Wedding rings are more than just a piece of jewelry. For most couples, they’re a sign of commitment and a sense of #foreverness. Whether your ring is a precious family heirloom or a gorg handcrafted piece, you want to pick something that is timeless and represents your new life as a married couple. Now imagine being able to create that symbol and experience for hundreds and hundreds of couples. Sounds pretty amazing, right? This week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, we talk to eco-friendly jewelry designer Valerie Nethery about her transition from working as a marine insurance underwriter to running her successful Etsy shop, LilyEmme, full-time. One metalsmithing class lit a creative spark in Valerie that transformed her jewelry-making hobby into a full-blown career. If you live and breathe jewelry, start taking notes, because this could be you!
The Wedding Jewelry Pro: Valerie Nethery
While working full-time as an underwriter, Valerie dabbled part-time in her Etsy shop, LilyEmme, which she launched in 2009. With an undergraduate degree in environmental science, she wanted to use recycled metals. “Metals mining produces many health and environmental threats to environments and waterways. Some are very devastating and it seems pointless to me when there are alternatives,” says Valerie. Nearly every piece in the LilyEmme Seattle-based shop is sourced from “specific gold and silver refiners who use recycled metals exclusively.”
Be hungry to learn. Taking a metalsmithing class was a turning point for Valerie. It led her to take more classes and read all she could about making jewelry. The new skill also upped her ante for her Etsy shop because now she could add more items to her jewelry line and attract more customers.
Talk out your tough decisions. While you might talk yourself out of venturing into that creative biz you’ve been dying to open, bouncing your ideas off a trusted friend or spouse allows you to have a voice of reason other than your own. “Before quitting my day job, I discussed every possible positive and negative scenario with my husband, who is a great listener and helps me talk out most of the tough decisions I ever make,” says Valerie.
Save some dough. To feel more secure about jumping ship from a bi-weekly paycheck, Valerie suggests saving a few months’ worth of income so you have a financial safety net. (Need help learning to save? This app will effortlessly help you stock away cash.)
Create a strong support network. Starting your own company can be a daunting task, but with the support from family and friends, the most challenging days will seem worth it. To show his support, Valerie’s grandfather built her a workbench for her jewelry studio that is now a constant reminder of his love. “In my studio full of tools, gold and diamonds, my workbench represents the encouragement from my family to do what my heart tells me,” says Valerie.
You are directly responsible for your own success. Valerie loves that she’s in charge of her work day. She can bring her pup to work, dress how she likes and take a personal day as needed. But most of all, she knows that what she puts into her studio is what she gets out of it.
Go for it! Valerie encourages creative young women to pursue their passions. “I’ve totally experienced the sleepless nights and worries over whether I should or shouldn’t pursue a creative career. Once I made the switch, I felt better about the life I was now in control of.” Yes, it’s challenging and there’s a lot of hard work involved, but Valerie finds the experience rewarding.
Perfect Your Skills
What sparked a dramatic change to Valerie’s Etsy shop was one metalsmithing class. Whether you’re a jewelry-making master or just want to try making your own pieces, here are some ideas to get you started.
1. The Basics: Learning how to make a simple DIY wrap necklace is an easy way to know if your passion for jewelry extends beyond your extensive necklace collection. Since the price is affordable and the supplies are provided, you can learn at your own pace. ($29 for one kit)
2. Practice With Metals: Once you feel comfortable with making wire wrap jewelry, moving on to soldering metal should be your next step. This online course shows you step by step how to master your metal. ($17 for an online class)
3. Learn Etsy Business Knowledge: If you’re ready to jumpstart your own online shop, this free General Assembly course on how to “Start Your Creative Business With Etsy” is your ideal primer. (Free 45-minute class)
4. Practice Product Shots: Half of the battle of enticing customers to buy from your shop are stellar images that sell the beauty of your work. Find out the essentials for taking those eye-catching pics. ($25 for online videos, materials and virtual classroom access)
5. Know How Best to Use Your Torch: Metalsmithing jewelry involves using a torch. Valerie says that it takes some skill to “maneuver a torch in your non-dominant hand,” but thinks that “using fire to create your work feels magical.” ($20 for online videos, materials and virtual classroom access)
What passion would you like to see covered in our How to Quit Your Day Job Series? Let us know in the comments!