Long before Tegan Curry became a metalsmith and jewelry-maker, turning lobster bands into fashion accessories, she was a little girl who spent whole days exploring the coastline of her hometown of Bar Harbor.
“My brother and I and the other town kids would play on all the docks and beaches and had the run of the place,” she said. “It was a really neat way to grow up. It wasn’t like it is now. It really was a fishing village, a small town, where everyone knew each other and everyone’s parents were working on the island. My dad had a whale-watching business.”
Lobster bands would often wash up onto shore, along with buoys and nets and other implements of the lobster and fishing trades. Tegan, 35, remembers how she and her friends would slide those thick rubber bands on their fingers like rings. They jokingly called them “Down East wedding bands.”
Years later, Tegan studied metalsmithing and jewelry-making at Maine College of Art and forged a career as a jewelry-maker, inspired by elements in nature and current fashion.
“I like to pay attention to what’s happening in fashion and what’s practical for Mainers to wear,” says Tegan. She is drawn to chunky styles and jewelry she can forge from sheets of metal. “Nothing has been dainty in my world.”
One day she thought it would be fun to create a ring that would perfectly cradle a lobster band—the ultimate Maine jewelry. Thus, LobsterBand Rings was born.
“It’s very Maine,” Tegan says. “People really like the idea that you can change the colors out or just wear it as a big chunky ring. It’s versatile with lots of different looks.”
A silver ring stamped with the word “Maine” comes with a bait bag with at least four different colors of lobster bands—perhaps red, green, blue, yellow, black, white or salmon, whatever is available from the lobster co-ops. The bands might be printed with the name of a specific co-op or with “Product of Maine.” But they can also be turned inward so the printing doesn’t show. It all depends on the preference and mood of the wearer.
“That’s part of the allure,” says Tegan.
Tegan’s ties to Bar Harbor and to lobster continue far beyond her jewelry business. Her fiancé, Garrett Fitzgerald, owns a seasonal lobster restaurant on Bar Harbor, and they divide their time between the island and a home in Portland.
“Lobster is something you can make a living on. People from all over the world come to Maine and to Bar Harbor to eat lobster,” Tegan said. “He does the restaurant, and I do the jewelry.”
Both are hard work. After more than a decade of bending, soldering, sanding and grinding metals, Tegan had the LobsterBand Rings cast to keep the process sustainable for her hands. “Hands are the best machines you have, so they take a beating,” she says.
Perhaps that’s why she designs rings that can take a beating, too.
“They’re pretty rugged rings,” Tegan says. “They weigh almost an ounce per ring.” The chunky jewelry look is popular with women but also appropriate for men—lobstermen have ordered sizes as large as 13.
Most LobsterBand Rings are ordered through the website—LobsterBandRings.com—and arrive in the mail within a week. Tegan is easy-going about exchanges for fit. If you’re in the Portland area, drop by Fore River Gallery at 87 Market St. to try the rings on for size—or pick one out for $125.
Amy Paradysz is a writer, editor and photographer who lives in Scarborough.