The Jacob's Musical Chimes Story

Jacob Sokoloff is a thoughtful, articulate man sincerely devoted to his craft — a man who feels that somehow he has always had a "true, organic calling" to make musical instruments. As an anthropology student at California State University Long Beach, he studied Japanese Classical and East Indian music. Living in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, Jacob's first designs were flutes and beautiful gourd harps made from natural materials using only hand tools.

Knowing that his mother collected windchimes, in 1981 Jacob created a set of chimes he called a "musical instrument for the wind" as a gift to her. This was the original Waterfall chime. Friends and family were taken with the magical and enchanting sounds produced by these chimes, and encouraged him to make a few more. That he did, selling them at arts and craft shows all over California.

As his business grew in size, Jacob's sister Fern joined full time in 1985 to help with sales. Like two pieces of a puzzle, brother and sister's talents blended and the business grew rapidly. Fern took Jacob's work to the hand crafted juried sections of wholesale gift shows throughout the country, where an emphasis on hand made American craft provided a successful outlet for the chimes. Before long they were offering Jacob's work exclusively to the wholesale market.

In 1991 Fern's husband Sam Solomon, a software design engineer, joined the company. Sam took over the financial end of the business, oversaw production and inventory control, and developed custom computer software to permit rapid turnaround on most orders.

Jacob's overriding emphasis in the design of his windchimes is the musical quality of the sound. The pitch of each pipe, the relative tuning of the whole chime, and the "sweetness" or purity of each tone are all factors that he constantly refines, years after creating that first, magical chime. In 2003, Jacob's Waterfall chime was even featured in a performance by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Because this element of sound quality is so fundamental to the success of a chime, Jacob takes extreme care in making sure the tuning and resonant quality of each pipe meets his exacting standards. He carefully evaluates each new batch of raw pipe, adjusting for differences in seam and alloy composition that can affect pitch and create discordant sounds. Out of this evaluation comes a set of "masters," which are used to cut the batch of pipe.

Jacob's Musical Chimes experienced rapid growth, at its peak boasting a customer list of over 6,000 shops, museums and galleries worldwide. Gradually, however, Jacob joined the ranks of artisans throughout America, finding it more and more difficult to compete with the onslaught of "copycat" products made by low-paid laborers abroad. Partly as a response to this problem, the company launched fernsgarden.com and opened its first Fern's Garden store in Los Alamitos, California in 2000. The store quite literally struck a chord with shoppers, and a much larger Fern's Garden was opened in 2004 in the trendy Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach, California.

Fern and Jacob took some time off from the wholesale business between 2006 and 2008 to focus on Fern's Garden and fernsgarden.com. In 2008, with the Long Beach store well-established, the company re-introduced its ever popular Car Charm line to the wholesale market. That was followed in 2009 with four more of its most popular lines: Magnetic Adorn-a-ments, Little Piper Chimes, Cantabell Gardenstakes and Musical Necklace Chimes. While you won't find the larger "Traditional" chime series in retail stores, Jacob still makes all of his beautiful, musically tuned chimes for sale to Fern's Garden and fernsgarden.com customers. His chimes are also distributed in Japan, where Jacob's Musical Chimes remains the top chime company.

When describing the rewards of his work, Jacob emphasizes his fundamental desire to make something beautiful — "a musical instrument for the wind." His greatest pleasure, he says, is "in making something that feels perfect every time."