating retail business model. “I can be so much more creative!”
After her New York City endeavor, she opened a shop in East Hampton, though she felt a bit out of place there. “East Hampton is beautiful—I love the whole vibe there—but it’s a corporate town with three Ralph Laurens, Jimmy Choo, Tesla,” she notes, adding that the tight space and the drive from her Miller Place home added stress to the arrangement. This summer, she opened what she hopes will be her home boutique for many years to come at 77 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. She fondly remembers how local business owners and passersby welcomed her with open arms, adding, “I love this town, because it’s a mom-and-pop town.”
Her jewelry, which ranges in price from $25 to $11,000, is made almost entirely in-store, with designs and textures drawing inspiration from the natural beauty of the sea, the garden and butterflies. “When times are slow—like all winter long—I’ll be here making stuff,” she says. Always equipped with a sketchbook, Baumeister McIntyre births new designs from doodles, some abstract and others more true-to-form. She experiments with shape and size variations to determine if a new collection can be built around the design, then she moves on to the metalworking phase, making sure to show her hand in each piece. “I always leave something in there that shows that a human being made it, and it didn’t come out of a factory,” she explains. “I don’t want it to look so perfect.”
Clients are often surprised and delighted to learn that just about every piece in the boutique can be customized to their liking—chains can be exchanged and gemstones swapped. “They leave feeling like they were part of the design process,” she says.
Garden of Silver features a wide array of collections, each exquisitely unique. The Secret Garden collection is like a love letter to Mother Earth, with leaves, flowers, stones and butterflies throughout. The Terra Necklace, made from textured geodes, is certainly one of the biggest showstoppers of the collection. The mesmerizing Midnight in the Garden collection showcases the ancient Korean gilding technique of kum-boo, which fuses blackened sterling silver, polished sterling and 24K gold-plated brass to create a bold, contrasted look all its own. The most impressive line of all is the Coquille Collection, because, in addition to comprising gorgeous silver pieces inspired by marine treasures, it helps improve the health of local waters by donating 25% of proceeds to the Moriches Bay Project. A small portion of proceeds from the sale of all other collections benefits Women for Women International, No Kid Hungry and Pets for Vets.
Despite developing many intricate and valuable collections, Baumeister McIntyre’s love of the simple fused glass jewelry that kickstarted her career hasn’t waivered. “To me, they’re like doing little, mini abstract paintings,” she says, boasting that she can churn out five in an hour. “Every single day, I sell them. People love them!”
As a fine artist, Baumeister McIntyre’s boutique offers more than jewelry. The walls are lined with her breathtaking colored pencil drawings and silverpoint drawings, which are made utilizing an obscure Renaissance Era technique that uses real silver in place of a pencil. “I get very attached to the fine art, because it’s a part of you for so many months at a time. So if I finish something it’s not going for sale until I do like two or three more pieces, because it’s still so close to you,” she explains. These designs can also be seen throughout the store on pillows, handbags and luxurious scarves.
Garden of Silver also showcases the work of other independent designers, all of them are friends of Baumeister McIntyre who share her preference for timeless jewelry over trendy pieces. “If you’re interested in getting one of those Alex and Ani charm bracelets, don’t come here,” she laughs. “It’s a whole different client that comes to buy [our] jewelry than corporate jewelry.” In the near future, one of her featured designers, Jeanette Walker, will unveil an innovative new collection cast in actual Westhampton Beach sand, giving it the texture of Rogers Beach.
The coming months, leading to summer 2020, promise many new, diversified pieces that Baumeister McIntyre is eager to debut. She plans to expand her butterfly pieces into a pollinators collection featuring honeybees and other insects vital to the local ecosystem, and her men’s jewelry, which currently consists of various cufflinks, will evolve into a full collection of chunky, masculine jewelry pieces. Next summer, the boutique will also see jewelry and fine art trunk shows every weekend, though there are plenty of treasures to discover in-store throughout the off-season, too.
To learn more about Garden of Silver and to shop the collections online, visit gardenofsilver.com.