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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

With Her Hands: Ithaca College senior crafts her own jewelry

Making earrings, necklaces and bracelets is a way that fifth-year student Janelle Smith relaxes and unleashes her creativity. What began as a hobby has become a business venture for Smith and her business partner, Jenna Switzer. Smith and Switzer’s business, JsJs Designs, sells a variety of jewelry, each with a different design.

Staff Writer Katherine Segovia spoke with Smith about how she began making jewelry, how her business began and where it has taken her since then.

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Katherine Segovia: How many years have you been making jewelry?

Janelle Smith: I started when I was younger — probably, like, 14 — just kind of as a hobby. And then through high school, I started to make it more often, and I did craft shows and sold it to friends and stuff. When I came to school — like freshman and sophomore year — I didn’t bring all of my jewelry stuff with me, so the last six months, I really started making more jewelry and trying to sell it on Etsy and other craft shows.

KS: How would you describe the pieces that you make?

JS: I would describe most of them as gemstone and crystal jewelry. I have a variety — some are really simple and good for layering, some are more statement pieces, and I try to make a variety. It’s more fun for me to make a variety of things instead of just the same exact style. I try to do a range of everything.

KS: In terms of the process of making jewelry, do you design a piece first and then make it, or do you just start a piece and then go from there?

JS: It depends on what beads I’m using. Sometimes I like to plan it out and lay out exactly what beads I want to use together, or I just start and see what happens. I always change it throughout. If it doesn’t work out how I plan, I’ll change it and tweak it as I go, but it kind of varies with what mood I’m in and how creative I’m feeling — whether I lay it all out or start putting beads on a wire and go from there.

KS: What would you say is the best part about making and selling jewelry?

JS: I think it’s a really good creative outlet for me. I like having a product that I made and designed and be able to wear it … and then having other customers be happy and excited. I want people to be happy with what I make and sell.

KS: What’s the most challenging part?

JS: When I have a picture of how something is going to turn out and it just doesn’t turn out that way. It gets a little frustrating in trying to tweak it and fix it. Sometimes, I need to set it down and step away from a bracelet or earring and just come back to it and figure out how I want it to look and go from there.

KS: Do you get a lot of your customers here from the college or from other places as well?

JS: I get about half and half. Most people in the college … can just pick it up from me on campus. With Etsy, it’s kind of hard to sell things on there because it’s hard to be randomly found by customers. Instagram has definitely helped because people can see it and then go right to our Etsy page, so I think that helps.

KS: How do you balance making and selling jewelry with your academics?

JS: It’s hard, but I think it’s a way for me to decompress and relax instead of just sitting down and watching Netflix. It’s a good way to balance everything. I have more time on the weekends, so sometimes I’ll just sit and do crafts for a couple of hours.

KS: How did jewelry making shift from being more of a hobby to becoming a business venture?

JS: I started to have way too much of my own jewelry, and people were like, “Oh, could you make something for me like that?” So I just started to casually sell it to friends, and then one day, I was like, “I want to try Etsy,” because a lot of people had recommended it to me, so I started doing that, and it’s a process — making an Etsy account and having everything look nice. It’s really hard to get pictures that represent the products well, so it’s been a little bit of a struggle organizing it and having it be successful.

KS: Is this something that you plan on continuing in the future?

JS: It is. I really enjoy it, and it’s a good outlet for creativity. I don’t plan on growing it to be a huge business; it’s just kind of like this side project. It’s something I really enjoy doing, so it’s more for me rather than to make a bunch of money at it, but it’s really — it’s fun and enjoyable for me.