So here we are. This is the final segment in a series about three very talented handmade jewelry designers. Each has a distinct style—from modern to romantic to contemporary—that appeals to a broad range of women of all ages, including mature or older women.
You can find the earlier articles here–
Candace Stribling—Contemporary handmade Jewelry DESIGNER
Jewelry designer Candace Stribling sits in her home in Frederick, Maryland, in front of a brick wall decorated with colorful abstract artwork and considers the style of her work in response to one of my questions. She pauses for moment and then goes on to describe it as more art jewelry, contemporary, and structural, rather than realist or traditional. “I might do a butterfly,” she says with a playful smile. “But you won’t recognize it as a butterfly.”
I’ve known Candy for several years now. We both began to explore jewelry design at about the same time. And we’re both big admirers of the late and great African American handmade jewelry designer Art Smith, who was one of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-20th century. He was also one of only a couple of black people (Afro-Caribbean) working in the field of jewelry design to reach international recognition at the time. It’s amazing how much he was able to accomplish back then.
You can catch Art Smith’s incredible work here:
“Art Smith, Modern Cuff, ca. 1948”
Candy says she started out on her jewelry-making journey with a love of beading (stringing beads together) and then moved on to actually making glass beads. Eventually, she decided she wanted to create the entire piece of jewelry—which I know from my own experience gets way more involved, with torches and rolling mills and lots of cool metal tools—instead of just the beads.
So she took a class in metalsmithing. And like many who get a taste of it—yours truly included—she was instantly hooked. “I just fell in love with metalsmithing,” Candy says. “I think it’s more the science of metalsmithing” that I’m attracted to, she adds, her smile widening as she explains how she’s fascinated by watching the metal move and expand depending on how she hammers it.
That part about the science of metalsmithing rings true given what I’ve come to know about Candy. She’s always been into science and math and has worked in the IT (Information Technology) field for years. On her blog, she describes an early curiosity and love of seeing how things work, which she says she got from her dad. She also mentions that 10% of each purchase from her shop goes to support Girls Who Code, an organization that strives to increase the number of women in software development.
But back to her father. “He even built a TV when I was a teenager,” she says. “He taught me about tools, and I knew their names and their purpose from an early age. I was his little helper. I still enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together. I think this is why I gravitated towards metalsmithing.”
Candy also enjoys working with gemstones such as agate, ammonite, and jasper, and you’ll find many of them in her jewelry designs, which are one-of-a-kind or limited edition. “You won’t see my pieces elsewhere,” she points out, and adds that her customers appreciate that. She describes her customers as women who are around 40 to 50-years-old and up. She goes on to describe them as confident, self-assured, and successful. They prefer handmade jewelry designs that they won’t see on everyone else.
Bouncing Back After a Tough Year and COVID-19
Candy normally travels all around the country exhibiting her jewelry collection at festivals and art fairs that feature handmade jewelry designers and other artists and craftspeople. That changed in 2017 with the unexpected death of her father, with whom she was obviously very close, followed soon by the deaths of a couple of beloved pets.
“That was a rough year,” she says, softly. She goes on to explain that she was recently coming out of a long fog due to the back-to-back tragedies. She was rebranding and getting back into participating in jewelry shows. Then COVID-19 hit the shores of the U.S. Many of the events she had planned to participate in were either postponed or cancelled.
That was a big setback, as she really enjoys getting out and about with the public to exhibit her work. But she’s slowly adjusting and moving forward, minus the jewelry shows. She’s doubled-down on rebranding as planned by beefing up her website. She’s also adding new pieces to her line of jewelry and has started to spruce up her sterling silver pieces with some luscious gold accents.
Like the other handmade jewelry designers I spoke to for this series, Candy has noticed—thankfully—that more people seem willing to buy jewelry online since the virus struck, for both themselves and loved ones. People are getting accustomed to buying things online more than ever before since they can’t shop in stores, she notes. And just as designers can no longer exhibit their work at art fairs and festivals due to the virus, customers can no longer shop them. So they’re buying online. “There’s pent up demand,” she adds.
Despite the difficulties to her jewelry business brought on by this new normal, Candy says she is excited to see where things go in the weeks ahead. As for the distant future, she’s 62-years-old and eagerly anticipates retirement in a few years and finally being able to spend more time in her home studio doing what she loves—taking her hammer to the metal and pounding out jewelry designs, one by one.