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Co-owners Alexa Suess and Susan Pridham in Greenport in front of a graphic Suess designed (credit: Alexa Suess).

Orenda, the Greenport-based jewelry store known for its handmade touch, is adding workshops and classes to its offerings. 

“It has always been a goal,” said co-owner Alexa Suess. “And we figured with everything kind of being a little crazy, now was the best time to reach for that goal and bring some educational programs to Greenport.”

The changes include a redesign of the store to better allow for social distancing and to make space for the classes. Suess intends to teach metalsmithing, while co-owner Susan Pridham will do wire-wrapping, basic beading and looming. But they also hope to bring in outside experts and lecturers and focus on other aspects beyond jewelry.

“Ultimately, our sort of crossroads where we really sit comfortably is between science, art and ritual,” Suess said. “Anything that is encompassed within that space, we’re interested in.” 

Think gemology, botany and herbalism — all topics they plan to bring into the store in some way.

“Not necessarily in a medicinal sense,” Pridham said. “Just more how to have them in your environment and how they can really enrich your life, because both Alexa and I love the plant world. So, it will be an extension of what we do.”

When the coronavirus hit and Orenda closed its doors and moved to online sales, Pridham and Suess saw an opportunity to accelerate a part of the business they had always planned on adding.

“We wanted to be able to have a place for the community, because everybody has been so separated, missing each other,” Pridham said. “We want to provide a safe environment where people can come and visit, as well as learn something at the same time, perhaps broaden their horizons on something that they already do or pick up a new skill.”

The timing is still uncertain at this point, but the two hope to get the classes started in about six to eight weeks. Classes will be single sessions to make them accessible, and they plan to run them year round, changing with the seasons.

“I’m very excited to share what knowledge that I have and also gain knowledge from other people,” Suess said. “That’s one of the byproducts of teaching something — you always learn something else that you didn’t already know.”

“As individual craftspeople when we work, you’re kind of in a vacuum. You’re working by yourself,” Pridham added. “But when you open up a class and have the input of other people’s ideas and tastes, it’s very uplifting as an artist.”

The women hope to bring something a little new and different to the North Fork by expanding Orenda to more than jewelry.

“We always want to offer something that’s not just a pretty object,” Suess said. “But also an opportunity to learn something new and to elevate your own sphere of knowledge.”