Hello there, you, holding this magazine.
It would be so nice to meet you. I’ve tried writing this article several times and I keep hitting a dead end. You see, at the core of who I am and what I do, it’s not about me. It’s about you. My desire is to encourage you, befriend you, and capture your stories in wearable art. The story of my studio is about more than building a place to escape and create. This story is about discovering. I work because I love people. So welcome to our story. It is my hope that as you peruse these pages you find yourself, you see your journey—wherever you are along the way—and if you ever land in the Flinthills of Kansas, please look me up. Let’s do coffee!
The story of my studio starts well before I ever had one. Having started my jewelry journey at age 7, I’ve moved boxes of trinkets, tools and treasures for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories include collecting lost bolts and stray findings in my dad’s garage or at my grandparents’ farm. I spent summers working alongside my dad doing sheetrock, roofing with my uncles, and other projects. If there was a tool and creativity involved, I was there for it. Raised by a family of teachers in rural America, DIY projects weren’t a fad, they were often a necessity.
Creative space was not a luxury, it was a tool for me to be the person I felt God had created me to be. My college degrees are marketing and communications but creating continued to be a part of what I did in free time to earn extra cash. My sweet college roomie, Ashlee, put up with my tackleboxes of beads and tools and my need to spread them across our dorm floor during creative spurts. I side hustled with art shows, stores, and occasional classes.
My parents redefined supportive. My dad built travelling bead boards, a workbench from a sketch, and converted a found cabinet into my treasured desk space. My mom wore my earliest pieces with pride. When I got married, my husband Caleb supported my art, even as a side gig. As we moved around, he never complained about it taking up the only extra space we had.
Our first purchased home had an extra bedroom that worked as my studio until we had a second child and needed a nursery. Caleb helped me renovate a small garden shed into my workshop. There I spent many days working with kids alongside me or in the yard just outside my door. With three kids under 4, I slowed production down to a couple of shows a year and intermittent custom work, just enough to keep me busy and the business growing. I will always treasure those slower paced days of sidewalk chalk and bubbles.
During the garden shed phase, I received a text from my uncle Tim about a tool he saw at an auction. It was a cabbing machine, a piece on my “someday” list. Tim is equal parts incredible uncle and incredible bargain hunter. I drove up that afternoon to discover he had scored an entire rock cutting studio for me at this auction! Shocked, elated and overwhelmed I loaded all the treasures up to return home, knowing full well the garden studio would not house even one of these tools. Caleb helped me unload and simultaneously fill our small one car garage. I now had both a metal studio and a rock studio and we barely had a place for our mower. While not ideal, I created as much as I could given the constraints of toddlers and cramped studio space. But like my machinery collection, our family was growing, and each day proved more space would certainly benefit everyone.
We found that space in an abandoned property on the edge of town towards the beautiful Kansas Flinthills. Having sat empty for two years it required a lot of renovation, but we were smitten with the property and its potential. It lacked only one thing—a studio space. I’d often scan the acreage and imagine a studio—while most of my tools stayed packed in the garage. As the house renovation slowed, jewelry orders increased, and I’d invite clients to discuss projects in our sunroom because the garage was too tight for guests while I was working. I started to consider my options for a studio space. Should I find a building in town? Should I build a studio out on our land? As I contemplated the future, we unexpectedly added to our family. We were less than 3 years from all the kids in school, and now, we were doubling that timeline, making an onsite studio more appealing.
I had saved, visited buildings for sale, chatted with a builder and still hadn’t found a studio solution. Meanwhile my work felt overwhelming for the space I was in. More people knew of my art, more people asked if they could “just stop by” and I desired to have an open door for those opportunities. One weekend I happened to see a portable shed supplier near my parents’ house. I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, but I had done all I could do in the space that I had and I couldn’t seem to get the dots to connect on a downtown building. I meticulously measured, crunched numbers, and drew the floor plan. I wandered around the space and took photos and talked through my vision for the space. That’s the thing about how my brain works—when I plan something, I can see it completed. And I just knew that I could make a standard portable shed the open door for clients and friends I had been longing for over the past couple of years.
I came home and measured every piece of my equipment and made scaled paper versions of each. I arranged them on the floor plan layout like tiny paper dolls, with higher stakes. When I was satisfied, I made the call, wrote a check, arranged the rock pad foundation, and scheduled delivery of the insulation, flooring, and wallboard. My floorplan made the electricity a snap as I knew exactly where I needed outlets, based on where equipment would be stationed. I knew from my time in other spaces I had wasted a lot of minutes traveling back and forth between equipment, so I strategically set it up to work in a clockwise manner from stone and metal selection, to cutting and forging, to torch work and final polishing. The shed featured two lofts and my four kids were over the moon to have their own space to create and play alongside me.
The shed arrived in May and I spent the better part of the summer finishing the inside. The days were hot and long but so worth it. That fall, I unpacked the last of my boxes and, with the help of some amazing friends and my mom, we completed last minute details hours before I hosted my first open house. Including hanging a sign with the name I picked for the studio, “The Pearl.”
The open house was an absolute joy. Everything I had envisioned happening in The Pearl came true. Friends new and old ventured into my little corner of the world and got to sip coffee and experience firsthand the work that I do. I was overwhelmed by the attendance and support. In those hours
I realized people are the ‘why’ behind what I do. If what I did was just for me, I’m not sure I would have continued beyond the tackleboxes under my bed. Each new technique, tool, design—every step along the way of my journey has been about making pieces unique to the wearer. And the more people I meet, the more differences I value and the more my art expands. Since opening The Pearl, I have sketched pieces to celebrate babies born and lives passed. I’ve listened to dreams come true, and brokenness, and hope being rebuilt. We have sipped coffee over tears and laughter. Hearing your stories is a sacred space. It’s why I do what I do. That people may wear their stories as a way to share them with others. So back to our story….
We’ve been told not to compare the beginning of your story to someone else’s end. I don’t think I have “arrived” in my space at The Pearl. For me, I think I’m somewhere in the middle. As I worked through all the stages in my studio journey, I’ve discovered there was incredible joy in each one along the way. I’ve learned things. I’ve met people. I’ve kept working. And, like my affinity for the Midwest, I’m happy to be here in the middle, working with what I have, where I am, until the next door opens.
Too often we hang up our talents hoping for just the right season or opportunity. And in the waiting we miss opportunities to grow, learn and create. We miss lessons learned and people met. Don’t let fear or circumstance hold you back from doing your thing right now, wherever you are.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
So, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing something with what you have. If you’re sketching on napkins from today’s take out, I’ll bet they’re beautiful. If you’re working from a shoebox under your bed, I hope you regularly spread your contents and immerse yourself there. If you’ve carved out a space in your spare bedroom, may it bring you all the inspiration you need for today. If you’re waiting for the day you have a full and perfect studio, you never will. Your work doesn’t need a studio space; your work needs you to show up and do what you can with what you have, where you are.