Off to the races


Equestrian elegance

Drawing inspiration from his wife’s lifelong love of horses, South Carolina’s Lex Matthews created an equestrian line of jewelry. Since then, the third-generation goldsmith has expanded his classy collections to include oyster and sporting themes.

The designer & owner: At an early age, Matthews was exposed to the family jewelry business. His grandfather, a skilled watchmaker, owned a jewelry store in Lake City, S.C. His father opened his own store in nearby Florence. To hone his skills, Matthews headed for Bowman’s Technical School in Lancaster, Pa. After graduation, Matthews returned home, married his wife, Lisa, and crafted his first jewelry line, inspired by her riding gear.

The company: Mark Lexton, based in Florence, started in 2000. Matthews hand carves and casts jewelry and accessories – with outdoor themes — in sterling silver and gold. Pieces range from rings and necklaces to belt buckles and cuff links.

What’s popular: In the equestrian collection, the stirrup bangle ($295 and up) and the stirrup and pearl bracelet ($325 and up). In the oyster collection, the oyster clasp bracelets with freshwater pearls ($225 and up) and the oyster shell cuff links ($225 and up).

Other favorites: Triple crop ring ($525); oyster shell dangle earrings ($115 and up); the redfish cuff links ($250 and up) in the sporting collection.

Fun requests: To honor the memory of a beloved mare, a customer asked the company to match her blue saddle pad with a stone for a snaffle-bit ring. A faceted Swiss blue topaz matched perfectly.

Where to buy: www.marklexton.com

Born to rock

Alicia Williams used to ride horses. Now the North Carolina artist designs and builds heirloom-quality rocking horses.

The artist: She grew up in Michigan, where she started riding horses in the fifth grade and won awards for her charcoal horse drawings. After graduating from Houghton College (New York), she worked in the outdoor adventure and education field for six years. Then she worked for four years through AmeriCorps with Habitat for Humanity in Durham, N.C., as a construction site supervisor. She also took a few woodworking classes, where she built her first rocking horse.

The company: Heartwood Rocking Horses, based in Asheville, started in 2013. The rocking horses, with their expressive eyes and faces, are carved from native woods and reclaimed lumber and sealed with food-safe, non-petroleum oil and a wax finish. Horses often feature adjustable foot pegs, hand holds and a saddle.

What’s popular: Toddler rocking horse ($400) and the classic rocking horse ($1,600 to $1,800).

Other favorites: Stick horses ($45).

Fun request: A rocking dinosaur.

Claim to fame: Exhibiting member of the Piedmont Craftsmen since 2015.

Where to buy: HeartwoodRockingHorses.com

Hot to trot art

Kentucky’s Melissa Crase owns horses. The self-taught artist also paints them in bright, unexpected colors.

The artist: The Pennsylvania native has no formal art training, but has enjoyed painting her entire life. Crase graduated from Syracuse and the University of Kentucky. After college, she had careers in advertising and pharmaceutical sales before starting a full-time art business. She rides, competes in horse events and loves being in the horse barn.

The company: Melissa Crase Art, located in Winchester, started in 2016. Crase’s subject matter is largely equine, but she also paints botanicals and landscapes.

Materials: Mostly acrylics or mixed media on canvas, using palette knives, corks or her fingers (rarely a brush) to paint.

What’s popular: Equine art ($100 to $4,500). It helps to be in Kentucky, she said, where there are many horse events (besides the Derby) and horse enthusiasts.

Big break: The Lexington Gallery Hop, where she showed her work eight years ago at the urging of a friend.

Unusual request: Asked to sign one of her paintings where it hung on someone’s wall. The frame covered Crase’s original signature.

Where to buy: MelissaCraseArt.com



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Life with Gracie: 54 years after March on Washington, a new call to action
Life with Gracie: 54 years after March on Washington, a new call to action

At exactly 6 p.m. Sunday, Kylan Pew will board a chartered bus to our nation’s capital along with hundreds of other faith leaders to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington. Pew, 27, won’t have much in the way of memories to share with the others, but the anniversary is no less important. The way he sees things, Monday’s 1,000 Ministers...
Nigerian designer launches new clothing collection in Atlanta
Nigerian designer launches new clothing collection in Atlanta

As a teen in Nigeria, Abiola Aluko had a stroke of good fortune. The aspiring fashion designer lived near an alterations specialist who would help her tailor make her designs and develop her sense of style. “I would help friends design clothes and take it to the dressmaker to make,” said Aluko. She would continue making clothing...
Enhanced ‘T2’ is bigger, better than ever
Enhanced ‘T2’ is bigger, better than ever

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” established its place 26 years ago among the top feature films ever made. Under the brilliant guidance of director James Cameron, the movie not only set new standards for special effects but flawlessly blended a tale of an apocalyptic event in the near future brought on by robots with a story of a very different...
‘Ingrid Goes West’ is light but fun
‘Ingrid Goes West’ is light but fun

The dark comedy “Ingrid Goes West” — a sort of Instagram-age variant on “Single White Female” — doesn’t have much to say, but it has some fun saying it. Ingrid (an intense Aubrey Plaza), a troubled young woman with a history of social-media stalking, moves to Los Angeles to follow Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen),...
‘Letters From Baghdad’ tells fascinating story of Gertrude Bell
‘Letters From Baghdad’ tells fascinating story of Gertrude Bell

Before ancient Mesopotamia was transformed into 20th-century Iraq, the extraordinary British diplomat, mountaineer, archaeologist and spy Gertrude Bell was working to carve up the Middle East into principalities that Europe could comfortably control. She and her compatriot, T.E. Lawrence, helped arm the Arab rebellion against the Ottoman Turks, cheering...
More Stories