January 2019

The Silver Garden: Where Jewelry and Art Tell a Story

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Jim and Linda Saylor sit with their miniature schnauzer, Sarah, in their newly expanded shop in the Village Exchange.

When does a piece of jewelry or a work of art become more than the sum of its materials? When it tells a story.

Stepping into The Silver Garden in the Village Exchange on Hilton Head Island, now entering its seventh year in business, is like immersing yourself in a novel—the plotline expressed through a unique and ever-evolving line of artisan and customized jewelry (handcrafted by owners Jim and Linda Saylor) along with a collection of personal and regional art.

“The thing about handmade jewelry or an original work of art is the fact that there’s often a story behind the design or the materials chosen by the artist,” Linda said. “You’re buying the history that goes along with it or an interpretation of your own story—told through a beautiful piece of art to wear or display in your home.”

Once upon a time …
Much like the jewelry and works of art on display at The Silver Garden, the business has a fascinating story of its own. The original shop was the offshoot of what began as a hobby for Linda—mostly beading and repurposing broken jewelry to sell online. Jim, who agreed to pitch in and help with repairs, soon became fascinated by the intricacies of design, pouring his energy into metal work, and coming up with ideas for new pieces on sleepless nights. A bit bored with retirement life, the former corporate CFO turned master silversmith, found an outlet for his creativity and problem-solving skills, while Linda, a former commercial real estate executive, continued exploring her innate love of the arts.

When the opportunity presented itself in the form of a small vacant storage space, the Saylors transformed it into a charming retail store and workshop where they continued producing unique, customized wearable art. News spread, mostly by word of mouth, as customers seeking the unusual or wishing to create a story of their own by tapping into the Saylors’ talents found their way to the tiny nook—again and again.

Chapter two
If you haven’t visited The Silver Garden in a while, you are in for a treat, because there’s so much more to the story now. For those who know the Saylors, it comes as no surprise that their business has more than tripled in size (from 200 to 700 square feet)—their recent expansion into the space next door, completed in March 2018, making way for more jewelry as well as an eclectic assortment of high-quality art with a local connection.
The idea for adding a small art gallery was spawned by Linda’s newest hobby: abstract acrylic painting, a technique she learned by watching over 300 YouTube videos, she said. The plan was to use the self-renovated space to display and sell Linda’s personal art, which she was already exhibiting in local and regional galleries. Several of her works are featured in the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-2019 brochure and two have graced the covers of area publications.

“At first it was going to be just for my art,” Linda said. But as a board member of the Art League of Hilton Head, she extended invitations to a few more artists. “I know all the artists. As an exhibiting artist, you only get to exhibit one or two pieces a month,” she explained. “So virtually everyone I asked said yes.”

A design specifically created in a partnership with P.E.O., a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate women

The Silver Garden, is currently carrying works from 38-40 artists, making it not only the newest, but one of the most prolific galleries in the area in terms of the sheer number of artists represented. You will find works from Addison Palmer (local painter specializing in nature scenes); William Rhett III (Lowcountry scenes painted on antique piano keys); Peg Weschke (award-winning fiber artist and art quilter); Samantha Claar (folk art—Gullah living); Buona Terra Woodworks (home décor pieces made from reclaimed wood from Hurricane Matthew); Deanna Bowers (Charleston-based folk artist); and many more. “We’re really trying to stick to Lowcountry and Lowcountry artists,” Linda said. “We have wood, basket art, porcelain, pottery, raku, paper quilling … we even have a writer, Ellen Giordano—author of Best Day Ever, a children’s book that’s all about things for children to do on the island.”

In addition to opening their doors to area artists, the Silver Garden is collaborating with an international organization called P.E.O.—Philanthropic Educational Organization—a non-profit whose mission is to educate women. Recently invited to join, Linda said, “Not one penny goes towards anything but education. Everything is given. We created an entire jewelry line in sterling and gold for this organization, and every piece sold generates a donation to educational programs.”

Another buzz-worthy collaboration is with Sonja Griffin Evans, an internationally known Gullah artist based in Bluffton. Griffin Evans is painting Lowcountry scenes on small wood pieces for which Jim has created a custom bezel, thus rendering a wearable piece of collectible art. The title of the series is “Heart of the Lowcountry,” and each piece finished with a heart charm.

While Linda is focused on her own art and growing the gallery, Jim continues to refine his craft, creating highly-sought-after, original jewelry, straight from his imagination. (An exotic wood pendant embellished with garnets, was chosen for the Sixth National Juried Fine Art Craft Guild Exhibition, presented by the Art League of Hilton Head, which features artists from around the country.) In addition, customers bring in projects and describe what they want. “They sometimes push me outside of my comfort zone, and I end up doing things that I otherwise would not have tried to do. So much of my learning comes from projects like that,” Jim said of his ever-expanding skill set.

One thing is certain: There’s always something new to see at The Silver Garden. Drop by Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. or on Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. You will likely be greeted by 10-year-old miniature schnauzer, Sarah, the shop dog, and you will always be treated like one of the family. Whether you simply want to browse, learn the stories behind the art, or commission a custom piece of jewelry or painting, indulge your curiosity in a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere. Get to know Jim and Linda Saylor, and you’ll soon be telling your own stories through the jewelry you wear and the art you display in your home.

The Silver Garden is located at 32 Palmetto Bay Rd., Suite 3A, in the Village Exchange. For more information, call (407) 595-2119; visit www.thesilvergarden.net; or check out over 500 of their offerings online at www.etsy.com/shop/TheSilverGardenHHI.

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