As stories are a huge part of my “WHY”, I wanted to share a little deeper at this time and tell the narrative of how So Me went from a seedling to a store. And I hope that anyone at home right now with a dream finds my background story a bit of inspiration to follow that heartbeat. The reason I love supporting Small Business is exactly that– they are so full of human heart. Our country and world feels different right now. And every small thing we do that is heart-centered helps. We could all use more of what’s in everyones heart right now!! Your support to our area’s small businesses will be felt more than ever right now. All of us at So Me are hoping you are safe, happy, and home. As always, we greatly appreciate your continued support and CANNOT wait to see you all soon!
*Interview By Shannon Smith*
When was the seed for So Me first planted?
The idea landed on me lightly while I was still in high school in the ’90’s. I was very focused on jewelry and photography at that time and many of my friends were immersing themselves in art as well, all in various forms of media. I remember admiring their work and thinking, that’s really just going to sit in your basement? People need to see what you do…! The early seeds for So Me were planted then.
When did jewelry design change from a hobby to a bigger focus?
I’d say my love with jewelry design began with a job out of high school at the Bead Mine in the South Side of Pittsburgh. The Bead Mine was female owned and operated. And the owner was beyond creative and always pushing me to create. Her belief in me is what finally gave me the confidence to commit to being an artist. Being surrounded by beautiful gemstones, spending time in creativity — I quickly fell in love with all of it. Getting lost in designing, It’s one of my happy places.
Tell us more about the road to So Me becoming a brick and mortar?
It was a journey — one of constant note taking, sketching ideas for a space, listing the styles of artists I would carry….I mean for years. I’m big into notebooks & making lists. It’s fun when I find one from back then because I see how consistent I was in my vision. Occasionally, I would gather an amazing “business” plan and approach my Dad, trying to convince him to be my business partner. And time and again the advice he always gave was just simple…..“Go out and get experience.”
How did his advice land on you?
Well, back then I probably would have preferred him to just agree to be my business partner! But looking back I now see how invaluable his advice was. I went about getting more experience as he suggested. Doors kept opening and I kept walking through them. From a roommate, I received my first apprentice job in the South Hills. I recall the first handful of days on the job, my hands felt like they were balloons! Twice the size they were. Everything was so detailed and small and I was a nervous wreck. But a skilled jeweler took me under his wing and taught me the ropes, and he is still a great friend & jeweler that I work with to this day. I continued with my jewelry training and moved on to a few other well known jewelry stores in the area, learning all the old school techniques as a bench jeweler, in the old school way — hands on.
Does any jeweler stand out from your apprenticeships?
Yes, definitely! It was the jeweler who pushed me more than anyone else, Jeweler Bob. The thing that was different about JB was that he would test me, even though it would get me upset. he pushed me. I can see now that he was doing it for all the right reasons, and it was invaluable. He once gave me a line of very simple advice, yet it has stayed with me to date: “Just remember, you can fix anything, you don’t ever turn away anything, you can do it or you will learn as you try” I hear that advice every time a customer brings in something I haven’t encountered before….and I usually fix it!
What gave you the final push to take the leap out on your own?
Definitely when my Dad passed away suddenly at the age of 62. My world was completely rocked. From that moment on, life didn’t look the same. I truly realized how quickly life can change, and that gave me incentive. I knew that if I did not try, I would regret that so much more than possibly failing. With the support of my mom, my husband, my father in law, and the advice of friends of my Dad who were all successful business men, I received the fire I needed to give my dream a go. I used SCORE PGH and worked with a business mentor and through that process I found my brick & mortar home.
What excited you most and scared you most about opening the doors for the first time?
I would say what excited me the most was creating the physical space and putting all the works from the various artists into one cohesive directive…..I invested months talking with the artists, and finalizing who and what to carry. This also scared me — would people love how I filled the space and what I have chosen to showcase? Will people even come? I also had to get my own jewelry studio set up. My previous “studios” had been in basements, shoved into laundry rooms or makeshift studios atop the kitchen tables of the apartments I lived in. So having my own actual studio was exciting.
Tell us your why?
The constant connection I have to people and the arts. And the stories that come with it. I share stories and my customers share theirs, and I feel open to it all. I cannot tell you how often I’ve experienced tears with a customer while discussing a piece of jewelry. It’s more than a material object….it’s a memory, a place in time, a celebration, a milestone, a reminder…..I feel very lucky to be in this position. Life gives us struggles and happy times, both of which drive me to create….and it’s not always jewelry, it’s anything that channels that creative spirit. Creating the new space, the feels behind it, my home….. I feel lucky that I can use my creativity to work through or celebrate the good times and the challenging times alike.
What have you learned from working with other local artists?
A lot of techniques & hands on skills. Part of the reason I love this community is that it’s so generous — we all share information and advice freely.
How has having your own business changed you?
I’m not sure its changed who I am, but it has certainly brought out more things in me….. I wear many hats, and most I didn’t know I even owned!
You seem to have unique relationships with your customers. Tell us why this is important to you and how it shapes So Me?
A great number of customers have become friends, and I feel it’s truly because I want to hear their stories. When a piece of jewelry comes in for repair or redesign there is usually emotion attached to the piece. I feel honored to get the chance to bring that special piece back to life with a repair or redesign or turning a heirloom into something they can wear everyday. Also, when we can share the stories of the artists we carry and their why when customers are buying a gift. I feel it adds an important dimension to their purchase.
If you could have any talent, what would it be?
I would love to play guitar and sing! Singer/song writers blow my mind and live music has always inspired me. Sometimes as they are doing their thing up there I start to design a piece they may wear. These musings are all stored as notes in my phone. Maybe one day I’ll do something with that.
What have you discovered during “quarantine”?
Wow, THIS. I quickly realized I run on high speed nearly 100% of the time so it took me a good long time to sit with this all. To just STOP was harder than I thought. I now know I need to create some balance. That time has to be made for slower things while still staying on my work buzz. I’m also reminding myself to stay present…. I cannot make my lists, set goals for the future because there is so much unknown. When will my business open again, when will Three Little Birds get cleared by the health department, when will quarantine end…. As hard as this is, the gift is that I am more focused on right NOW. …. just RIGHT NOW.
What is your favorite meal?
Two specific Italian restaurants come to mind…..I love a good Italian meal where time doesn’t exist- just sitting with good company, pasta, cheeses, bread, olive oil, wine. But I could eat Mexican food daily, too. So tough call…. if I were stranded on an island & had to pick one, it would be Mexican because I never get tired of guacamole!
What drives your passion?
The connection with people, their reactions, the hugs, the happy tears and the chance to design something new!
What is your favorite destination?
Anywhere outdoors. I’m more of a forest and fields kind of girl. I grew up on a farm so being outdoors is sorta in my bones and it just feels like home. The open fields, the smells and the rare times I get back on a horse. It’s just pure peace for me.
What do you love about you?
My determination and having the confidence to try anything. My goal is to instill that into my kids…..I honestly can say failing is not an option, it’s a learning experience. Whatever my endeavor, I walk away with something and never ever look at it other than- what did I learn? Growing up on the farm I watched my mom fix and do pretty much everything….she was a vet, a handy lady, ran a stable, fixed fences, baled hay, was the hostess with the mostest and everything in between. She can fix anything and come up with a plan faster than dialing a phone to call someone! And my Dad was a character & just did….whatever he wanted at all times and boy did it keep life interesting! He never let anything stop him. He and my mom together built this place — the farm — that so many enjoyed -….My Dad made friends with everyone he met. Between the two of them, I came away with a huge value for work ethic and confidence in myself. His advice to me was “Get er done Aim” there was really no other option. That built me!