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Matzko ‘spruces’ up North Shore with jewelry designs

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Spruced Handmade owner Melita Matzko stands in Homegrown Silver and Stone on Frazier Avenue, which is where much of her local-inspired merchandise is sold.

On any given day, Melita Matzko might wear silver cicadas on her earlobes or a sparkling basil leaf strung around her neck.

The North Shore resident and jewelry artist runs her business Spruced Handmade on Etsy.

The jewelry she sells features hand-carved metal clay, molded into images of pure silver or copper trees, fish, the Walnut Street Bridge and even old-fashioned cassette tapes.

“I loved sculpting miniatures, so when I heard about metal clay I realized I can actually do something with my tiny sculpting skills,” Matzko said. “I started playing with it and I just fell in love. [Metal clay] is an amazing medium.”

From her jewelry designs to her two-ply birch business cards, most of Matzko’s inspiration comes from nature, and her true-to-life cicada earrings are no exception.

“These have a story behind them,” she said.

One summer a swarm of cicadas invaded the area, and a very unlucky one flew into Matzko’s hair and got stuck. Frantic, she danced around, beating at her head, until the large bug finally became untangled. Since then she’s had a fear of the grotesque yet harmless bugs.

“I started looking at them up close and realized they are actually crazy-beautiful, even with their creepy, beady little eyes,” Matzko laughed, explaining that she used one that had already died to make a cast for the earrings. “It sort of demystified them to me and helped me get over the horror. I actually like them now.”

Matzko often casts her work from actual objects, including that basil leaf necklace. Other than her hand-carved jewelry, she also sketches unique patterns for gift bags, tote bags and yearly planners.

And within each pattern, a special element or characteristic of Chattanooga can be found.

“The thing I like about Chattanooga is the geometry,” she said. “The shape of Lookout Mountain, the S-curve of the river. It’s so fun to play with designs; it’s hard for me to resist incorporating [Chattanooga themes].”

The price point for her handmade jewelry is anywhere from $30 to $60. Matzko said she’s preparing to begin work with gemstones, which will increase the price point of some of her jewelry, as well as the quality.