Even as a child, I had always been fascinated with casual jewelry. While most girls like the diamond-encrusted bangles or the more intricate golden earrings, I was contented with silver rings and necklaces, and even leather strings that could be braided.
I believe that I liked making my own jewelry as well – when I was in elementary school, one of my relatives bought me a “make your own jewelry” set which mostly consisted of pink and purple hearts. It didn’t help that my sister had also (at that point) taken to picking up random beads that she would find in school. I distinctly remember that accessories made of seed beads were relatively popular at the time; I also remember that they tended to be very fragile. My sister therefore had a decent collection of beads, particularly seed beads. It became a game to us, threading those beads into lovely but simple necklaces using sewing thread.
At first, the jewelry we made were pretty straight forward – most of the seed beads were orange, white, yellow and black, and we would alternate the colors using that pattern: orange, white, yellow then black. Eventually, we decided to change it up, by randomizing the color patterns of the beads and then maybe throwing in different kinds of beads every ten seed beads. We lost those necklaces, and for a long, long time, we’d forgotten all about the joy of actually making simple jewelry.
By the time I hit high school, I had pretty much gone back to buying simple but pretty trinkets like silver chains with funky pendants. I had actually stopped thinking about making my own jewelry, when it used to make me feel so good, knowing that I made something I could wear (because seriously, I can’t design and sew clothes to save my life), something that made me feel pretty and unique. I always believed that anything you design and make on your own is one-of-a-kind. But at that point, like most other teenagers, I thought that everything I did was either stupid or not as good as I wanted them to be.
It wouldn’t be until I hit college that my love affair with home-made jewelry would be rekindled. It’s not clear when I felt that crafted jewelry brought out a certain charm that failed to manifest itself in mass-produced accessories – it might have been when one of my friends decorated an old choker of hers with old beads and a steel pendant, or it may have been when my mother got into the business of designing and selling semi-precious stone jewelry sets that became an instant sensation among family friends. All I remember was waking up with a subtle twitch in my heart that encouraged me to do something, anything, with my hands.
That Christmas, under the pretense of trying to save money, my sister and I decided to make jewelry for our friends instead of buying them presents. Each piece was unique and belonged only to those individual persons, and I was so happy and proud about having actually made something from the heart (as opposed to buying something with a thought) to give to the people who mattered to me. The feeling is exhilarating, and I realized at that moment that I am capable of making beautiful items, things that are crafted not only from letters and words, but also from actual stuff that you can touch.
My mom has since quit the business because her job became too demanding, and we were left with tons of leftover material. Not wanting to exhaust them, I would only make unique jewelry for special occasions. But they always come out beautiful, because they come from the heart.