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
52nd Atlanta Steeplechase
April 22. Kingston Downs in Rome. AtlantaSteeplechase.org
Horse races; parade of Budweiser Clydesdales; Jack Russell terrier races; pony rides; and hat parade and contest.