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August 2015

By Diane Alter

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Give a woman a look at Littlest Fish Designs and her eyes will happily feast on the vast array of distinct jewelry pieces for hours.

The artistic talent behind Littlest Fish Designs is Hannah Marlin. With a surname like that, Hannah was destined to do something involving the sea.  “My last name is a fish; I live by the ocean; I stand 2 inches over 5 feet,” Hannah explained to Dressed MV. “That’s how I came up with Littlest Fish Designs. This is truly my calling.” With Littlest Fish Designs, Hannah has truly come out of her shell.

20150728-072815_0066“Born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, I’ve always been surrounded by incredible artists and creative people,” Hannah shared “I found my niche in the arts early. I attended the University of New Hampshire where I studied studio art, with a concentration of photo therapy. My favorite class,  however, was sculpture. While I always thought about making jewelry, it wasn’t until last winter, when strapped for Christmas cash that I actually
started the process. Off island at the time, I trekked to a local bead store and left armed with supplies. I’m an avid beach comber and had accumulated a large stash of wampum. Among the cache were perfectly porous wampum pieces with hundreds of tiny holes. I weaved some wire through them, added some freshwater pearls and a sterling chain, and gave them as gifts. I posted the creations on Instagram and the response was incredible.
After Christmas I had a full time hobby that’s turned into a small business.” Indeed, Hannah is hooked and she had plenty of bait and bites. And wampum continues to be the lure.

Wampum are beautiful beads made from various white and purple mollusk shells. They’ve been and continue to be used by several Native nations throughout northeastern North America for ornamental and ceremonial use.

Wampum Piece

“Natural is always better” Vertical bar necklace with Swarovski crystal accent. Photo Credit: Littlest Fish Designs via FB

“All of my wampum is locally sourced,” Hannah continued. “I collect it all myself and supportive friends also share their finds with me. Recently I’ve been finding the majority of my wampum at a secret location that I’ll never reveal. The tricky thing about working with wampum is that it’s incredibly fragile. I can work on a piece for hours and out of nowhere it will just break in half. So you have to be really patient when working with it. When a break happens, I just take a breath and continue. Some of my best pieces have come from a broken first attempt. I’ve never been a typically patient person, but working with wampum has definitely made me more easygoing.”

Hannah says that by putting a modern spin on an iconic material with a legendary past, people are drawn to her style. “Pieces in geometric shapes like long rectangular bars are in high demand and feathers never go out of style,” Hannah explained. “Anything with Swarovski crystals in them sells fast, too. Every woman loves a little sparkle every once in a while.”

Speaking of the future, Hannah’s eyes sparkle with excitement and her nose wrinkles with anticipation. But it’s her mouth that gives all her emotions away. Hannah lips turn up into the slightest of earnest smiles, revealing her overwhelming optimistic outlook. It brings to mind the old maxim: May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand between your toes. “I hope I soon get a call from a famous celebrity who just has to have a Littlest Fish
Design,” Hannah said.

Littlest Fish Designs can be found at Driftwood Jewelry on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. A website and Etsy page are under construction. But, in the meantime, you can follow Hannah on Facebook and Instagram via Littlest Fish Designs.