When selecting a gift for St. Valentine’s Day, how does one adequately express their love? Should they purchase familiar items off the shelf for their significant other? Or should they opt for distinct treasures that symbolize their relationship’s value?
For artist and jewelry maker Dawanna Young, love should only be expressed in unique ways.
“Everyone’s relationship is different,” Dawanna says. “Love is an adventure, and no two couples have the same story.”
Making meaningful gifts for special occasions is exactly why Dawanna founded her business Peaces of Indigo. In addition to sharing that she’s a “gypsy at heart,” Dawanna’s website bio reveals that “She feels an innate connection to the beauty of mother nature and finds endless inspiration there.”
Making Necklaces to Make Ends Meet
Dawanna didn’t always feel a special connection to Tennessee. Originally from Oklahoma, Dawanna was living in Arkansas around 2008. The Great Recession did not spare her household, and she quickly saw her family’s income dry up.
Knowing that she had to do something to pay the bills, Dawanna decided to take a leap of faith and start a business. She recalls, “That was the perfect catalyst… it was a ‘now or never’ moment that forced me to take a risk.”
Thinking about what business she could start, Dawanna decided to combine her love of art and quotes into the form of jewelry. To her, this was more than a creative outlet. It was a market opportunity to reach women like her that were sick of the mass-produced, mundane pieces seen behind store display cases.
“So much of what’s in the marketplace lacks real personality,” Dawanna shares.
While planning her jewelry business, Dawanna surveyed marketplace trends. She noticed that many companies were stamping jewelry with text in an attempt to personalize pieces. Seeing such a high volume of “assembly line personalization” put her off.
“It just came across as disingenuous to claim something was ‘custom’ when it looked almost identical to what everyone else was wearing,” she says.
This failure of execution notwithstanding, Dawanna was inspired. She liked the notion of text in silver and gold but wanted to do it her way. So, she chose to hand engrave notable quotes from books, music, and famous cultural figures.
“That started my whole exploration into different mediums and materials on which I could engrave,” she says. Being a fan of books, music, and famous quotes from notable figures, Dawanna was inspired to hand engrave silver and gold pieces of jewelry.
With a business plan and a concept for a novel line of products, Dawanna got to work making her jewelry. Once she was ready, Dawanna attended art shows in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri to help promote her business.
Peaces of Indigo gained traction in the area, and Dawanna eventually found success in local markets. Around the time she decided to launch Peaces of Indigo, Dawanna learned from her sister about the marketplace and social media site Etsy. Through this site, Dawanna learned that there was an international market eager to buy from artists like her.
“Etsy has helped me reach customers all over the world,” Dawanna says. “People buy jewelry from me now while I’m sleeping… which is pretty amazing!”
Local Jewelry Made for Local Buyers
Dawanna moved to Tennessee in 2011. By this time, the online demand for Peaces of Indigo jewelry had grown to the point where Dawanna had confidence in her work.
Speaking to the still eager demand for her jewelry, she says “I get messages on social media every day from people who are looking to purchase something with a local connection. I think that this trend is only going to continue to build momentum.”
This demand prompted her to operate a brick-and-mortar workshop for a little while. But Dawanna found it tough to make items while operating the store.
Now operating from her spacious home studio, Dawanna is free to focus on just making jewelry.
She says, “Having downtime is important because it allows you to keep improving and evolving as an artist. I’ve never stopped learning, and I’m always trying to brush up on the skills I already have or play with new mediums.”
“Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold…”
In her experimentation, Dawanna makes new pieces of jewelry that she would want to wear. These pieces are meant to feel like they were discovered in a long-lost jewelry box or a drawer of ancient artifacts in a museum. Achieving this effect means no shiny finishes, and making each piece with tools that would have been available in centuries past.
“The kilns, torches, hammers, and files are all key to giving these pieces their personality,” she says.
Dawanna refers to her pieces as “instant heirlooms.” These pieces are not only intended to look timeless but are also meant to last.
They’re also made to make buyers feel good about their purchase. Dawanna notes that she has many repeat customers who return because of the value and quality of her pieces.
Part of this quality comes from sourcing the right materials. Dawanna exclusively uses ethically sourced materials that are procured from vendors committed to practices like fair trade, community investment, or recycled precious metals.
“I look for those practices to ensure that customers are getting what they pay for when they buy a piece of jewelry from me,” she says.
Dawanna offers the turquoise mining industry as an example. “There are unscrupulous vendors from all over the world that will cut turquoise, collect the dust, and then mix the dust with chemicals, resins, dyes, and glue to put stones together. These aren’t actual stones... If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s very easy to buy something that’s absolute junk. I’ve spent over a decade building relationships with my stonecutters and suppliers so that I can offer my customers the best quality stones. Some of my turquoise suppliers are second generation miners and stonecutters. That adds to the beauty of my jewelry for me. ”