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Life & Work with Michele Callahan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michele Callahan.

Hi Michele, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
As a teenager and adult, I always loved needlework and similar crafts but never thought about jewelry making. I loved jewelry but making my own never entered my mind. About 10 years ago, I started dating a man who made and sold jewelry as a business (Raymond Scott Jewelry) and I was instantly drawn to it! Some of you may remember him from Graces Ladies Shop in Greenhills. He worked there for many years in management, doing their windows and repairing jewelry for customers.

One day, I decided to take the leap and I bought beads at a local craft store. I kept it to myself because I was embarrassed by my simple and very basic creations! Even though I had watched him, I didn’t understand that there was some technique and finesse involved! When I told him I wanted to make jewelry like he did, he became my biggest cheerleader and supporter! He always gives me advice, helps me with techniques and encourages me to grow and branch out. He now owns another business and doesn’t make much jewelry these days but we have just recently purchased a home with a great jewelry studio and I hope this will change!

My business is strictly online. I do not yet have a brick and mortar building, but I’m leaning toward opening a small shop in the future. I would love to incorporate jewelry, beads and vintage furniture and memorabilia into a business. I enjoy doing in-home shows, trunk shows and setting up at arts and crafts festivals. I love learning new techniques and trying new things. Shopping for beads is a passion and I have become an avid bead hoarder. My favorite thing is to repurpose vintage findings and beautiful beads from discarded jewelry.

I was recently gifted a huge assortment vintage necklaces, bracelets and rings from a dear friend. They were her Mother’s pieces. I can’t wait to start repurposing the pieces to create wearable, modern jewelry from that collection! I will always take vintage or unused jewelry and beads from anyone! I hate to see these beautiful pieces thrown in the trash or just hidden in drawers! I also repurpose jewelry for customers who have a sentimental or broken item that they can no longer wear. I combine new beads and charms with their piece and create something new that they will wear into the future.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The struggle is twofold. It’s hard breaking into the jewelry market because many people sell similar items. This is one reason why I prefer selling in-person as opposed to online. I feel that women like to hold, try on and see jewelry in person as opposed to buying something online that they can’t entirely visualize. Making connections with them is vital and they become repeat customers when they know they can count on and trust your product’s quality and your loyalty to them.

Funding is also an issue. My products are fairly inexpensive and making enough money to fund a brick and mortar store is problematic. I started this adventure as a hobby and as a way to relax and keep busy. The more I grew to love it, the more I wanted to do it as a business. . I retired after 30 years as a teacher a school administrator. Now I have more time to focus on making it a real business. My idea of a boutique which carries not only jewelry and beads but also a curated selection of vintage furniture and collectibles is something I truly want to pursue in the near future. Finding a space and making it a reality is the next step!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My creative side definitely comes from my Mother’s side of the family. My mother (and I) were both born in Heidelberg, Germany. My grandfather was a wood carver there his entire life. He had a cellar studio where he would carve beautiful pieces of furniture, platters, animals of all kinds, and custom pieces. I loved watching him at his craft. He could turn a piece of wood into something special. I get inspiration from many places. Nature and art in particular. My favorite artist of all time is Gustav Klimt and I become inspired after looking at his work. His use of shape and color combinations really draw me in. I love color of all kinds and enjoy using combinations of color in my daily life as well as in jewelry. I enjoy painting and needlework so there is a lot of opportunity to incorporate color into my daily life.

What sets me apart is that my jewelry is not mass produced. Each piece is distinctive and made by me. There is a lot of jewelry available at retail stores and online. I like the uniqueness of handmade items. I like knowing that someone, somewhere is wearing a piece that I designed and created.

What were you like growing up?
Being born and growing up in Germany has given me a distinct style and perspective. I like modern as well as vintage, and I like the combination of both. I feel that whatever it is that you like, old or new, it can be combined to make your distinctive statement. I speak both German and Spanish, both of which helped me greatly in my career as an educator. I am an only child and I think that inventing my own ways of entertaining myself was pivotal in helping me become more creative. I would always do art, make doll clothes and I loved to explore and walk in the woods. My love of nature stems from that time. I always had a love of animals and wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger. Unfortunately, back during the time I was in high school, girls were not really pushed into the sciences very much. I think with more support and prompting I could have realized that dream. However, I decided to go into education, which I loved! I loved trying to make a difference in the lives of teenagers who many had given up on. I have many great success stories of students who finally “made it” and I’d like to think I had a hand in helping them get there!

I attended Western Kentucky University and Utah State University. I have a BA in Spanish, German and teaching. My MA is in Gifted and Talented Education with endorsements in Teaching English as a Second Language as well as an Administrative Endorsement in School Leadership. I have always liked helping people and teaching was a natural transition for me. I worked mainly with at-risk youth. I was the principal of an alternative high school as well as a high school for young mothers. Currently, I teach English classes a few days a week to non-English speaking adults in Clarksville, TN., where my family lives. I don’t do a lot of “book teaching.” We read a lot, discuss current events and do crafts that generate a lot of conversation and vocabulary. I try to be a hands-on teacher and let the students progress at their own pace and as they feel comfortable.

Pricing:

  • Many of my bracelets start in the $25 range
  • Necklaces and sets are a little higher and usually begin in the $40 range

Contact Info:


Image Credits

Michele Callahan

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