January 29 — OTTUMWA — Ashlie Vivian has what she calls an “artist’s brain”.
It helped her get into jewelry making, got her through a pandemic year, and now has helped her grow her business.
Vivian had been working with jewelry and beads etc. for almost two decades when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. Unlike some businesses that had to close or face drastic changes, Vivian’s business has simply “slowed down “.
“It was weird. Just weird,” she said of those dark months when COVID-19 emerged in the United States. “People would often come to me for gift ideas because I have all these custom pieces available where they can send me their pictures and stuff like that.
“I haven’t had, you know, the ‘I like-those-dangling-earrings-for-myself’ kind of sales,” Vivian added. “I had some sales, but it definitely wasn’t my best year. But I just have such an artist’s brain that I never thought something like this would bring my business down.”
Vivian’s business came primarily from online sales, which still form a large part of her business model. However, she wanted more.
So last fall, she opened her current boutique that she rents out on Clearview Avenue and transformed something resembling a garage into a place where groups can come together to participate in the jewelry-making endeavor and beading which is Vivian’s lifelong work.
“Several years ago, I was really looking for the perfect place in town. I had a store in the 200 block downtown, and we had DIY classes, stuff like that. went well,” she said. “But I didn’t have nearly the following back then that I have now. I really liked being downtown, but when it became available I jumped on it immediately.”
If anything stood still at the start of the pandemic, it was the craft shows that Vivian frequently visited. He misses them to some extent, but not to the point where he has to fill a trailer and go on a getaway.
“When I was doing all these craft shows, my dream was to have a big shop and I didn’t have to do them anymore,” she said. “It’s a lot of work. Even though the jewelry can fit in a small bag, you need to have everything you need to display it. It’s like moving house, and the weather can be a snowstorm, hail, rain, Heat.
“It’s usually never pleasant.”
Vivian, who went to Cardinal High School, is a self-taught jewelry designer, but traveling to different bead shops opened her eyes as a young adult.
“At that time, I didn’t even know I was crafty,” she said. “I was serving tables and paying all my bills and then spending all the rest of my money on beads. That was before you could learn how to make things on YouTube. I never took a bead making class. jewelry.
“It got so bad that I had to either start selling him or lay him off,” she said. “It was a hobby that was spiraling out of control.”
The current building may house his hobby, but it’s more than that. With the help of her longtime friend Misty Woods, who coordinates most of the activities, children’s birthday parties are popular, as are parties where women “want to get out of the house, bring wine and make stuff,” Vivian said.
Vivian, who is active on social media, further expands the offering by adding baby showers and bridal showers.
“Instead of the typical games at a baby shower, we’re making a piece of jewelry. All we’re asking is that jewelry making is part of it,” she said.
She noted a case where someone, due to a conflict, had to book a bridal shower on the same day that a brunch was taking place in the building. Advance notice always helps in reserving meeting space.
Vivian gives Woods a lot of credit for helping turn the company around.
“We were here every day for two months cleaning, painting and decorating,” Vivian said. “She has a really good eye for decorating. She’s new to jewelry making, but she’s stuck with it, and she’s just great at hospitality.”
And Vivian thinks she’s not done tweaking the business.
“I think there will be more growth in general. I’m at a point where I really need to hire another employee,” she said. “But you have to bring in some income to pay that employee, so I just have to take the leap.
“I just think that’s what I was meant to do, and I never get tired of it,” she said. “There’s never been a box of beads I’ve opened that I can’t wait to see, and I’m constantly thinking of new designs and creations in my head.”
Artist’s brain, indeed.
— Chad Drury can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ChadDrury