By Carol Masshardt
The Calnan name is synonymous with jewelry in South Boston, and in recent months Joe Calnan’s nephew, Carson, has opened at 705 E. Broadway. His emphasis on expert repair and using the newest technology for custom design reflects the changes in the possibilities of jewelry and his own impressive talents. He also holds the imagine of an uncle connected to the community and the people he served.
Carson Calnan Pitts grew up near Albany, NY, but he seems double rooted in South Boston, where his extended family lives. In fact, his middle name was intended as legacy for his mother’s family.
“I used to see my Uncle Joe work at the North Bennett St. School, where jewelry making was taught, and it started there. I moved here in 2007 to be closer to my grandmother, and then worked with Joe and at a mid-sized store in Chestnut Hill,” he said. Recently he had his own shop in East Boston, but long had his eye on 705 East Broadway. In a stroke of good timing and help from his mentor, Joe, he was able to seize the opportunity and rent from a familiar property owner when the storefront began available.
This may make it sound seamless and unchangeable except for a generation, but in fact the jewelry business has changed. Carson is immersed in the 3D design and printing that has changed the world in jewelry as in many things. And he does it on site.
“It used to be all metal made by hand,” explained Carson, a craftsman in thought and skill. “Now, it is really techy, and it allows for higher detail at a lower cost.” He can demonstrate the design and production done at his shop, and it is advanced and intricate. Combining expert skill with computer technology and proficiency in machinery that is available now that wasn’t previously products can be precisely rendered.
“This business is both repair and custom work. I like repair because it’s not always straightforward. There are different issues that you see, and that makes it interesting to me,” he said. Of course, he also creates striking rings, pendants, and bracelets to accommodate just the right look and fit.
A customer, Danielle, had two parts of a gold heart on gold chains repaired for herself and her best friend and came from East Boston to South Boston for Carson’s talent. She was unconflicted about traffic, etc. “It is absolutely worth it,” she said, carefully placing two perfect parts of one heart in her bag.
So, beyond the technology and absorbing manufacturing of fine jewelry, it is a small business and that isn’t easy in an online leaning environment, but Carson Calnan Pitts, isn’t deterred. “I had a broken leg this winter, and then ran into tax season, but I think it is getting there now. I work six days a week and have a goal to try to see how I can simplify things, but I am pleased with the response,” he said.
It’s not only the cabinets and impressive workbench that followed him from his uncle Joe, but a feeling about a place. “Where’s home? It is here.” he said.
“Joe knew everyone, and I loved this place as a kid, and I do now. I’m thankful for Joe, my Aunt Kirstin, and though I could have done any trade, this is the one I’m connected to,” he said.
Not a simple trade, jewelry making, and repair takes skill, patience with products and people, attention, and flexibility. Carson is not one to boast, and his love of his craft is seen more as he talks about the process than himself.
“The most satisfying is figuring out stuff I don’t know how to do,” he said. He didn’t know how to do computer design and now he can give expert demonstrations. “There is welding equipment that wasn’t made to this scale before and using that changes things once you learn how to do it,” he said.
Calnan Pitts can show you what it looks like to develop a piece of beauty or repair an old favorite in a place and craft he started loving a long time ago.
(Carol Masshardt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)