New York native Meg Carroll never expected to end up in Kentucky, but when a romance brought her to the Bluegrass several years ago, she was surprised to gradually discover a supportive network of artists and an atmosphere conducive to her work as a metalsmith and jeweler.
"When I first moved here I didn't know anybody," Meg said.
But she slowly began meeting area artists and others interested in her work, including Kentucky for Kentucky, which commissioned several of her now-iconic Kentucky-shaped pendants.
"There's so much going on in Lexington that's kind of underground, you have to know where to look," Meg said.
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Even after her romance ended, Meg decided to stay in Kentucky to embrace opportunities she wouldn't get back home in New York or Vermont, where her parents now live.
Her biggest opportunity turned out to be starting a retail business in the heart of downtown.
"I could never do this in New York or a bigger city because it would just be too expensive," said Meg, who received an associate degree in jewelry design from the Fashion Institute of New York before going on to study at the New Approach School for Jewelers in Franklin, Tenn.
When a group of lawyers vacated the space at 119 North Mill Street, Meg moved in.
She renovated the space herself and launched Meg C Gallery, a jewelry boutique that features Meg's original designs as well as jewelry by other Kentucky artists. Prices range from $35 to about $2,000.
In addition to her storefront, Meg reaches potential customers online and at area art fairs like Woodland Art Fair.
Meg works in the back of the store making jewelry when she doesn't have customers in the gallery's display area. She frequently creates custom jewelry, which can include designing a piece of jewelry from scratch, or transforming a vintage piece into something new.
One of her favorite pieces of custom jewelry is a pair of pendants she made for one of her clients' daughters.
"He wanted to do something meaningful with his platinum wedding ring after his divorce, so we made it into these beautiful key pendants for his two daughters," Meg said.
Photos of the entire process are displayed in her gallery, along with other photos documenting the process from sketch to creation.
Meg is very proud of the downtown space she has created.
"It was hard. It was a lot of work; a lot of crying and a lot of calling my mom," she says of the six months she spent renovating her gallery.
"I don't have any employees, so if there's anything that needs to be done, I do it myself."
Meg even learned how to install electrical fixtures and hardwood flooring before she opened her gallery doors to the public.
She also renovated with an eye toward design, displaying her jewelry in unique and eclectic ways that highlight its originally.
For instance, Meg found some interestingly shaped vintage foundry molds, then sanded and painted them before mounting them on the wall. The result is a sleek, asymmetrical contemporary display that sets it apart from more conventional jewelry stores.
"I like unique ways of displaying things," she said. "I don't want it to be a stuffy old jewelry store. I want it to be fun and exciting."