Jewelry designer Susan Rodgers of Stony Brook considers herself a romantic. A dreamer who turns pieces of history into tangible keepsakes by molding them in sterling silver.
Her history of choice: her collection of more than 60 vintage postcards, some dating back more than a hundred years, bearing elegant handwriting and the postmarks of places like Paris and Florence and Dublin. She's got a postcard from the World's Fair in Paris the year the Eiffel Tower was unveiled; she's got one depicting New York City before the Empire State Building was built.
Rodgers duplicates their postmarks in silver for necklaces, rings and bracelets, and everyone who buys one gets a reproduction of the postcard on which it is based.
"It's such a romantic, nostalgic thing to collect," she said. "Fifty years from now we're not going to have this kind of thing because of texting and digital media and all that stuff."
Rodgers said Valentine's Day is one of the busiest times of the year, just behind Christmas and Mother's Day. In addition to her collection of postmark-inspired jewelry, she also has a collection of heart-themed jewelry and another collection inspired by the dogwood flowers from her own front yard.
Jewelry making wasn't always her full-time profession. Rodgers, 47, worked as an editor for 17 years in the medical and insurance industries, making jewelry for herself as a hobby. But more and more, people would admire her jewelry so much that they'd offer to pay for some of their own.
Before long, she had enough business that it made sense to make it her full time endeavor. She launched a website and joined Facebook and Twitter. Her husband Bill and kids Patrick, 20, Kevin, 18, and Natalie, 13, have been supportive of her business. "Emotionally and physically, it's a lot," Rodgers said. "It makes it much easier when you have that support."
She just put out her first catalog, and in addition to doing craft shows, Rodgers works from her home studio in Stony Brook and displays her work at on South Main Street in Sayville, where she works two days a week. She said the gallery has helped her business skyrocket.
"People like to interact with the artist," she said. "There's nothing like holding a piece in your hand and feeling the weight of it."
Someday, Rodgers said, she'd like to actually visit all the places represented among her postcard collection.
"My customers have either been there, have dreams of going there, or their family is from there," Rodgers said. "For me, these are all places I'd love to go eventually. I just live through their experience."