MARINE ON ST. CROIX, Minn. (AP) - Logan Ketterling loves a good story.
So when Ketterling, 19, started designing and making jewelry, he looked for materials that would tell a tale.
His search led him to Marine on St. Croix and the Marine Mill, the state’s first commercial log mill. “I went out to Marine, and I just fell in love with it,” said Ketterling, of Lakeville, who is a senior business major at North Central University in Minneapolis. “The St. Croix is beautiful, and I knew I had to do this. I knew I needed to find wood from there.”
Ketterling tracked down a cedar log that had been sawn at the mill but sank in the St. Croix River during transport to Stillwater, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/23xwrDK ) reported. It had been sitting at the bottom of the river for at least 100 years, he said.
Ketterling, a former personal stylist at Nordstrom, launched a company called Urbain and in one week raised $15,000 on Kickstarter.com. His company’s slogan is “Wear the Story.”
The result is “The Marine,” a limited-edition, wooden-bead bracelet that is being sold for $160. The unisex bracelet’s beads are sanded and stained by hand, threaded onto beading wire and finished with a bright or aged sterling-silver toggle clasp. It comes in six sizes.
Ketterling said he decided to make his own jewelry after being unsuccessful in selling other jewelry on his fashion blog, “Your Kind of Style.”
“People kept asking: ‘Well, where are beads from? Who made it? What’s the story?’” he said. “I realized that people want something to hold on to - whether it’s a story of a friend who made it or a story of where it’s from - they want a story. Story-driven marketing has taken over the world.”
Urbain’s goal is to “keep the story at the center of everything,” Ketterling said.
Each bracelet comes in a hand-numbered wooden box with a postcard that explains the history of the Marine Mill, which operated from 1839 to 1895 and is believed to be the first commercial business in Minnesota.
Making the beads turned out to be harder than Ketterling thought it would be. The first batch disintegrated before his eyes. “I was heartbroken,” he said. “It turns out cedar is a very soft wood.”
Ketterling had to fix the bead-making machine to “slow it down” and fashion a smaller pipe for the lathe, he said.
“I’m not mechanical. I’m a designer and a fashion guy,” he said. “But it makes for a great story. Whenever there’s a tough situation in my life, I say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be a great story.’ I lived in the Middle East last year, working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and I was almost killed and I was, like, ‘It’s going to be a great story.’ “
Ketterling said he purposely does not sand the beads to a smooth finish.
“When people see this rough-cut look, they’re going to go ‘What is that?’ and it’s immediately going to start that storytelling,” he said.
His next bracelet, part of what he calls the “North Collection,” will feature a piece of Marine Mills wood and leather from the tannery that’s used by Red Wing Shoes. It will debut at the end of May at “a much lower price point,” Ketterling said. “We want to include everybody with this.”
After that, he will make silver necklaces featuring pieces of hematite mined at the Soudan Iron Mine, the deepest point in Minnesota.
Eventually, he said, he’d like to launch collections from every part of the country and around the world.
Jeanmarie Campbell, of Forest Lake, is glad he started with “The Marine.”
When Campbell learned that the bracelet was made from wood logged in the late 1800s at the Marine Mill - where her great-grandfather Domino Campbell worked - she couldn’t resist.
She ordered two.
“I looked at my husband and I said, ‘Do you think we could get one of those?’ ” Campbell said. “I knew they would be expensive, but I wanted one just for family history, to have something to put in our family book. He said, ‘Yeah, but order two. You can wear one, and we’ll put one away.’ “
When the bracelets arrive next month, Campbell will put one on her wrist and the other in her safe-deposit box.
“I can’t wait to go to a family reunion and wear it,” said Campbell, 57. “It’s going to mean so much. I remember the stories that my dad used to tell about his grandfather and what went into getting the logs to Stillwater. To lose one meant money, so they tried not to lose a log. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to have a piece of one that my great-grandpa might have hooked and couldn’t get loose and then said, ‘To heck with that one, we can’t move it.’ “
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com
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