Innovative Retailer Liz Kantner Wants You to Stay Gold

Art for the body—of all kinds—takes center stage at Divination Tattoo & Gallery

Acanthus and Symbology by Alice Scott jewelry
Kantner displays pendants from Symbology by Alice Scott and Acanthus Jewelry.

For many brands and retailers on the fine jewelry trade-show circuit, Liz Kantner is a familiar face. Since 2016, the digital marketing whiz has consulted with dozens of emerging jewelry designers and has curated entire sections of trade shows—including the New Designer Gallery at JA New York and a designer-centric section at the Premier show, which debuted during Las Vegas Jewelry Week in June. A bona fide jewelry influencer with a unique and edgy point of view (and nearly 34,000 Instagram followers at press time), the 31-year-old has become an in-demand marketing and merchandising consultant within the industry.

And in February, she added another title to her CV: retailer. Kantner and her partner, tattoo artist Chris Evans, opened a tattoo studio/jewelry store, Divination, in their recently adopted city of Asheville, N.C.

Stay Gold at Divination, the official name of the jewelry side of the 900-square-foot shop, is merchandised with the kind of moody, talismanic, personal-feeling jewelry Kantner herself is drawn to. The newbie retailer has laid eyes on a lot of jewelry in the past decade, but says choosing collections for her very own shop was a cinch. “When you know who you are and what you love,” she says, “that part’s really easy.”

Liz Kantner and Chris EvansWhy are tattoos and jewelry good bedfellows?
Tattooing to me is so similar to jewelry because they’re both fundamentally adornment. If you get the right artist who understands the body, tattooing can be such a beautiful thing. And there are a lot of similarities between the two beyond adornment. Tattooing is a little behind in its marketing and technology, just like jewelry. And people are sometimes tied to ­old-school traditions in tattooing, which is also true in jewelry.

Tell me about the jewelry collections you chose for the store, and why.
I carry Margaret Cross—I’ve been a huge fan of hers for years. Her designs really speak to me because there’s so much meaning behind her pieces. She does [modern mourning jewelry] that uses materials like hair and ashes. I also have Claus Jewelry, and most of Erin Claus’ pieces are inspired by tattoo design, so that was a good fit. Acanthus is in the store, and was in my first New Designer Gallery [at JA]. I’ve felt super-connected to that collection ever since. Pieces from designer Jacki Holland are also in the shop—she uses gemstones and does things like crochet around them.

I also have some vintage pieces that I’m selling from my own collection. People are really drawn to antique pieces; that’s an aspect I’m trying to grow. And we’re working with an Asheville artist, Alice Scott, to do more custom-designed pieces. You choose a stone and tell her your intentions, and then she makes the piece with your intentions in mind.

Stay Gold at Divination TattooWith choosing collections for the store, I knew exactly what I wanted and the price points I wanted. Right now, everything is under $600, with a core price of between $150 and $300. That’s what I can sell right now, and I hope my clients grow with me as we add more [higher-priced] pieces.

You bought the building Divination is in—what drew you to it?
We found the perfect building, and didn’t want to play the rent game. It’s a stone stand-alone structure, and it’s very old. We stripped it all down and it was a raw space with a concrete floor. It’s on this beautiful two acres, with an abandoned barn in the back in West Asheville. Inside, we’ve decorated it with all Victorian furnishings. I had shopped some estate sales in advance. We found this yellow sofa and chairs set for something like $150 for the whole set. The jewelry cases are vintage. Some guy was selling them on Craigslist.

You’re a digital marketer by trade—how are your online sales?
I’ve been selling really well on my website. [Laughing] I’ve been ­thinking, this strategy that I teach people works! I think a lot of the online sales traffic is coming through the Divination Instagram feed; it’s a pretty engaged group of followers. And it’s amazing the amount of business you can do via DM on Instagram. Also, the tattoo artists we brought in are aesthetically in line with the jewelry we carry. I think that’s why it all works.

(Photos: Chelsea Lane Photography)

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