January 2018
Homeplace & Community

Dirt Road Girls

Captivating jewelry pieces crafted from leather, metal and stone by Alabama designer Sara Smith.

 

Dirt Road Girls’ owner Sara Smith gazes into the distance while modeling stunning, custom-jewelry pieces she crafted herself.

A farmhouse view of a dirt road and meaningful song lyrics sparked uber-talented Alabama jewelry maker and artist Sara Smith’s vision for her shop, Dirt Road Girls, featuring captivating jewelry pieces crafted with leather, metal and stone materials; hand-stamped with uplifting phrases and charming expressions; and influenced by faith, adventure, music and wanderlust.

"I’ve always loved creating and making things, so I bought a $20 stamp set from Hobby Lobby and DRG was born," Smith recalled. "I started doing it almost six years ago, I guess.

"The name was kind of inspired by a song that said, ‘I was born a red dirt girl,’ but I would sing the words, ‘I was born a dirt road girl.’

"The first bracelet I ever made for myself says ‘dreamer’ and I wear it all the time."

Dirt Road Girls began as a small jewelry shop in an extra room inside her Blount County farmhouse, overlooking a symbolically special dirt road and previously owned by her grandparents, but has expanded through its strong social media presence and appearances at shows and venues. It has shipped pieces all around the United States, as well as to Canada and New Zealand.

"I am currently in Ohio at a show [Quarter Horse Congress] and I can’t decide what I like more: someone who admires/compliments my jewelry pieces without knowing I am the creator, or someone who says, ‘I came here just to shop with you,’" she relayed.

Smith thrives upon clients challenging her to step out of her comfort zone with custom requests. She appreciates the prospect of having to learn a new skill while fulfilling a client’s custom order and expanding her knowledge and professional tool set as an artisan.

"That’s how I started making rings, a great customer wanted one and was so encouraging and positive about the other work I had done for her," she explained. "I thought, ‘Why not? I can figure out how to do it.’ And I did. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve made. It really increased my ability to do all kinds of soldering and silver work."

Smith derives a lot of inspiration for her work from her favorite pastimes: music lyrics, and book and movie quotes. She finds it rewarding when she sees a complete stranger in public wearing something she made.

"I was at a music festival in Atlanta and noticed the person sitting next to me was wearing something I made," Smith recalled. "I told her I liked her bracelet. She said, ‘Thank you so much! I got it from this cute little etsy shop called Dirt Road Girls.’ I then said, ‘I know, that’s my shop!’ Things like that happen quite often. And that’s cool.

"There are also experiences where I’ve been wearing something I made and had someone compliment it. When they learned I made it, they end up buying it from me."

Dirt Road Girls jewelry features metal, stones and leather designs. They are inspired by faith, adventure, music and wanderlust.

 

 

 

Smith is currently collaborating with country music singer and songwriter Drake White, a Hokes Bluff native, to create custom-merchandise pieces for him to sell at his shows. Drake White’s drummer, Adam Schwind, wore DRG pieces while appearing on "Good Morning America."

Other celebrities who don DRG’s one-of-a-kind pieces include Jessica Robertson and the other Duck Dynasty wives, Kid Rock, musician Julie Roberts, Adam Hood, members of The Cadillac Three and rodeo star Trevor Brazile, who holds the record for the most National Finals Rodeo World Champion titles by a large margin of 23 titles.

The National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas is one of the large venues where DRG has set up a booth for the past several years.

"Everyone always says, ‘Wow, Vegas for two weeks,’" she said. "That sounds awesome, but it’s hard work. We set up with Lagrange Leather, the boot company I also work for. We bring in over 1,000 pairs of boots and other accessories, as well as my jewelry. We have it down to a science and can almost complete our setup in 4-5 hours. Tearing down is even faster. We are usually done in about an hour."

One memorable year, Smith’s sister Mary-Glenn Miller, who also works for Lagrange Leather and is a DRG dreamer, formed an ingenious idea of creating back-number jewelry for the NFR contestants, and it caught like wildfire.

"The top 15 contestants in each event who make it to the NFR are numbered by overall money winnings and they each have a unique back number," Smith explained. "It’s a pretty big deal. So we decided we could make bracelets so friends, family and fans could support their favorite contestants. I figured we would maybe sell 30 or 40 the first year. "

Instead, DRG sold over 400 bracelets through the power of social media, Mary-Glenn’s marketing skills and the right connections sharing Facebook posts.

"The time frame between finding out numbers and the start of the finals isn’t very long," Smith said. "Throw in Thanksgiving and the postal service not running every day and it really gets tight."

She had to reorder supplies for most of the bracelets and some items were lost in the mail.

"I picked up my package from the post office on my way to the airport and ended up making about 300 of those bracelets in my hotel room once we got to Vegas," she said. "That was a very stressful year. But one of the most rewarding experiences ever."

Smith divulged a story from the year DRG created NFR back number bracelets regarding rodeo royalty, husband and wife Trevor and Shada Brazile.

"We had been talking about how it would be so cool if Trevor Brazile and his family would order some stuff," she recalled. "Everyone was like, ‘Oh, they don’t buy anything.’"

One day, Smith received a pivotal call from Shada to order some of the bracelets.

"The last name is Brazile and he’s No. 1," she said.

"Yep, I got it," I replied.

"Everyone knew Trevor was always No. 1."

In addition to owning a successful business and working for LaGrange Leather, Smith serves as a part-time 4-H agent. She meets with fourth- and fifth-graders at Blount County schools once a month throughout the school year and engages youth in a variety of summer workshops.

"I usually take the lead on our Chick Chain Project and have jokingly come to be known as the ‘Chicken Lady,’" she quipped. "We do all kinds of projects, from ag to arts and crafts to 4-H yoga. I love it all. I also love that 4-H provides so many opportunities for our youth. I hope I can help kids see and accept that they don’t have to fit into a certain type of box. I want to be able to encourage them to take their creativity and wacky little ideas and develop them into something that could be rewarding, just like DRG is for me."

Through faith, determination and lots of hard work, Smith has built a blossoming creative endeavor and beautiful life many dream of. Embodied by Miranda Lambert’s "Airstream" lyrics, "Sometimes I wish I lived on a mountain, drank from a stream instead of a fountain. I’d stay there, on top of the world, but I was born a red dirt girl."

"I couldn’t be happier with where I have gotten to at this point in my life with the boot company, 4-H and DRG," Smith revealed. "I’m kind of like an actual, real-life gypsy. I do odd jobs and travel around and sell things to make money. And, I love it."

You can check out Dirt Road Girls jewelry at etsy.com and on Facebook.

 

Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.