Story by Maxwell Harden
Gretchen “Greta” Krieger is putting the hammer to the metal when it comes to her passion.
The 24-year-old Baroda resident has been working tirelessly with her burgeoning business, Eclectic Pearl Crafting.
Founded in August 2018, Eclectic Pearl Crafting offers customers metal stamped goods ranging from jewelry, keychains, pet tags, vintage silverware, bookmarks and just about anything else that can be metal stamped.
The word “eclectic” and its definition resonated with Greta, so much so that she decided to incorporate it into her business’ name. Greta is German for “pearl,” so combining the two words made all the sense in the world for her.
“It’s not the exact definition, but it means to be derived from different sources,” she says. “That’s like the main thing that I remember in the description, and I feel like my style and the style that I gravitate towards — how I decorate my apartment and how I pick out certain outfits — it’s all derived from different sources. It kind of ties into the idea of vintage metal stamping or vintage silverware coming from. In German, Greta means ‘Pearl,’ so it’s kind of tying into me being an eclectic individual and making like eclectic kind of art pieces.”
Greta was introduced to the art of metal stamping as a craft director at a youth camp and immediately took to it.
“I was like, ‘wait a second,’” she says. “This is something that’s really fun to do. I stay really focused with it, and it’s very tedious, but I kind of get lost in it.”
When she’s ready to metal stamp, Greta writes out the words on a marker board and chooses the letter that’s in the middle of the word. She always starts in the middle and works her way out from there. She holds the nail-like stamp over the metal piece and hits the top with a hammer, and it impresses the metal. Once all of the metal stamping is done, she writes over it with a black enamel marker.
Once dry, she wipes it off so the letters appear to be black and show through on the metal.
“Each piece requires a lot of attention whenever I output product,” she says. “If the words aren’t the way that I want them to be formatted, or say that one letter is crooked, I’ll completely redo the piece, because I want to make sure that the product that I deliver is quality. The metal stamping that I’m doing, it’s easy to see and easy to read. It’s not easy to pick apart where I’ve had mistakes.”
Eclectic Pearl debuted August 2018 at Baroda Farmer’s Market. Greta remembers her first sale like it was yesterday.
“I only had one platter with about 20 key chains sitting out,” she recalls. “My first sale was to my best friend. She and her mom came to support me. I didn’t make many sales in the beginning, but I knew that this could grow into something much bigger.”
Rather than get discouraged about her slow start, Greta remained positive and continued to perfect her craft.
“It takes confidence to be able to have people come to your booth,” she says. “You have a table set up with stuff that you’ve made, and you pour your heart into these items, and it’s important to have the confidence to know that the product that you’re putting out there has value. I know for a lot of other artists, the impostor syndrome kind of kicks in, but you have got to get past that and realize that the world needs art just like they need anything else. I think that’s something that I’ve discovered is that what I do is very important.”
Greta has taken Eclectic Pearl to markets, shops and exhibits throughout the Michiana area, including Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph and Skip’s New Buffalo European Farmers Market.
“I’ve done a lot with the Box Factory,” she says. “In 2019, there were a lot of artisan markets there every weekend. From May to October, Saturdays and Sundays, I go to Skip’s. That’s been really nice to have as a solid place to go that’s established, that has many customers ready for you. I just feel like as I keep taking footsteps, opportunities just keep on coming.”
She also created an Eclectic Pearl website, featuring an assortment of items for sale as well as an option to submit commissions.
“If a customer wants a certain piece stamped, I have to go hunt for that piece,” Greta says. “I either go to a craft store to purchase the metal like the metal stamping blanks, or if they want something stamped on silverware, that does require me and my mom to go hunt for silverware. It’s sitting in antique stores, and there’s plenty of it out there, but to find the right pieces is important. Once I get the silverware, I clean and polish it. So there’s a lot of hard like hands-on work into it, and I think that’s also the biggest reward for me. When I output these products to people, I see the hours of work and planning behind it, and I’m sure that my customers do, too.”
In addition to appearing at markets and having product on her website, Greta also worked out a deal with downtown St. Joseph store Perennial Accents to have select items available for sale there.
“That was a really big opportunity for me,” she says. “I’ve dreamt of having my products in a store and the owner was very sweet. She saw my vintage silver pieces and she ordered 96 different pieces. Luckily, I have an auctioneer that also helps me locate very ornate, detailed pieces of silverware. Once I got them I had to pick out the best ones and clean, polish and stamp every individual letter. It was a long process, but it was very rewarding. I took a lot of pride in having that in the store.”
What’s more impressive is that Greta has managed to expand her business while working full-time at a local bank. According to her, the customer service skills fostered while working at the bank have helped her with her own business.
“I like making connections with people,” Greta says. “I use customer service a lot throughout my business, so it’s important for me to have a stable job. That way, I can continue running my business and learning as I grow while also taking skills from my full-time job and incorporating them into my business as well.”
While Greta hopes Eclectic Pearl will continue to grow, she encourages people who are thinking about starting a business to take a leap of faith.
“I like to show other people that they’re very capable of building a business if that’s what they want to do,” she says. “As long as they start with their first step, and they’re not scared to fail, that will help you continue to pursue your passions. When I started, I was at Baroda Farmer’s Market with 20 keychains on a silver platter. I want anyone else to know that they’re capable of doing what I’m doing or whatever they want to pursue.”