Tomorrow is the day the July, 2014 issue of Southern Living hits the newsstands and we are supposed to be in it. As I write this, I think about the long journey of creating a signature jewelry piece for Southern Living and I wonder, after almost a year, if we will be featured in Southern Living magazine or if another month will go by with missed opportunities and delays. But, I want to tell the story of the love and passion we put into creating this piece even if the editors never run it. Here is my story of creating a signature pearl necklace for Southern Living Magazine and it starts in 2010. If you skip my long-winded story and just see the gorgeous Southern Statement Necklace for Southern Living, click here…
My journey with pearls began in 2006. On a honeymoon backpacking trip through Asia, I discovered gorgeous pearls and bought them for myself, my friends and family and then the circle grew… wider and wider. I grew my passion, my knowledge and, in 2008, I started a little business too. But, I did not start the business alone. I joined with my older, wiser and much more experienced sister, Molly. We were The Pearl Girls and I knew I was in good company until, 2010 came and our paths diverged. It was an amicable split based on our individual passions taking us in different directions. She was returning to her first love, the world of art, and I just couldn’t let go of my passion for pearls.
Suddenly being alone and responsible for a company (and a six month old baby), I decided to dive head first into a totally new direction of business… I decided to sell The Pearl Girls jewelry wholesale. It made sense. Up to that point we had been selling The Pearl Girls jewelry through home shows and I knew that seeing the jewelry in person equated to instant sales. The quality of our jewelry is very high and the prices are fantastic given our high quality. So, I figured, get the jewelry in front of more people and it will sell. I called up Americasmart Atlanta, signed up for the next trade show and started planning.
The trade show was an October apparel show and I was placed in the jewelry and fashion accessories department. In hindsight, it was not the best fit for my first show but at the time I had no idea. I was told that 6000 people attend the show and I figured I would talk to all 6000 and they would all be interested in The Pearl Girls. So, I promptly printed up 6000 fliers and line sheets to hand out to all 6000 attendees.
Next, my sister-in-law Erin and I taped out a section in the barn behind my parent’s house and together we designed the perfect booth. It was going to be epic! And she even agreed to come help me work the booth at the trade show.
After months of planning and preparation, the show started. I was able to keep my head high for the first few days. The show was slow and although I enthusiastically jumped in the hallways to chat with people and hand out my information, people practically ran away from me. By day three I finally took a moment behind the curtain of my booth, plopped down on my boxes of 5999 fliers and cried. I wailed, actually, until my mamma came back to get me. She is kind and she understood but she also knew I had to keep it together. I know mammas don’t like to see their children fail and I was failing. I had spent thousands of dollars on that show and I had not made a single sale. There was no hope of even breaking even. But then a light in the darkness…
A wonderful woman stopped by my booth asking for some info on my jewelry. She listened attentively to my story about my pearls and my passion and she asked me to email her my jewelry updates. She handed me her card…. she was from Southern Living Magazine. I was DYING! How amazing!! An editor from the magazine, of all magazine!! Right then my mom walked up and I joyously announced, “Meet Caroline from Southern Living.” I think Mom almost had a heart attack! Caroline said, “Wait, this is your mom? Does she help you out?” I proudly announced, “My right-hand woman!” That is when Caroline admitted she was in charge of a style feature titled Mother-Daughter Style Finds. So out of this horrible trade show, 6 months later my mom and I were in a two page style spread in Southern Living. And business boomed….
I loved staying in touch with Caroline over the years and we would share tidbit of our lives with one another.. mostly pregnancy and babies. Then, in October of 2013 I emailed Caroline to share with her my journeys through the Tennessee River to discover all-American, truly Southern natural pearls. It seemed like a perfect fit for the readers of Southern Living. The natural beauty of the South formed into gorgeous jewelry. She loved it and asked me to design a signature necklace for Southern Living readers.
