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Becoming Little Bee
By Rachel Wilson
It all started in 2008, at the age of eleven, with a glass bead and a bit of curiosity.
I’d always been a creative child; I greatly enjoyed the art class at my grade school, and constantly fueled my imagination with adventure books. A tray of blown glass beads was given to me as a gift to supply my friendship bracelet habit, but I happened upon a captivating bead that was too big for my planned project. I remember carrying it around in my pocket, waiting for an idea.
Then inspiration hit me. Why not branch out? I found a spool of old wire, slightly rusty and probably meant for household use, and sat down to make myself a pendant. It wasn’t easy. The wire was stiff and my small fingers had trouble bending it. Back to the junk drawer I went, and moments later I had a pair of chunky pliers and some scissors. Not exactly professional tools, but I didn’t know that, and even if I had, it wouldn’t have been important. Soon I had created a piece of “real” jewelry. I was so excited. Lying in front of me was a whole tray of possibilities.
I continued on with my new hobby, making earrings and pendants with increasing enthusiasm. My parents, family members, and friends provided me with supplies: more beads, miniature pliers, earring hooks, beading wire, and even gemstones. My father crafted a wooden base for an anvil. Slowly but surely, I was getting into something. I dabbled in chainmail, hammered earrings, and strung necklaces. Nothing made me happier than being able to give a gift that I had crafted with my own mind and hands.
Fresh with innocent excitement, I set up a small stand at a yard sale, put out earrings in my parents’ booth at the local farmers market, and talked about it to anyone who would listen. I didn’t sell anything, but I didn’t stop either. Every time I made something, I got better.
After a few years, the opportunity arose to sell my jewelry in a woman’s quilt booth at the local market. I stained a little bulletin board and started creating unique earrings that I thought would be eye-catching. I had a place to sell, my display, and my art, but no name. Having grown up on an apiary, I’d ended up with the nickname “Little Bee.” I didn’t even need to dwell on it. “Little Bee Jewelry” was the perfect name for my itsy-bitsy business.
I sat patiently in the tent that summer and through the winter, as customers traveled up and down the market pavilion, taking in all the sights and smells. I answered the question “Did you make all of these?” with a happy “Yes!” Each sale felt validating, and was incentive to continue on with something that was no longer just a hobby.
In early 2014, I was approached by the manager of the market at which I’d been selling earring to have my own booth and expand my selection of jewelry. At 16, the prospect of becoming my own “independent” person was extremely enticing, and so I set out to advance my skills.
I look back at my first few necklaces now and grimace a bit, but I also have to smile. One of the less appealing aspects of being self-taught is that you only learn by making an incredible amount of mistakes. If anything, you learn how not to do something. But over the course of a few months, I’d not only taught myself the art of wire wrapping, but I had acquired a wide array of tools to which my original clunky pliers didn’t even compare. In May 2014, I launched the Little Bee Jewelry Facebook page, and worked tirelessly over the course of the summer to build an inventory. November came, and my mother, seeing my self-doubt and hesitation, sat me down at the computer and said: “Apply.” And I did.
I’ve been a vendor at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market for a little over two months now. I sit at my table on Saturdays and work while people shop, demonstrating my process to anyone who is intrigued. Every necklace sparkling in the January light is a testament to the hard work I’ve put into each and every aspect of Little Bee Jewelry. From hand shaping and stamping copper pendants to trying to get a flawless photograph, from repetitive wire work that has callused my fingers to the occasional badly aimed hammer strike (ouch!), I’ve spent hours upon hours, days, weeks, months, and years perfecting my art and my passion. I still have far to go, but that itself is inspiration.
My mantra lately has been “In order to make something successful, you have to put the work into it before it is successful.” This process has been a bit slow, but it’s taught me patience, and that sometimes it’s useful to be stubborn. I truly believe that if you really want something, and if you work hard enough, you can succeed at anything you put your mind to.
#Real #BecomingLittleBee #ArtsandCrafts #Handmade #Jewelry
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