What grew out of necessity for Lauren Hill has turned into a successful business for her and her husband, Allan.
Hill has an allergy to wearing metals, and therefore couldn’t wear her wedding ring. This began her interest in wooden rings. In 2012, she says she found wooden ring online, which was the inspiration for their first design.
“I grew up on a farm called Lot of Oaks so my husband worked with me to create our first wooden ring out of oak,” says Hill.
And this was the birth of their jewelry business, Northwood Bentwood Rings. At the time, they were one of a handful of artists using wood to make bentwood style rings, she says.
“When we began Northwood, neither my husband nor I had any previous experience with jewelry making,” explains Hill. “We are both big DIYers so we purchased some tools and made it up as we went.”
Each new skill led to their interest in the next. Since then, they’ve both taken extensive training - Allan in goldsmithing and gem setting, and Hill became a certified CAD designer in jewelry.
Northwood’s approach has been innovative from the start. We were the first to add a gold inlay to a mostly wooden ring, and we’ve seen artists and other craftspeople pick up on that and make it mainstream, she says.
“We can look online and feel like we contributed this completely unique style to the world of jewelry and that feels amazing,” says Hill.
When they first started their business seven years ago, the Hills decided to give it everything they had, and although admittedly it may not have been the easiest route, they have created a full-time business, since hiring two more employees.
Hill says Northwood started as an online e-commerce store, with most of their sales coming from outside Canada, and have expanded locally, creating a shop in their workshop in Bridgewater, by appointment only.
The vast majority of the work they do is custom orders, says Hill.
“Everyone wants something unique to them and we love to deliver on that,” she says.
In fact, Hill says that these custom orders are her favourite items to make, although right now she is in love with making their laurel wreath rings, symbolizing eternity and victory.
“I’ve always loved the symbolism of the laurel wreath, and we’ve recently released this ring that is just so different and contains so many of the elements I love to work with in the inlays and style. I think it really showcases what we can do,” she says.
Besides rings, Northwood creates other custom pieces, including pendants, bracelets and earrings, but Hill says she’s happy to consider any project if it fits her skill set.
Best of all, Northwood uses sustainable practices. All the rings are handmade from 100 per cent certified recycled gold and from wood that is chosen based on its beauty as well as its sustainability. When crafting our rings, every part of the process is handled in-house. We make the wax models, cast them using a lost wax casting system and take care of the ring all the way through to the final polish. Nothing is mass-produced, she says.
Next year, as the business continues to grow, Hill says they play to open a showcase room in Bridgewater, hoping to attract customers from all over Nova Scotia and the east coast.
“We’re looking to create an 'engagement experience', where couples can come out and design their own rings while also enjoying the many great attractions of the South Shore for an engagement getaway,” says Hill.
Hill says they are still one of the only artists she’s aware of that can bring a unique set of skills to mixing traditional jewelry and wood.
“We have this ability to create really unique pieces that are unlike anything else,” she says.
Northwood Bentwood Rings are at northwoodrings.com, through Etsy (etsy.com/ca/shop/NorthwoodRings) or in their workshop in Bridgewater, 517 King Street.