Cutting Their Teeth
Art market veterans go brick-and-mortar with Tooth & Nail Trading Co.
Marianna Massey photographs
There’s a sense of calm on the Thursday I walk into the Magazine Street store Tooth & Nail Trading Co. The doors are open, an early fall breeze is wafting through, and jewelry maker Holly Williams’ dog, Dottie, is resting on the floor. But from what I can tell after talking to them, this calm is a welcome change for store owners and resident artisans Williams and Krista DeJoseph, jewelry makers who cut their teeth on the often exhausting art market circuit and now have a brick-and-mortar store selling their creations and those of other artists.
“We kind of talked offhand like, ‘Oh, it’d be fun to one day do something together,’ but I don’t think we ever thought it was actually in the near future,” DeJoseph says. But an opportunity to take over a space on Magazine Street presented itself, and DeJoseph knew the pair had to act quickly.
“[Krista] called me and said, ‘Do you want to open a store?’ And I said no,” Williams says. “And then she said ‘Do you want to work markets for the rest of your life?’”
Williams and DeJoseph could often be seen selling their wares at the Frenchmen Street Art Market under the brands Small Change Finery and Queens Metal, respectively. Working the market, which is open five days a week and goes until 1 a.m., was lucrative but difficult for the two artists.
“It’s nice to have a space where you don’t have to tear things down every day,” DeJoseph says. “The markets are fun, but they’re exhausting.”
Something both women’s jewelry lines have in common is their use of metals; Small Change Finery also incorporates materials like bone, deer antler and rabbit fur while Queens Metal is characterized by hard lines, geometric shapes and a more industrial look.
“There’s something badass about (metal). I think that’s the right word,” Williams says. “It’s a mix of feminine and bold and badass stuff.”
Williams is a native of New Jersey whose love of travel led her to live in many cities, finally landing her in New Orleans in 2010.
“I’ve always tinkered with jewelry, but I never completed something I was proud of until I moved here,” she says.
DeJoseph is from Upstate New York, and she lived in New York City for 10 years. Feeling the stress of the high cost of living and having to live and work in such a small space – DeJoseph recalls a time when she got some press for her work and the photographer could barely fit in her space to get a good photo – the music lover eventually fell in love with New Orleans and moved here.
Besides jewelry by DeJoseph and Williams, the store carries a variety of items by other New Orleans artists and small artists from around the country. Tooth & Nail also hosts jewelry-making classes aimed at teaching skills that can be honed outside of class.
“The whole idea is learning skills you’re able to do at home in your own time with very little cost and investment of tools,” DeJoseph says. “It sucks when you take a class and you really enjoy it, but you can never do it again because you don’t have a kiln or a potter’s wheel or a darkroom. My idea was, let’s teach basic skills that you could go home and do at your kitchen table.”
As for the store’s name, deciding on this crucial piece of the branding puzzle came down to the wire, with DeJoseph and Williams without a name two days before signing a lease on the space. DeJoseph says “Tooth & Nail” suddenly came to her while laying in bed. The name mixes the organic and metallic elements of their work while also referencing their hustle as artists.
“I like the idea of fighting tooth-and-nail,” DeJoseph says. “Anyone who’s self-employed knows it’s a constant hustle. You’re constantly looking for the next sale, next gig, next connection, whatever. I like the idea of fighting tooth-and-nail to stay alive, basically.”
“It was so right. It was perfect,” Williams says of the name.
DeJoseph interjects: “She was on board, so I knew it was going to be a good partnership.”