Jewelry available on Mechanica Jewelry’s Etsy shop.
$10 - $35
Story by Abby Carney
An artist in search of her medium, Claire Brooks signed up for a welding and knife making course in North Carolina last September. She's a painter who also studies sculpture at Georgia State University, but it wasn't until she began forming pendants from the scrap metal leftover from her welding class that she discovered a craft she could sit down with and let hours effortlessly escape her, engrossed in her work.
Around the same time she was introduced to Greg Brennan. Brennan is the electrician and artist behind TORCH Custom Illumination, and creates lamps and custom lighting pieces from completely salvaged and discovered materials. Soon after meeting, Brennan took Brooks on as his apprentice, and under his wing, she learned the tools of her trade that eventually led her to start her own business, Mechanica Jewelry.
With Brennan's emphasis on repurposing salvaged materials and incorporating found objects mostly excavated from Atlanta’s urban ruins, he and Brooks go on regular treasure hunts, exploring old abandoned industrial buildings in Metro Atlanta, and gathering metals and knick-knacks to create light fixtures and illuminated art pieces.
Brooks began collecting small baubles and pieces that interested her on these missions, and soon after, Mechanica Jewelry was born, as she pieced together original trinkets with her re-imagined abandoned spoils. “I started collecting all these weird little things that I would find, and it kind of became like a hoarding problem,” she says. Revisiting the jewelry making practice she began as a teenager, Brooks realized she’d stumbled upon her niche.
The name itself came easily and instinctively, from a drawing class assignment in which Brooks was tasked with making charcoal imprints on paper, experimenting with textures around the Georgia State campus. She shaded over a mechanical box, and left off the "L”.
“I like to think that some of the pieces I make are gender-neutral because I use a lot of electrical parts and components to piece things together. I feel like some of the parts are used in a very masculine profession, and they are mechanical parts. So it just made sense,” said Brooks. Her first venture as a merchant was selling at Atlanta’s Phoenix Festival in November, and ever since, friends have been spreading the word, garnering visits to the Mechanica Jewelry Etsy shop.
But although she's steadily growing her business's online presence, Brooks values face time with her customers so she can share the passion behind her custom pieces. For a process so meticulous, each small trinket is hammered, soldered and fitted just by Brooks, so it’s important to her that her buyers feel the love and adventurous spirit that goes into each piece.
"I like face-to-face kind of things so I can tell people more. Because I can write it down, but I can only write so much. And to try to keep it as just a little card of information, you can’t fit it all in there."
She takes her customers’ satisfaction so seriously that for her first several orders, she met with customers in person to handle repairs. Before she found a reliable source for purchasing materials like chains, bindings and jump rings, a few of her early pieces broke, and she made the extra effort to make any needed repairs, acknowledging that she’s still learning — but learning quickly.
Brooks is also excited to explore working with customers on specific custom projects. She's a talented craftswoman with a passion for expanding her knowledge and abilities with ironsmithing and stonesetting, so with her increasing skillset, the sky’s the limit with what styles she can create. And with no two pieces alike, patrons of Mechanica Jewelry need never worry about spying someone with the same preserved deer tooth horseshoe nail hanging necklace or hand-hammered brass bar citrine absorption piece as they have fastened around their neck.
In the future, Brooks plans to experiment with statement pieces — large, chunky embellishments with a Western flair, a nod to the adventurer's time spent in Texas, a locale that continues to inspire her aesthetic, much as Atlanta's urban, industrial sites flaunt their expression in Brooks' work.