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Jan 08, 2018

Flotsam & Co. Rediscovers the Ocean's Hidden Gems

Karen Sawicki isn't your typical entrepreneur.

As the owner and founder of Flotsam & Co., a delightfully hip boutique with a focus on locally made jewelry, Karen sources many of the shells she uses in her jewelry designs by free-diving and scouring the seafloor for the perfect shell. The result, as you'll find in her South Shore Market boutique, is a line of jewelry that's completely unique and as locally sourced as it gets.

For those of you landlubbers out there, "Flotsam" is a term that describes the wreckage from a ship or other floating objects that finds itself adrift. With her pedigree as a diver and love of the ocean, combined with her creative and entrepreneurial spirit, Karen's homemade jewelry morphed into a thriving operation with brick-and-mortar dreams, appearing in New York's Fashion Week in 2015 via a pop-up collaboration with Kinfolk Magazine and Flux Magazine.

While many retailers source their inventory from trade shows on the mainland, Karen's able to meld her two passions to create a line that's all here own. "My father was a diver, and I grew up with a love of the sea", recalls Karen. "When I was younger, an old sailor gave to me a box of etching needles and antique ivory. I began teaching myself the lost maritime art of scrimshaw. I was fascinated with making jewelry out of found objects such as scrimshaw or shells—ascribing meaning and value to objects which may have otherwise been discarded."

On a dive, Karen has developed a careful formula: she's not on the hunt for shells, but rather focuses simply on enjoying the dive.

"As I'm diving, I concentrate less on finding items and enjoying the dive itself. I've found that the harder I look on the seafloor for shells (or the elusive sunrise shell), the less I find. Most of my greater finds, from rare shells to shark teeth, have been when least expecting it and not specifically on the hunt for anything special."

When it comes to designing and actually creating her prized line, Karen once again turns inward, letting her creativity and inspiration set the tone for the jewelry, rather than the shells themselves. "My process is varied, and not every shell or found item eventually turns into a piece of jewelry. I work slowly, sometimes building settings or pieces after being inspired by a shell or something from the natural world. Other times, I have an idea in studio about a piece, and am waiting for the perfect natural object to complement it. I have piles of 'to-do' lists and items waiting in the studio for the perfect shell or artifact to pair with. My process is more organic, as I truly enjoy the art of simply creating."

In 2016, her business continued to expand and she opened her first brick-and-mortar in Ward Warehouse, before relocating to South Shore Market. From her new digs, Karen has seen a community of like-minded entrepreneurs flourish and forge a real community here at Ward Village. "We take a lot of pride being a local company and love being surrounded by similar storefronts. In an era of big brands, we're really glad to have a home Ward Village and be a part of such a vibrant and authentic community."

As the future unfolds and more of us embrace locally owned boutiques, it's refreshing to hear that small businesses are flourishing. By combining her creativity with her love of diving, she's formulated a business that's completely her own. In an era of big brands trolling the high seas, we're hooked on Flotsam.

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Flotsam & Co.

1170 Auahi St.

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