Published September 14th, 2011
The best wedding gifts evoke a sense of timelessness and capture the unique spirit of each couple’s big day. At CHART metalworks, a gem of a jewelry shop near Portland’s waterfront, you’ll find both.
Co-owners (and couple) Charlotte Leavitt and John Guptil craft necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks and other adornments from nautical charts. Picture a pendant featuring the coastal town where you got engaged or cufflinks pinpointing the island where you’ll host your wedding. Topped with a durable marine resin, the pieces will last as long as your marriage.
Here’s CHART’s story, in John’s words.
Please tell us a bit about you and how the company got started.
CHART metalworks: To escape the corporate frenzy and to feed her “bead addiction,” Charlotte began creating jewelry in 2002. She was inspired by her love of sailing to incorporate nautical charts in her designs in 2006. In 2008, Charlotte formally launched CHART metalworks on Custom House Wharf, not far from her home on Portland’s peninsula. I soon joined her side to assist with the increasing orders and growing the business. Today, with the assistance of a diligent crew and our corgi-terrier mix Riley, CHART metalworks can be found in boutiques nationwide, online at chartmetalworks.com and in our new, open-to-the-public working studio, centered between Portland’s Arts District, the Old Port and working waterfront at 1 Pleasant St. In additional to nautical charts, CHART has also grown to work with historical maps and can create custom pieces featuring virtually any point in the world. Each piece is handcrafted from bronze and sterling silver, and the chart or map images are hand-selected, cut, and placed. Each piece is then topped with several layers of a boaters’ resin, creating a durable, sturdy seal with a natural dome and magnifying effect. No two pieces are exactly the same; each piece tells a story. Wear your world, tell your story — what is yours?
Which items are most popular for weddings? Do couples often choose maps of their engagement or wedding location?
CHART metalworks: Our most popular items have been the necklaces and earrings for the brides and bridesmaids and cuff links and tux studs for the groomsmen. But in the past, we’ve even done custom keyrings as parting gifts with the date engraved on the back and a customized gift bag featuring the bride’s and groom’s name. Really all of our pieces are about featuring a point of interest with a sentimental connection, so they are all very appropriate to celebrate weddings — we’ve even had a bride receive a belt buckle before and she loved it! I would say the wedding location itself is slightly more popular than the engagement location, but we do have some really great engagement stories, too.
What’s the process for placing a custom order?
CHART metalworks: Placing a custom order can be accomplished in four easy steps.
1. CHOOSE YOUR PIECE. Start by selecting the type of piece that you’d like, whether it’s a pendant, bracelet, belt buckle, etc. Each piece will have its own options that you may choose from to further customize your piece, such as type of metal.
2. DESCRIBE YOUR LOCATION. Provide as much information about your location that you have. When ordering over the phone or in-person at the studio, you will be asked a few questions to accurately locate your point of interest. When ordering online, a form is provided.
3. APPROVE YOUR ARTWORK. A proof of your image will be provided within 2 business days. You will receive an email notification letting you know your proof is ready to view. The image will be sent as a PDF file templated to display the area to be contained within your selected piece. You may either approve the proof, at which time the piece will go into production, or return the proof with comments for corrections. Revised proofs will be sent until your final approval is achieved.
4. SHIPS IN TWO WEEKS. Your order ships in two weeks from final proof approval, with rush options available for quicker turnaround times.
When visiting our new studio, you can actually combine steps two and three and design your image in real-time with the artists!
What points in Maine do people most often seek to feature?
CHART metalworks: Each custom order is truly one of a kind. We do not really keep a stock image set of for say “Portland” that all Portlanders have to choose from when placing their custom orders. We start with the Portland area and then adjust to focus on the precise area desired by the customer. Because of the truly customizable nature of our work, it’s difficult for us to track a most popular image set like one might be able to do between a red, blue and green bag all of the same style. Off the top of my head, though, I would say Maine areas of popularity would include Portland, most likely due to our roots here and the population, but also the Boothbay Harbor area, Mount Desert Island and any other island or coastal region. Outside of Maine, other really popular locations include Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the whole East Coast with a lot of emphasis on the Chesapeake Bay, the Outer Banks, Hilton Head and Florida including the Gulf Coast. The Great Lakes have become really popular and we are working into Puget Sound and the West Coast.
What do you love most about coastal Maine?
CHART metalworks: Charlotte and I are both natives (well, Charlotte was born in New York, don’t tell anyone, and quickly transplanted). Charlotte was raised in Hampden, where her parents ran a marina on the Penobscot River, and I was raised just outside of Damariscotta. We haven’t left because there isn’t too much not to love about coastal Maine, but I would say the quality of life and mixture of the working water industry, creative economy/arts, tourism and natural beauty are what make it truly unique and special!