In my personal life I have become increasingly conscious about the footprint I am leaving on the world, buying things used and making more of an effort to upcycle. Last year it started to felt strange to not have my personal and business ethnics fully align, leaving me with a kind of icky feeling. At the beginning of the year I decided to start working to rectify that and started moving in the direction of making my business more eco-friendly by switching to recycled sterling silver and not buying new beads of unknown origins. I have to say, one of the people who inspired me to finally start moving in this direction was Laurie of Beryllina.
I met the amazingly talented Laurie through Boston Handmade. In addition to prioritizing sustainability in her business through using only 100% recycled metals and packaging and natural (you can read more about her eco-friendly practices here), Laurie makes stunning jewelry that incorporates gemstones that she mined herself. Now that is impressive! (You can read about her recent expedition mining for Herkimer Diamonds with her husband.)
How did you get started making jewelry?
When I was a student at Penn State (majoring in Business, Art, and Environmental Ethics), I began wire-wrapping crystals and making beaded jewelry. After college I moved to California and worked at a bead store, where I immediately became interested in metalsmithing and took a class. It was love at first solder and after dabbling in the craft for several years (and moving back east), I decided to attend North Bennet Street School’s Jewelry Making program and fulfill my dream of becoming a professional jeweler.
How did you get started mining stones? Did that come before or after you started making jewelry?
I got interested in geology around the age of 8, when I took a Geology class in 4-H (a rural activities group for kids), and often hunted for fossils at the nearby shale pit. In college, I would go hunting in fields for quartz crystals that I would use in my wire-wrapped jewelry. Ever since I became a member of the Boston Mineral Club, and got my husband interested in mining crystals too, it’s been a great adventure gallivanting across the North East looking for shiny or colorful things in the dirt. It just seemed natural to me that I would feature some of the crystals I had mined in my jewelry. They’re just so beautiful!
What is the story behind your shop’s name?
When I was first looking for a name for my business, I wanted a something that was unique and reflected the delicate and detailed qualities of my work. I stumbled upon Beryllina, the name of a type of hummingbird (one of my most favorite creatures) and thought it was just perfect. Not only did it seem delicate and elegant, but also had the word “beryl” in it, which is a type of gemstone (aquamarine, morganite, and emerald are all different types of beryl).
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
My favorite thing about having my own creative business is being free to shift my focus when I want to. If I am having an “off” day at the workbench, there is always plenty else for me to work on (photography, social media, marketing, just to name a few). On the flip side, I also find this to be the most challenging – sometimes when I really want to be making jewelry at my workbench, I need to be doing photography, social media, marketing, etc. It’s all about staying flexible and being open to what needs to be done.
What inspires you to create?
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by nature at my studio, so spending some time outdoors can really get the juices flowing. Mining gems and minerals is really inspiring too. When I find a beautiful or interesting stone in the Earth, designing and making its forever-home can be really thrilling.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
Buying handmade is really an intentional choice, and motivation can vary. It could be that someone doesn’t want to support socially- and/or environmentally-irresponsible companies by purchasing their mass-produced goods. It could be that someone has an appreciation of artists and wants to support their gift (perhaps they’re an artist themselves). Or it could be that someone likes a particular handmade object better than any of the machine-made alternatives. Whatever the reason, I support it!
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
For my wedding, my mom sewed the most beautiful flower quilt for our chuppah-cloth, which was suspended by four birch tree poles and hung above us during our ceremony. It’s so beautiful and carries so many special memories, and now we have it hanging over our bed.
When you are not making jewelry, what do you like to do with your time?
I’m happiest when I’m outside: hiking, kayaking, or just sitting, it really feeds my soul. I also play the banjo and the flute, and love playing music with my husband and friends.
What is something people might not know about you?
I love animals! I grew up on a farm with sheep, chickens, horses, cows, cats, a dog, and a pot-bellied pig. I really treasure my rural upbringing and experiences.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Figure out what you really believe in and what is really important to you, and make sure that you run your business in accordance with that. I am really proud of the fact that my jewelry is eco-friendly, and because I really truly believe in running my business (and life) that way, it makes decisions such as materials to use or the direction to head in much easier.
Thank you so much for joining me on my blog, Laurie, and be sure to check out her website!
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