When a historic building is falling apart, what do you do? Well, if you’re an enterprising business owner in downtown Tacoma, you make jewelry out of the roof tiles. That’s the response of Jenny Aarde, whose father Keith Gorsuch runs Tacoma’s iconic antique shop Sanford and Son.
Inspired by a pile of copper roof tiles Gorsuch salvaged from Old City Hall, Aarde is making earrings, necklaces and bangles out of the blue-patinaed metal, fixing them to salvaged leather bits and selling them at Sanford under the ironic business name “Sanford and Daughter.”
“My dad was going by when they were scrapping 4,000 tiles,” Aarde said. “He offered to buy them, and they said, ‘Yes.’”
Old City Hall has been in disrepair for years thanks to a negligent Seattle owner. The City of Tacoma recently approved a bid for $4 million to buy the 122-year-old Italianate landmark in order to restore it.
Meanwhile, Gorsuch has been selling the stash of discarded, rough-edged roof tiles for $18 each or $45 for three. Some customers intended to use them as garden edging, as the copper keeps away slugs. But many shoppers were baffled.
“People would come in and say, ‘They’re beautiful, but what do you do with them?’” Aarde said.
So, four months ago, Aarde decided to make jewelry with them. She hadn’t made jewelry since she was 13 and a keen beader, but her work shows both artistic style and love for the century-old material. With its aqua color and red edges, the copper has a Western look, which Aarde translates into big teardrops and fringy rectangles, or wide bangles backed with soft gray hide. The earrings are priced from $25-$35, the bangles from $35-$40 and the necklaces from $50-$65 — and they’re selling.
“The building is so controversial,” Aarde said. “People really want a piece in case it goes somewhere. … They’re a little piece of history.”