Sometimes jewelry ‘just happens’

MARSHALL – Retired Marshall School music teacher Brenda Byrnes has found that there’s a lot to learn about starting a small craft venture. But when she starts to feel overwhelmed or thinks she can’t do a certain project, she goes to her “big table,” takes a deep breath, turns on classical music and makes something pretty.

“Then I’m happy again, and all is right in my Violet’s Market world,” she said.

Back in April, Byrnes started Violet’s Market, a handmade goods shop she named after her grandmother. A few of her projects include necklaces and bracelets, aprons made from men’s shirts, wine sleeves and polar fleece hats.

“I always liked to sew, just kind of putz and play with making things,” Byrnes said.

Byrnes started creating jewelry last summer when a friend asked her to use their vintage buttons to make bracelets for their children.

“It was fun, and they turned out well, they were happy,” Byrnes said.

Then she started looking at doing necklaces. Byrnes said she never took a jewelry-making class, not knowing what to do.

Her daughter, Bridget, encouraged her to keep creating and making. After a while, Bridget nudged her mother about opening a shop on Etsy.

“I’d never heard of Etsy, so I got online and started exploring,” Byrnes said.

Byrnes started reading a lot about setting up a shop. First she needed to get an inventory of items to sell, so last January she started working to build up that inventory. She even found supplies to use for her necklaces through Etsy, both in the United States and internationally.

Once she had enough inventory, then came the time to market her business, writing shop policies, how to set up the payment aspect of her shop, coming up with a shipping plan and letting people know her presence on Etsy.

“It was a ton of stuff to learn,” she said. “I’m a music teacher, I didn’t know about business.”

A big thing is the shop name, which is also a kind of branding, she said. Byrnes named her Etsy shop after her grandmother, Violet.

“She was and still is such a huge part of my life,” Byrnes said. “She taught me how to sew, let me string buttons from her button jar, she played ‘store’ with us and let us sell and buy her canned goods with her money, was a great role model in how to treat people and was just a wonderful, wonderful woman.”

Byrnes also wanted another way of letting people know about Violet’s Market. Her sister helped her get a website, and Byrnes built a webpage.

“That was one thing that made me proud of myself, since it was so far from my experience,” she said. She also made a Facebook page for her shop.

Byrnes has some of her jewelry in the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council’s gift shop and is contracted for its Holiday Boutique in December. She was even contacted by a floral shop in eastern Minnesota asking if she would consider putting some of her jewelry there. She will also have items in Busy Bee Boutique, a new shop in Tracy.

Byrnes said she is sometimes asked where she gets her ideas for projects.

“Sometimes I spread out my supplies and just look at them and see what happens,” Byrnes said. “This sounds crazy, but I dream about necklaces, and sometimes a dream idea is pretty good. It just sort of happens.”

Byrnes also looks online to see what colors are supposed to be popular for the season, and then she’ll order supplies in those colors. Almost all the necklaces she makes are on antiqued bronze chain with her thought being it would go with silver or gold jewelry the buyer may already own and be wearing.

Her bracelets are made with vintage buttons.

“I think it is from my days of stringing my grandma’s buttons, and I love buttons,” Byrnes said. “The downside to these bracelets is they are one-of-a-kind- when the buttons are gone, there won’t be another bracelet like it. I can recreate the necklaces with more supplies but not the bracelets. Sometimes, it makes me kind of sad to see them go.”

She makes aprons from upcycled shirts.

“I like aprons but did not like the feeling of a strap around my neck,” Byrnes said So she thought about what would be comfortable. “I like the way a shirt feels, so I started working through the idea of using a shirt to make a comfy apron.”

Byrnes created her own pattern.

“I just kept cutting and playing until I found something,” she said.

For the apron, Byrnes buys shirts at the Goodwill and the thrift store, making sure they are very clean, no wear on the collars and cuff and finds several shirts that complement each other in color. She’ll mix and match the parts of the shirt.

“The shirt itself isn’t long enough (for the apron),” she said. One of the shirt aprons is in an Italian kitchen, she said. She said the aprons can be used for any purpose, from washing the dog to working in the garden.

She then takes the shirtsleeves from the shirts she fashioned into aprons to create wine sleeves.

“The shirt sleeve placket and folded cuff look like the front of a button shirt, and I add a ribbon tie, which can be tied in a bow or like a necktie, depending on the recipient,” she said.

Byrnes also has polar fleece hats among her creations.

“There are several colors, but only two styles, the two I like best come down over your ears to keep you warm,” she said. “I make them in large so they don’t smash your hair but yet keep you warm. Each hat has either buttons, vintage or new, or a pin that you can keep on the hat or wear on your coat.”