From time to time people ask us why we started this business. And so far we have replied with various answers:
I'm old and hate to exercise (Lori).
I love not parking a car in the garage because we have so much cool stuff in there (Eric).
I was a squirrel in a past life and I like shiny things (Lori).
I discovered that I am actually a creative genius in a Dr Horrible kind of way (Eric. Ok Lori says this about Eric).
I'm merely hanging out waiting for The Madman in a Box to appear (Lori....and Mrs Lori. Um...That's not how it works. Ya . Ya it is).
My star struck-innate NEED to meet celebrities (Lori, unless it's #JimButcher, then it's Eric).
Because I'm THE loyal fan (#MattSmith) (#ImTalkingToYouBaby) (#YouToo #WilliamShatner #HarrisonFord #DavidTennant #MarkHamill). I have SQUEED my fandom yell many many times (Lori).
It finances our ComiCon habit (Eric & Lori)
But there is a deeper reason I do this. I have heard that people will not buy what you do, they will buy why you do it. And you will rarely hear me talk about it, but I figured that at this critical point in our company's journey, I needed to share my "why":
Eric and I were in a serious motorcycle accident in August 2012. It almost killed both of us and it changed our lives forever. We would've been dead if it weren't for our helmets (#HelmetsSaveLives). We were in intense recovery and therapy for over a year. Over a third of the skin on my body was either burned or scraped off. My clavicle was broken, and I had a TBI (traumatic brain injury; to this day I suffer from memory loss and migraine headaches). Eric's injuries were so severe that he had to have a wound pump in his leg for months, intense surgery on a shattered wrist; all while his orthopedic doctor did not believe in prescribing pain medication. We were both diagnosed and still have severe PTSD.
Besides the horrible anxiety that comes with PTSD, I fell into a deep depression. I couldn't move like I used to. There was constant instead of occasional pain. There were things I would never recover from. There were horrible ugly scars and pieces of me that were quite literally gone. There was a legal battle as well that at times felt worse than the actual accident (we "won," although it was a win that had no positive feelings).
I was broken.
Dabbling into making something one day with a friend, I noticed some broken and tarnished jewelry and metal she had put into a waste bin. An old watch, broken chains, half of an earring, and some greasy nuts and bolts; all discarded as trash. I dumped them out on the table so I could put a bag in the bin. As I was putting the bin back, I happened to notice the broken pieces laying on the table. They were arranged in a way that seemed artistic. On closer observation, I discovered that the broken watch had genuine ruby weights and beautiful copper and bronze petina gears. The face was in good shape, the remaining hand was tiny yet intricate, and midnight was actually a tiny diamond. The broken chain was tarnished but a beautiful figaro. The broken earring and the nuts and bolts provided contrasting shapes. Before I knew it, I had created an artistic piece of jewelry. I started going to estate sales, thrift stores, and antique shops, deliberately looking for the broken, the tarnished, and the discarded. My downstairs spare bedroom became my studio. For a while, I became a recluse; barricading myself in that room, creating things all night long and well into the next days. As God was my witness, I was going to make the broken, tarnished, and discarded into beautiful pieces of art.
With every broken piece I discovered, with every tarnished piece I buffed or treated to look even more tarnished, I realized that it wasn't just the jewelry that was getting repurposed. I was repurposing myself. Yes, I am old(er). Yes, my body and my brain now will never be the same. And when I look at myself on the Artist's Table, I see sometimes what I once was, and mourn that shiny soul that used to be me. But now I see something beyond that. Something infinitely more interesting. I see the broken and tarnished pieces in new ways. I see the ugly scars now as giving striking shapes, texture, and contrast. I see my past, my present and my future in new and profound ways. I see the good and the bad, but I also see the beautiful. And I am enough.
More about us
The Brass Caliper started almost accidentally in May 2014. One of the owners, Lori Embree (who has always loved steampunk) asked her husband Eric to make her a steampunk lamp. So after a few trips to Home Depot, thrift stores, and junk yards, Eric cleared his workbench and got to work. A few electricity-flicking days later, Eric placed his creation in their home. The obsession had begun. Before too long, they were repurposing items they owned with steampunk style. The focus very quickly turned to jewelry for Lori. She started by repurposing all her jewelry and watches, and then started frequenting antique shops, thrift stores, and estate sales, as well as hardware stores and dad's garage. Although it started with Eric and Lori, before too long one of their daughters joined in.
According to artist Lori Embree, "We believe strongly in reusing and up-cycling materials. There is something amazing about taking something that most would discard and turning it into something beautiful."
Their items are a conglomeration of many things. No two are alike. Items may include chain from mom's jewelry box, grandma's coat pins, old bottle caps, antique items from an estate sale, or precious finds from a thrift store. It may have pieces and parts from grandpa's old pocket watch, metal from an old mining town, or naturally aged nuts and bolts from dad's garage. Each piece has a unique and beautiful history, and just like us, they are durable and fragile because of the time and situations they've seen.
The Brass Caliper has focused mostly on comi-con conventions, because Eric and Lori are self proclaimed "original nerds." They hope people like their items as much as they do, and they are excited to meet new people.