Jacob Albee didn't set out to be a jewelry maker. He took undergrad classes in art and wildlife biology at the University of Vermont and planned to study birds of prey in graduate school at Montréal's McGill University. But after a summer job at the former Grannis Gallery in downtown Burlington, his interest in jewelry took flight.
On his lunch breaks from the gallery, Albee frequently went to Penny Cluse Café, where a waitress named Kristin caught his eye. They'd both attended UVM and had some mutual friends. In the fall of 2005, Jacob had his first gallery show at Grannis. Kristin stopped by and bought one of his pieces. After that, they popped into each other's workplace more often than necessary, and soon began dating.
Jacob opened his own studio, Jacob Albee Goldsmith, in 2006. Kristin, who has a degree in English literature, was figuring out her career path but had always loved jewelry and deeply admired Jacob's work. After she helped him put on his first national show in Washington, D.C., they came to the realization that they worked well together. So, before getting married, she bought into Jacob Albee Goldsmith, and they became equal partners.
The couple married in 2008, and their first child, Axel, was born two years later.
Traveling to craft shows is essential for sales and promotion, and, as new parents, the Albees brought young Axel along to shows around the country. But when their daughter, Noël, was born in 2013, Jacob says they decided to "divide and conquer." He traveled solo while Kristin stayed home with the kids. She now works three days a week at the studio and spends two days at home with Noël.
When Jacob and Kristin head out to their office on Maple Street, Axel and Noël say their parents are going to "tiny town," referring to the micro tools Jacob uses to craft jewelry. But running a business and a family with your partner is no small feat.
Kristin: Lately the kids have been letting us sleep in until it's time to wake them up on a school day, usually around 6:30 or 7. Then it's a mad rush to get them dressed, lunch packed and asking Axel to put his shoes on about 30 times. I think that's the thing we say most in the world!
Jacob: It's usually, "Get off the floor and put your shoes on," or "Stand up and put your shoes on."
Kristin: Jake has gotten really into bicycling so now, almost every day, he puts both kids on the back of his bike and he takes Axel to IAA [Integrated Arts Academy], then he takes Pine Street to the bike path and drops Noël off at Pine Forest [Children's Center] on Flynn Avenue. Then back here to the studio, so that's how Dad gets his exercise!
Jacob: That's right. If I do that, it's 16 miles a day. With a very heavy bicycle!
Jacob: Kristin does 97 percent of the cooking.
Kristin: He's a goldsmith, so he makes beautiful food.
Jacob: But I don't make it in 21 minutes.
Kristin: He's too much of an artist to make the quick kid dinner.
Jacob: I am very good at turning whatever is in the refrigerator in the form of leftovers into—
Kristin: —a smoothie!
Kristin: Jake used to get really stressed out right before craft shows, about two weeks before.
Jacob: I would be here [in the studio] like 20 hours a day.
Kristin: He wouldn't even come home to eat. Now that we have kids, his priorities have shifted so much because he cares about making that all happen right.
Jacob: So I'll come back to work sometimes at night, but less so now. Work will last longer than my children being little, unfortunately. We will be working when they are in high school. We will be working when they are in college, or whatever they do.
Jacob: I would say that it's 97 percent Kristin.
Kristin: When it happens, it's usually me.
Jacob: I would say our division of labor is: If it's inside the house, it's almost always Kristin who does it. If it's anything broken or outside the house, it's almost always something that I do.
Kristin: It's always a struggle getting to that. Sometimes I'll tackle it late at night.
Jacob: Sometimes it's 8:30 and the children are asleep, we want to be in bed by 11 and the house needs to be cleaned, so the two of us will do it.
Kristin: It's the hard part of the whole mix, getting the house cleaned!
Jacob: I am more patient at work than I am as a parent. It's only done when it's done, as far as work goes!
Kristin: I think it made me realize that work is actually easy! [They both laugh.] My work days are my easy days. I love being home with the kids, but those are the hard days.
Jacob: I'd say it's been a good priority shift being a creative person. I'm not staying up until three in the morning making jewelry and having panic attacks before I go to a craft show because ... it's just a craft show, really. It doesn't warrant that level of stress.
It's taken me a few years and [our first] child to stop taking myself so seriously. There are way more important things than my little job.
Kristin: That's the way it's influenced our business model. We had dreams of going big — of being in Saks Fifth Avenue...
Jacob: Yeah, I wanted different things, that's true.
Kristin: It was actually a decision after having Axel that that wasn't what we wanted. It's made us redefine success.
Jacob: Success is having enough money, and I don't care about the vain parts of fame or any of that like I did 10 years ago. The focus right now is to be a spouse, dad and then jeweler.
Kristin: Right now, I love the lifestyle and flexibility that all this gives us. I don't know if there will be another career for me in my future or not, but right now I love working together, and I love Jacob's work.
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