Most days, no matter where she is geographically, Emily M. Dicob is creating. If she isn’t, she’s finding inspiration from life and nature for future creations.
For three generations, Emily’s family has been handcrafting beautiful one-of-a-kind sterling, fine silver and 18kt gold jewelry, boxes and wearable art, continuing the tradition her grandparents, Patricia “Pat” and Robert “Butch” E. Bramhall Jr., began decades ago. The Bramhalls started their award-winning silversmithing business, Stonehouse Silversmiths, 50 years ago - basically from scraps.
They would become well–known for their jewelry and woven silver creations, like baskets of varying sizes, as well as other unique creations.
“I feel like my grandparents were way ahead of their time,” Emily said. “It often crosses my mind about how amazing it would have been to experience my grandparents in the middle, like where I am at in my life, to be there with them and not just look back and hear stories.”
The stories are plentiful indeed. Pat and Butch were solely in the antique business as their livelihood before getting into silversmithing. As part of being in the antique business, Pat said, they would get a lot of things that were broken, like old trophies or bits of silverware.
They had a lot of what she described as “scrappy” stuff and eventually Butch said to Pat, “I think I can make a necklace out of this broken fork,” and he did; cutting the tines off and fashioning it into a piece of jewelry. The self-taught silversmith continued from there, making a few more pieces before friends caught on and wanted to buy them, leading to the creation of a business that would kick off an artisan legacy. Fifty years later, he said he still fools around with creating now and then.
At the same time, Pat was a basket maker, weaving beautiful fiber baskets. As the smithing business was growing, she decided to help Butch and started making jewelry. After a year or so, she thought to herself that she could make baskets out of the silver, so that’s exactly what she did.
Emily shared that she has memories of being a young girl sitting on her grandfather’s lap at his workbench. To grow up not only inspired by the Stonehouse Silversmiths’ work, but also by Pat and Butch’s way of life, she said that example has had a tremendous impact on how she designs her own life.
She was the only granddaughter, alongside four grandsons of these talented silver and goldsmiths, so her jewelry box was impressive well before she even understood the legacy that had been offered.
“I am beyond thankful for the tradition my grandparents began without knowing what they were starting,” Emily said. “I am in a constant state of gratitude for my entire family. I’m surrounded by an immense amount of inspiration in every aspect of my life. I feel pride in saying, ‘I’m a third-generation silversmith.’ I feel I was brought into this world to not only silversmith, but to offer people love, joy and beauty through my hand-wrought pieces.”
Emily started her own business, known as Sterling Roots, in 2008 after graduating from Rutgers University and dipping her feet into a “real job” that she was not happy doing. Skipping forward a decade, her husband built a retail and work space on their wooded Castorland property that allows for creation as a family.
Each work of art by Sterling Roots is meticulously and individually built with natural variation, character, and depth. The shop is located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, offering a unique shopping experience as the workshop is in the same room as the retail space. They are also located at the Farmers Market in Watertown and many other markets.
Currently, Sterling Roots is focused on broadening its reach geographically while increasing the quality of service to local customers, realizing that each person matters and directly affects the small business.
Sterling Roots, located at 6488 Old State Road in Castorland, does business online through its website at sterlingroots.com, as well as via Facebook and Instagram, with shop hours currently by appointment and changing according to the family’s “adventuring,” as they call it.
Emily and her self-proclaimed novice silversmith husband Shane A. Dicob create from the East Coast to the West. They enjoy traveling across the country in their 22-foot tow-behind camper, with their four-year-old daughter and two dogs. Shane took out some of the seating and built a custom workbench for the two of them to use during their adventures, so their creations are built with their own two hands whenever inspiration comes and wherever they may be.
The two have been together for nine years and married for five, with Shane being brought into the family business more so since the shop was built, though he’s dabbled in jewelry making since they were married.
Heating metal before stamping it on a Tuesday morning in the workshop, Emily said her absolute favorite type of items to build are nature inspired things. She loves botanicals, flowers, birds and feathers. From watching leaves swirl in the wind, she created an entire windblown collection. While walking outdoors with her daughter, she picked up some bright red leaves and now has a fall collection revolving around bright red stones and maple leaves.
“I take everything that I possibly can with me when we travel; I take all my hand tools with me,” she said. “When on the road, everything is built simply by hand tools, nothing plugs into a wall, which is wonderful because that is how my grandparents built everything. My grandparents made their own tools; they figured out how to do it. My grandfather is the most innovative human being I will probably ever come across.”
Along with her business’s name hearkening back to her family’s roots in silversmithing, Emily’s business cards and shop itself feature a sort of symbol of her family: a raven. A point of pride for Butch, he created the stylized image of a raven after looking at a magazine that had a picture of a raven coming in for a landing. He took the image and built it in to a lot of the pieces he made. Now, that image adorns the walls and outside of the Sterling Roots location, as well as other things related to the business, a reminder for Emily of her family and how its legacy began.
Constantly wearing different pieces, like her grandfather’s old belt buckle or pieces her aunt Lisa Nortz, who has her own business called Silver Bench Jewelry, has made, Emily often carries her family with her as well.
“We are busting our buttons, we’re very proud and impressed with how far they have gone in their own businesses,” Pat said of her family continuing the legacy she and her husband began.
While Emily’s mother Tammy also learned smithing at a young age, and even made enough money in school from selling her creations to buy both a car and insurance for it, she’s not drawn to silversmithing as much as her sister and daughter and instead owns the Wicked Wench Saloon in Carthage. She has continuously encouraged her daughter to follow her passions in life.
“She’s constantly encouraging me and that’s what I teach my daughter,” Emily said. “She’s really an amazing driving force. We have a saying that if it’s not a ‘f*** yes’, don’t do it, so I only do what I love and follow my passions. Everybody in my family has been lucky enough to follow their passion in life.”