In the last installment for now of our COVID Craft series, we want to highlight another brave artist who carved out her path for years in the jewelry-making business. Many of her necklaces are on our website now, so go check them out to support our talented local artists!
Stacey Lee illustrates for us how precise and determined an artist can be when they make art their full time job.
We call her, excited to hear about her jewelry-making. She starts off simply:
being self-employed allows her creative freedom and a flexibility in life that she had always dreamed of. She spoke concisely and matter-of-factly, deadpanning the wittiest things while expressing a level-headedness that made us want to quickly research how much a daily planner costs and start eating healthier. It was an impressive vibe, strong and calm, like she could solve the world’s problems all on her own. We could see how she had built up her business so well.
She came back to Hawaii after 9/11, bringing her jewelry-making supplies with her and began selling during the holiday season. She realized that there was a booming tourism industry in Waikiki, and she bravely jumped in, quickly grasping that she could work full-time.
She explains that the job is perfect for her: traveling and getting to handpick her materials. She didn’t do online work; all of her revenue was from one-on-one interactions, so she could specialize in fitting and customizing jewelry.
It wasn’t so much about selling as it was about creating art that perfectly reflects the people it’s meant for. It was tough, but it was worth it and she was able to support herself just as an artist. Until the pandemic. Everything shut down and her income went straight to zero. Stacey conveys exactly how much panic she felt; she wasn’t able to meet her customers and there were no events where she would show off her work.
This was when Stacey shows her metal; she recounts all the research she did to stay afloat, fighting for her business. She learned about government programs, researching constantly and weighing the benefits of the grants available to her. She found YouTube videos that had current updated aid, most of which had deadlines, so she tirelessly applied.
It wasn’t clear at first how long the shutdown would be in effect, so she worked on finishing projects her previously busy schedule hadn’t allowed room for. She finally was able to return almost to normal in July, though her job has changed its scope. She was grateful in part to the long break, even if it was forced on her.
After years of dedication to her art, she had worn herself down. She says cheerfully that the time during the epidemic gave her the chance to reassess and renewed her love of her craft.
When we asked her if her art had changed at all, she paused, confused. Then she says nonchalantly, not really. Her eagerness to work with her art is renewed, but her concept remains just as it was when she started: handcrafted jewelry made with expertise, in tune with the best side of fashion, and faithful to the preferences of those who get to wear it. It was a charmingly confident moment; Stacey knows exactly how incredible her art truly is and is determined that no matter what may come, pandemic or otherwise, her customers are wearing something they love.