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We’re Bringing Custom Back

Posted by Brackish Team on

While every Brackish style is unique, we understand that some occasions deserve something a little extra special. If you are looking for a new design, we have you covered. We are officially bringing back the opportunity to work one-on-one with our Design Coordinator to make your dreams become a reality. 


These beautiful, one-of-a-kind custom pieces would not be possible without the creative vision of long-time artisan Thomas McElwee. Thomas is one of the original Brackish artisans who started working with the brand nearly 10 years ago. His creativity and enthusiasm for this craft have helped shape Brackish into what it is today. Keep reading to learn more about Thomas and our custom design process.

How long have you been creating custom designs at Brackish?

I've been with the company since October of 2012 and started making "new" designs for Brackish since I got the hang of the craft. The idea of custom pieces started with experimenting to find new core designs for our collections over the years. I would have some allotted time every once in a while to make whatever I wanted and a lot of those designs, after some polishing, became popular "classic" designs over the years. I've only officially been the Custom Design Coordinator for 3 years while continuing to create limited special collections and new designs for Brackish when possible.

Inspiration: Bouquet of Flowers

About how long does your entire process take?

As of right now, we have a 12-week buffer for the process. Depending on how complicated the idea is, there can be a fair amount of back and forth about options and feasibility. I usually like to take the first week to introduce myself, share some ideas via email and have a phone or Zoom call to really get to know the personality of the client. Once the main ideas are sussed out, I'll take some time to sketch ideas and create a feather palette that will work with their specifications. Then it’s on to the fun part - I'll create at least one mockup to share and build half of a bow tie, pair of earrings, or whatever piece they want. Then I photograph and mirror it to create the look of a finished piece and get their initial response. From there, it's a back and forth with the client including photos and notes until they have exactly what they want. While the process may be quicker it helps to have extra time to ensure we create the perfect piece. 

Inspiration: Campfire

What part do you enjoy most during the custom design process?

I just love seeing a client's idea come to life. We have some really imaginative customers and so it’s fun to see what we can accomplish with feathers. These pieces are only created because we get to collaborate. I also feel very lucky to get to make something that potentially gets to be a part of a very special day for someone else.

Inspiration: Trout

What is your favorite custom piece you’ve ever designed?

This is a tough one! They are all so different and have different meanings for me. One of my favorites was a tie that had an intricate butterfly design that matched the bride's beautiful handmade dress. I think that the first custom tie I made was a gift for Bill Murray from one of his sons. It mimicked the pattern of a red-winged blackbird using slate turkey feathers and red and yellow golden pheasant fringe. Probably the most fun tie I've made looked like Spiderman's eyes and webbed mask. They are all so fun and different, each one is my favorite for different reasons. 

Inspiration: Butterfly

Inspiration: Spider-Man

How do you find your inspiration when designing each unique piece?

The inspiration usually comes from the customer and the urge to make something we’ve never had before! I like to think I'm just someone who can help make your idea happen. There are lots of directions to go, which as a designer can be overwhelming at times.  However, when a customer comes in with a great idea or a great color palette, I get to solve the fun creative problem of how to make it work for them. It always turns out different and better than I could have thought.

 Inspiration: Piano

When you're not making feather accessories, what do you like to do? What other creative outlets do you utilize?

I love spending time with my partner and wife, Jessica, who has been with Brackish just as long as I have. I'm usually trying to keep up with the amazing quality of work that she puts out daily. I also love playing music, specifically guitar around Charleston. I've been playing with a local Charleston band called Fowler's Mustache since 2009 with some of my best friends. I love digging for and collecting records (probably too many) and I've been doing lots of watercolor paintings in the past few years and that medium has grown on me a lot. I love supporting local Charleston restaurants, music venues, record shops, artists, and breweries. And I love my two doggies, Ruby and Murphy!!

If you would like more information or to start the design process, please fill out the form on our website and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours on the next steps.

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