by Emma Buehrer ’24 (she/her)
A week into winter break, I sat alone in my room waiting for life in a pandemic to get interesting. I doomscrolled on Twitter. I looked for a job. I researched summer internships. And finally, after several more weeks of waiting, I concluded that I was waiting around for nothing and was responsible for my own present fulfillment. So, I took out the sketches I had made of jewelry styles I wish existed and decided to turn them into reality. Now, two months later, my jewelry business, Pomegrana, is a regular part of my schedule, and it has changed the way I prioritize my own creativity in the midst of COVID-19.
I began my business by experimenting for hours at a table in my basement. As someone who had always sworn that they would become a doctor or biologist, this was one of the first times I had looked at my art seriously. Before, I viewed my own creativity as secondary, distracting me from proving to the world my capabilities in a male-dominated field. As I worked, I learned quickly that I would have to be my biggest supporter to reach any level of success. My original ideas, including a sketch of dangly earrings with an intricate painted-tile motif, turned out to be much harder to design and produce cost-efficiently. After about a week of failed designs, I bought 20 dollars worth of polymer clay and came up with a set of entirely new designs. My new earrings would be a mix of styles: pastel abstract faces inspired by Picasso works, a set of incandescent pearly designs, and simplistic red coin-sized charms with gold accents. I wanted to create clay earrings in styles I had never seen before — dainty but uniquely artistic, striking a balance between being everyday wear and a statement piece. I also learned to work by the motto that I would never try to sell something I wouldn’t wear myself; this resulted in eight batches of styles that I threw away. After creating a few successful batches of each style (six in total), I spent a few hours with a close friend shooting my first professional photos, and then finally setting up my Etsy account. This process, from creating the designs to the day that I opened the website and began receiving orders, took about two weeks.
Within a month, I learned that the pandemic is the perfect time to experiment in creative areas that I had never focused on before. With my time completely free and nowhere to go, there was nothing better for me to do but invest in self-starter ideas. I was able to spend time daily finding ways to work more efficiently and teaching myself useful skills like basic graphic design and better artistic technique. However, I also learned that hard work didn’t guarantee the results I wanted; styles that I thought would be popular didn’t sell, and others that I made as an afterthought caused my business to go viral on TikTok. It still is a constant chase, and the fear of a missed opportunity is always strong when I have to choose marketing strategies while budgeting time and money (and a college schedule). I’m still learning, but if the entire process proved anything to me, it was that there were career options and opportunities I ignored for the sake of fitting the “girl in STEM” ideal. The painstaking artistic process, as well as the management and marketing of a new business, not only suited me, but it was enjoyable in a way that I hadn’t expected. For the first time, I allowed myself to fill the role of “artist.” My ideas of what my major, career and future could be have changed as my business has grown.
Now, every morning, I refresh my browser for new orders. I’ve mostly stopped advertising now that I’m balancing a school schedule, but I still get several orders a week. I considered briefly ending Pomegrana for the semester, but my supportive friends and family, and even strangers, convinced me to make it work. My exploration in creativity and business has been a highlight of this last, strange year, and I look forward to seeing the progress that I will make in the coming summer.
Emma Buehrer ’24 (she/her) is a political science major and film and media interdisciplinary minor from Mount Vernon, Ohio and can be reached for comment at email@example.com.