Drue Sanders always knew she wanted to be an artist. What she didn’t want to be was a starving artist.
While receiving her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and English from the University at Albany in 1972, Sanders opted to do an apprenticeship with Brian Faunce Silversmiths in Hyannis, Mass.
“I knew jewelry-making would afford me the ability to use my creative talents, while still being able to pay the bills,” she said.
She then went on to begin the master’s program in Metal Sculpture to Wear at UAlbany and started her first business venture during the summers in Cape Cod. Drue’s first store opened in 1973 in The Whaler’s Warf in Provincetown.
“I had enough money to rent the store, but what I didn’t have was enough money to live. To make up for it, I lived out of a tent for six months out of the year for three years,” Sanders said. “If you ask me if I ever want to go camping again, the answer is ‘no.’”
After deciding to move back to her hometown, Drue Sanders Silversmith, LTD was founded in 1975. The business went through several expansions and transformed from a staff of two in Menands to a freestanding building with five employees in Albany.
Now known as Drue Sanders Custom Jewelers, the business has been at its current location on Western Avenue since June 1989. The store specializes in custom-made jewelry in all prices ranges, but also does cleanings and appraisal.
“We’re very different from the average jewelry store. We make about 90 percent of what we sell in-house, and I think that’s what makes the difference,” said Sanders.
The shop-owner said the Capital District has been very supportive of her art. In return, she has taken inspiration from many of the area’s landmarks.
Sanders has done two Albany collections based on historic buildings by replicating architectural details in her jewelry. She’s also been commissioned to create one of the crowns and several pieces for the Albany Tulip Festival. Another collection was based on the 25th anniversary of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Twenty percent of the sales of that collection went back to the National Dance Museum.
In September 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, many customers asked Sanders if she was going too design a piece of jewelry remembering the event. She designed a pin incorporating the Pentagon, the outline of New York State and the Twin Towers with a billowing U.S. flag. A portion of all the proceeds has been donated to The Twin Towers Fund, with more than $10,000 donated so far.
“People come to us when they can’t find exactly what they’re looking for and want a more personal touch,” said Sanders.
During consultations, designers sit down with customers, sketch out the design and then recreate it using 3D imaging software. This insures customers get exactly what they want, using the requested metals and gems.
“We don’t want people to be disappointed or unhappy after they put in that kind of time and money,” said Sanders. “I think the services we provide put people at ease, and they typically think the piece looks better then they imagined.”
For more information, visit Drue Sanders Custom Jewelry at 1675 Western Ave. in Albany or www.druesanders.com.