A! Magazine for the Arts

Sierra McMillan sells her jewelry at the Swallowtail Restaurant, the Virginia Highlands Festival and the Washington County Fair, all in Abingdon.

Sierra McMillan sells her jewelry at the Swallowtail Restaurant, the Virginia Highlands Festival and the Washington County Fair, all in Abingdon.

Arts Spotlight on Youth: Making & Selling Jewelry

November 26, 2007

Jewelry designer Sierra McMillan, 11, is a sixth-grader at E.B. Stanley Middle School in Abingdon, Va. She recently sat down with A! Magazine to talk about her art.

A! Magazine: How long have you been designing jewelry?
When I was two, I went to the children's craft booths at the Virginia Highlands Festival (in Abingdon). My mom says I liked making crafts. Then about two years ago, my neighbor showed me how to make jewelry, and I've been doing it ever since.

A!: Where do you get your design ideas?
I just put things next to each other, and it all comes together, just kind of in my mind. I start putting beads on the wire and see how it looks. If I don't think it looks good, then I take it off and start over. Sometimes I mix and match colors. And then sometimes, I like it to be all the same color. I hold beads in my hand to see how the colors go together. I like making the New Jerusalem bracelet. It has the 12 Foundations of Heaven on it, and there's a different color for each foundation. Any stone in that color will do.

A!: Does it take a lot of time?
A simple pair of earrings takes maybe five minutes. Something harder takes about 20 minutes. I work up to two hours at a time.

A!: How do you choose your materials?
I work with a lot of copper and turquoise, and a lot of different stones. Lots of the things, I don't know what they are; I just like the way they look. Sometimes people come to me with special colors, and they want me to make special orders, like to go with an outfit or to match another piece they already have.

A!: Where do you get your materials?
At different places. Some at crafts shows. Once at an outside theatre play, they had a bag of old things and I bought them. I get other things at jewelry shows, and I order from catalogs and on-line. Earrings made out of soda pop tops are really popular at school; I buy the tops, and my dad drills a hole in them.

A!: Some beads are tiny. Are they hard to work with?
Yes! I have a little tool that helps me string them on there.

A!: How did you learn to use your tools?
They come with little instructions on the back of the package. Plus, my neighbor taught me a lot about how to use them.

A!: Where do you sell your jewelry?
At Swallowtail Restaurant in the Falls Plaza Shopping Center (in Abingdon). We've known (Madeline Dean) the lady who owns it for a long time. I also show my jewelry at the Virginia Highlands Festival and the Washington County Fair.

A!: How do you decide what to charge?
Well, it depends if the place wants to take a commission. One shop in Gatlinburg charged a percentage for each piece, but the Swallowtail doesn't take a commission. The owner just wanted to help me display my work. I usually charge from $5 to $10 for earrings, and $8 for the New Jerusalem bracelets.

A!: Do you want to make this your career?
Yes! I would love to. It's really fun! I'd like to find a class. At school, there's a jewelry-making club. But we've only met once. They just talk about jewelry. I sometimes get magazines and books.

A!: Why do you spend all those hours making jewelry?
I really have a lot of fun, and it's interesting, trying to make up stuff. I'm proud when something turns out really well.

Editor's Note: Dottie Havlik is Vice President of the Board of Directors of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire and chair of AAME's Arts for Youth Committee.

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