Nicole Savoie has an energy and positivity about her that would be an asset to any historic downtown. Fortunately for Acadiana, she and her family moved from northern Texas 30 years ago, back to her father’s native hometown of Breaux Bridge, and now she’s made the “Crawfish Capital of the World” her own home. “I’m a Breaux Bridge girl at heart,” says the jewelry designer and owner of The Rustic Relic, with her trademark, bright smile.
Motivated by her mother, who instilled in her and her sister a passion to create, she recalls, “We grew up making things out of clay, recycled materials and found objects we’d collect.” Many years later, on a visit to New Orleans, she was inspired by a young woman in the market making wire-wrapped rings, looking “happy and carefree,” as Savoie remembers it. “I wanted to be like her, so I learned how to make wire rings and bracelets on YouTube, and that’s how I started my business.”
After three years of selling her jewelry at festivals and fairs, Savoie felt a pull to open her own storefront that could also help other artists, including her mother and sister, sell their work. The Rustic Relic opened in 2017 and for a year operated out of two previous locations in Breaux Bridge, before landing in its current sweet-spot location at 105 North Main at the corner of Bridge. The nearly-100-year-old building, with original stamped tin ceiling tiles, columns and wood floors, is on the National Registry of Historic Places and provides the perfect backdrop for showcasing the owner’s line of handmade jewelry and original works from fellow artists.
Visiting the Rustic Relic is an experience on its own, but the unique items curated by Savoie make for delightful shopping, as well. Customers are carried through the store by an intoxicating scent of warm caramel bourbon, satsuma oranges and a touch of vanilla from the shop’s own candle line. Antique cases, curio cabinets and hutches display an array of handmade jewelry (including Savoie’s collection of some 200 antique brooches), religious items, and one-of-a-kind creations. Several local artists are represented with Louisiana-themed paintings, wood items, charcuterie boards, bathtub accessory boards, grottos, pottery, and hand-made Damascus steel knives.The hand-crocheted nylon pearl necklaces, made by Savoie’s mother, are a bestseller.
“Everything I pick must be handmade, vintage or unique and must meet the shop’s mission statement: to share the gifts that God has blessed us with and have a positive influence on everyone who comes in contact with The Rustic Relic,” she explains. “People have come here to buy things they know they won’t get just anywhere. You won’t find these items on Amazon or in ‘big box’ stores.”
Of particular interest to Savoie is helping teen artists see their potential by selling their products in her shop and elsewhere, something she hopes will translate to helping her two daughters pursue their own dreams. “I’m a breast cancer survivor and when I knew this was what I wanted to do, I put all of my energy into opening this shop; I live it twenty-four-seven,” she says. “I’m doing this for them and I hope it’s shown my girls that when you nurture something, that’s the part of your life that’s going to grow. I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to do and things are flowing better.”
At the back of The Rustic Relic are two studios, one for Savoie and one for her sister Susan Morrogh, who, along with her Red Bird Remembrance line that honors the deceased with cardinal-themed, hand painted prayer plaques, also makes other religious items, leather goods, jewelry and paintings.
In her own studio, Savoie makes several lines of jewelry, including necklaces and bracelets crafted with a collection of antique brooches, found objects and recycled pieces. Customers even bring old crosses or broaches once belonging to their loved ones to have Savoie give them a more modern design.
Her love for Baroque, Victorian, Art Nouveau and French styles has led Savoie to design a collection of antique replica jewelry that is fast becoming a favorite among clients. Making mold images of rare and uncirculated pendants and religious medals, she presses them into a gold bronze Australian clay. The pendants are dried and torch-fired in a kiln in her studio for two and a half hours, resulting in a matte gold, old-world look. Savoie then pairs the pendants with anti-tarnish chains or leather. The entire antique replica jewelry collection, which also includes rings and bracelets that are wire brushed and hand burnished, can be viewed at crownofgracedesigns.com and on Etsy.
One of the items Savoie says carried her business through the pandemic was from a design idea that came to her when she was making major changes in her life. “I asked the Lord to help me,” she recalls. The result of her prayer and creative development was a bracelet called Crown of Grace. Available in both women’s and men’s versions, the bracelet is modeled after Jesus’ crown of thorns and is meant to serve as a daily reminder of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
To create her signature bracelet, Savoie takes small-cut strands of leather and ties them into a braided bracelet reminiscent of a crown of thorns. Three high-luster Baroque pearls hang at the closing loop to represent God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, along with a small solid gold bronze cross fashioned from nail pegs and a cast bronze charm. “The bracelet has saved my business, allowing me to open an Etsy store,” says Savoie with gratitude. For her next jewelry collection, Savoie is working on a prototype of a stamped initial line.
The Lure of Downtown
For Savoie, having a shop on Main Street in an historic downtown allows her to attract and serve more people, including tourists, first-time locals and repeat customers. “I love being a shopkeeper on Main Street, where the merchants are like a family,” she says. “We support each other and send customers to each other’s stores. I look forward to events like our annual city-wide garage sale (every October), which brings so much energy to Main Street. You feel the energy when big groups get together.”
Another opportunity for the shops of downtown Breaux Bridge to work together and create lots of energy is coming up in December. The Rustic Relic will be participating in the Christmas Artwalk in Paris event on Bridge Street December 11, from 4-8pm. The store will have a Christmas open house with a live painting, a book signing for the author of Prayers and Petitions for my Cancer Warrior Yvette Perrier Quantz, and much more.
For more information on the shop and some of its featured artists or to get details on the upcoming Christmas Artwalk in Breaux Bridge, check out The Rustic Relic on Facebook.