With the Original Keepah cuff a coveted item among Portland’s stylish set, Nate and Anne Hicks—he’s the maker, she’s the muse and a medical doctor—deliver a dose of pure alchemy.
Anne Hicks, an anesthesiology resident at Maine Medical Center, wears her Keepah—a brass lobster-gauge-turned-gleaming bracelet—almost every day. “I wear it any day that I’m not wearing scrubs,” she says. “And some days when I am.” The brass cuff has graced her wrist ever since craftsman Nate Hicks—then her boyfriend of a couple of months, now her husband—made it for her seven years ago, just hours after his return from a two-week-long sailing trip.
The idea for the bracelet began when Nate spotted a lobster gauge—the measuring tool used by lobstermen to make sure a catch is of legal size or a “keeper”—left near his basement workshop by the building’s owner, a former marine patrol officer. Nate grew up in the trucking industry and works full-time as a welder, but he also has a fine arts degree and spent several years working for a Vermont-based goldsmith and jewelry designer. The simple form and function of the gauge immediately caught his eye, but it wasn’t until Nate found himself on a boat that he knew what to do with it. Helping a friend sail a 40-foot boat back from the British Virgin Islands to Maine, without cell phone service or distraction, Nate says he could “just think,” and the idea for the cuff popped into his head.
As soon as he landed (after a celebratory beer or two), Nate headed into his studio. He emerged late that night with the first finished piece—having transformed the gauge into something gleaming and gorgeous. If the sailing trip was a benchmark for the couple’s emerging relationship, the cuff sealed it. “It’s a Keepah,” Nate recalls telling Anne, emulating the Maine accent, and giving the piece its name. “Kind of like you.”
Anne has found that her bracelet piques the interest of her patients—especially when they happen to be lobstermen. “I always look for things we can talk about that don’t relate to being sick,” says the doctor, “and it’s a great conversation starter.”
Now, Nate handmakes Keepah bracelets as part of Fishbone Metal Works, his custom jewelry line that includes belt buckles, rings, and necklaces, which often feature a mix of tradtitional and untraditional materials such as wood and carbon. “There is definitely an industrial feel to what I do,” says Nate, “but I bring refinement to it.” Today, the Keepah bracelet can be found on Nate’s website and also at Zane, each one stamped with his logo that contains the numbers 508—the date when Nate crafted the very first one and gave it to Anne.
Photographed at Portland Patisserie and Grand Cafe
Styling by Carrie Montgomery Hurlbutt
Hair and Makeup by Lush Blow-Dry Bar