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Papillon Handcrafted

Ohio Made

Papillon Handcrafted

Kate Bresnan Messa

Inspired by travel and conservation, Papillon Handcrafted Jewelry Co. creates beautiful metal pieces as part of small collections. We interviewed owner Jessica Donnelly to learn more about her local business in Cleveland, OH.

Beetle Copper Cuff.jpeg

Tell us about your business.

Hello! I'm Jessica Donnelly, the owner of Papillon Handcrafted Jewelry Co. I created Papillon Handcrafted in November of 2018 and run the business from my home studio in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm just a one-woman show, trying my best to spread awareness through my love of creating jewelry.

There are quite a few things that motivate and inspire my jewelry designs. For starters, I have always been a traveler. While I was young, my family was always on the move. I have lived in 4 different states and have traveled to all of them except Alaska and Hawaii. In my adult years, I have done long term road trips all over the USA and Canada, and with that, I have found my true inspiration for my art.

I release small collections (5-10 one of a kind pieces) every few weeks. Each collection focuses on either a destination, an insect, or an environmental movement that I support. Conservation is very important to me. My jewelry studio is eco-friendly, all of my packaging comes from recycled product and quarterly I donate a portion of my profits to an environmental organization that promotes collective impact.

I'm hoping to create change in our world. I want my jewelry to inspire you to get outside or travel somewhere new, and of course to protect the earth and to wear something meaningful.

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What drew you to your craft?

I have always been a maker, but this all started while I was studying glassmaking at Kent State University. I attended an introduction to jewelry/metals course and fell in love with manipulating metal. For me, jewelry-making is very meditative, but I also loved the teamwork and community that is needed for glass blowing. After graduating in 2010, the glass world consumed my creative side for quite a few years. But eventually, I realized that my passion wasn't fulfilled and I decided to make a change.

In 2015, I became a jewelry assistant for a maker in Cleveland, Ohio. After that, I worked as a bench jeweler for Signet Jewelers but knew I needed to be making jewelry on my own. After coming up with a plan and building my home studio, I quit my full-time job to pursue my dream.

Beetle Hairpin.jpeg

What is your favorite thing you have ever made?

This is a tough question because I truly love just about everything I have made so far. But if I have to choose one piece, I think it would be the hairpin from the Insecta Collection: Beetles. The hairpin features sterling silver, copper and brass, which are the three metals I mainly work with. Quite a few processes were involved in making the pin. First, I drew all of the beetles by hand and then scanned them into Adobe to make a vector image. Next, I printed the images on a resisting paper to be transferred onto the metal. After the positives and negatives were transferred, I used a high-frequency saltwater bath to etch the images into the metals. Each etched beetle was then hand-pierced (sawed), filed and then soldered onto a backing. I also set a large piece of Mookaite, which is a healing stone found in Australia. It is known to empower one to connect with the electromagnetic energy currents of the Earth.

I had a lot of trouble making the hairpin. The original design required every part to be soldered onto one piece of sterling silver, but after two fails, I chose to separate the set stone from the etched beetles. I think the end result allows the hairpin to sit beautifully and it is not as weighted as it would have been in one large piece.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

As a kid, I loved using my hands, while excavating in my backyard to try and find bugs or fossils, or while I was painting, drawing or gluing some kind of craft. I played quite a few instruments too. I remember wanting to be a bunch of things, an archeologist, a surgeon, a hairdresser, an art teacher. I guess it makes sense because each profession uses their hands.

What is your creative process?

I am constantly thinking about what I can create. Most of my ideas come to me after I have been out in nature or after reflecting on a place I have traveled to. Currently, I am working on a collection inspired by the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I have been designing this collection, I look back at pictures from a solo road trip that took me all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I try to remember the smells and the sounds, and my emotions. As I am creating the actual metal pieces, I try to place the fears, the excitement and the beauty from that area all into each piece.

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What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Never stop believing in yourself! It took me a while to fully commit to my jewelry business and that was because I was afraid to fail. But now I’m finally doing it and I am truly living my happiest life.

Why is it important to support local artists & makers?

Supporting anything local helps create a strong economy. When you shop local, you have a lower impact on the environment, you keep the money in your city and you're connected to the person behind it all. You become a part of that creator's story, as they do to yours. The quality is almost always a sure bet as well!

Blue Ridge Owl Hairpins and Bear Pendant.jpg

Why do you love doing what you do?

I enjoy running my jewelery business because it provides me a space to do all of the things I love to do. I love to use my hands, I love to travel, I really enjoy writing and taking photos, and I have a passion for conservation and raising awareness on the topic.

Making jewelry helps me meditate, reflect and feel grateful for the experiences and relationships I have been so lucky to come across.

What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?

Just go for it and be yourself. Don’t compare your ideas to the successes, or even failures, of another business. Develop your plan, your support system and go for it!

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What is your favorite thing about exploring Ohio?

Everything! Honestly! Ohio has so much life to it and many people have no idea it is there. Lake Erie, Hocking Hills, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are just to name a few. I grew up next to the national park and have always loved exploring the rock formations and hiking to all of the waterfalls, I even got married there! The fact that we live in all four seasons is so important to me as well. The weather can be unpredictable and I love it! I enjoy snowboarding, paddleboarding, skateboarding, hiking, climbing, biking, running, lounging in my hammock and watching the beautiful sunsets over Lake Erie.

Ohio really does have it all, except mountains :)