And the journey of creating the Southern Statement Necklace for Southern Living truly began! I traveled back to Tennessee for more natural pearls from a Tennessee River pearl diver and to collect carved mother-of-pearl beads from native, wild mollusks. The pearls are expensive but Caroline wanted the necklace to be BIG and to take over a full page of the magazine. So, I wanted to accent the necklace with Southern mother-of-pearl.
I spent two weeks meeting with Abby, drawing designs, beading and re-beading. I remember one night I even went for a midnight drive to look at the moon. I wanted this necklace to be perfect and I put in the sleepless nights to make it happen. I put so much love and energy into this piece.
Although our head of production felt it was overkill, I also insisted that all materials in the necklace had to be from the U.S.A. which was not the easiest feat especially when it came to finding the perfect clasp. In fact, it was impossible to find a 5-strand clasp in the size and style we desired that was made in the USA. So, we would just have to make it!
I had met a local and extremely well known and talented jewelry metal-worker at a talk I did on pearls. Her name is Barbara Mann (look her up, she is extraordinary!). I called Barbara up and asked her if she was up to it. Barbara is extremely busy but she agreed to fit me in and create the clasp. I spent a morning at her Athens studio as she showed me her ideas and explained the hand casting process with me. We experimented with metals and I brought samples of all of my materials. Things were coming together but not fast enough.
On the day we had to ship the piece to Southern Living for final review I was rushing around like a wild woman. I picked up my kids, rushed to Barbara’s house to pick up the finished clasp then I rushed to Abby’s to finish the piece. With 4 kids running wild in her house, Abby patiently sat at the dining room finishing the piece which we had put months of love and creation into. I loaded up my two and last stop was Fed Ex to ship it overnight to Caroline.
I still remember the email from Caroline. It said, “The executive editor is DYING over the necklace.” He was dying! She said, “dying!” I was DYING (all-caps!) just hearing it! I was thrilled! I called Abby, I called Barbara, I called Tiffanie, I called my Mamma. They loved it! It was going to run in the magazine February, 2014.
Until I got an email, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news….” Jessica, the fact checker at Southern Living, had been given notice that the necklace had been pulled from the pages of Southern Living. Caroline had been recruited by another magazine and she left just days before our necklace was to be printed along with the rest of the February, 2014 issue. The interim editor pulled the feature. I think she pulled all of Caroline’s features. She replaced our necklace with a pink coat. How I have cursed that pink coat…
I emailed Jessica who gave me the number of the editor who replaced Caroline. She was so sweet and so sympathetic and she told me if they could find a place for us, she would make it happen. And it did! Months later I got word from a different editor that we were to be featured in the Hot off The Skillet feature on pearls in the July, 2014 edition. Woo hoo!! The editor called and interviewed me on these southern, natural pearls. I sent them images of the Southern Statement Necklace, along with other images, and my emotions have been high ever since.
Although I asked the editor if she would confirm that we would definitely be in the July issue (what can I say? My confidence is low!), she never responded to me. The fact checker had already told me she would hold the fact check to use again so I knew I wouldn’t hear from her. And here I am, on the eve of the release of Southern Living’s July issue, wondering if I can show the world our amazing Southern Statement Necklace. A piece we were asked to created for the amazing Southern Living Magazine!!
I figure, instead of shaking in my boots, or pout or whatever else I might be tempted to do, I will instead proudly claim our creation and the energy and love we put into this piece. Even if only our dear fans are the only ones who see this necklace, we want to proudly say we created this. It is a strong southern statement piece with the Tennessee River pearls and carved mother-of-pearl beads. With beading wire from the U.S.A. and a clasp hand cast by an amazing metal artist. This necklace is proudly made in Athens, GA.
This is our true southern statement. We are women who love pearls and who care about where we came from. We support our artists, our families and our communities. And we are proud of the small group of men and women still working on the Tennessee River providing us with these gems that are truly one-in-a-million. And we still love you, Southern Living, and for what you have done to show off our pearl jewelry company to the many men and women who support us everyday.
*And if you made it through this entire post without clicking to see the necklace, please go check it out NOW!!