By Emma Kent
Two years ago, Catherine Thoms jumped back into jewelry-making and found her style after years of experimenting. Thoms started making jewelry years ago when she and her husband were living in Louisville, Kentucky, and she was working in a local boutique.
“We were always trying to find new and unique pieces of jewelry to carry in the store,” Thoms said.
After Louisville, the Thoms moved to Dallas, and Catherine continued to make jewelry, experimenting with vintage pieces and new designs. When they moved to Tupelo, she took a break from jewelry-making to focus on the couple’s home renovations. They then decided to start a family, and her two young boys kept her busy for a few years.
Her sons are now 5 and 3, and while they’re still keeping her busy, she’s found time to create again.
Thoms typically spends about three days per week working on her pieces, although with two small kids, it depends on the week.
“A lot of times I’ll stay up late at night after they go to bed,” she said.
When she needs to get work done, she retreats to her “jewelry room,” as she calls it. The sunny space in the front of the Thoms’ home used to be a nursery. It was converted to a guest room later, and then finally, it became her workspace.
Thoms’ colorful jewelry stands out against the studio’s white shiplap walls and accent furniture. Thoms wanted the space to be bright and inspiring.
“I love having it in the front of the house with the windows and natural light,” Thoms said of the space.
Evolving, eclectic style
Thoms’ style has changed quite a bit in the time since she first started making jewelry. She started making jewelry by repurposing antique and vintage pieces she found.
“I used to go and find interesting pieces and create new jewelry out of them,” she said. “It’s kind of evolved from there.”
Since then she’s started incorporating more natural elements into her pieces, giving them more of a Bohemian feel. Thoms loves to use natural and semi-precious stones and natural materials like coconut wood.
“Now I use a lot of African glass and clay beads and gold accents,” she said. “I like a mixture of neutrals and bright colors.”
She loves making statement pieces, whether it’s a pair of earrings, a bracelet or a necklace. She’s also recently gotten back into using some vintage accents in her work. The result of all of these personal preferences and interesting materials is an eclectic style that reflects Thoms.
“All of the new designs I come up with, in general, are definitely reflections of my own style,” Thoms said. “Everything I make I want to like myself.”
These days, doing business always involves social media and the internet. Thoms has a website and she’s currently working on building up her inventory so that she can do more online selling through it.
Right now she sells mostly through Instagram or custom orders that people contact her directly about. Instagram has been a surprisingly easy way for her to do business, Thoms said. With the rise of payment services like Venmo and PayPal, it’s never been easier to make a quick sale.
“It’s just so easy when you can post something right there and people can comment to buy,” she said.
Still, most of her work is made-to-order.
“I’m doing mostly made-to-order unless I have a certain pair of earrings I know is popular or something, then I’ll try to make several pairs and have them ready to sell and ship,” Thoms said.
Her customers are mostly local, although many of her friends from Louisville and Dallas order from her and tell their friends, too.
“I’m at the post office a lot,” she said. “I don’t always know who I’m sending them to, which is kind of fun.”
Thoms hasn’t gotten into wholesale yet. That’s a whole new level of work, and she said keeping up with that demand would be challenging.
She did recently do a small collection of jewelry for Willow Bride in Tupelo for brides who wanted statement earrings to wear to wedding events, rehearsal dinners or even on their big day. For that collection, Thoms used a lot of white and cream tassels and simple stones like moonstone and mother-of-pearl.
This spring, Thoms is working on new bracelets for summer. For some reason, she said, bracelets tend to be more popular during the summer. Her earrings have also been popular lately.
“It kind of goes in phases,” she said.
She’s also working on pieces to take to the Cotton District Arts Festival in Starkville. The annual arts festival takes place on April 13.
“Bracelets are fun because they’re never alike,” she said. “I like to make them all a little different. I get bored making the same thing over and over, so I like the one-of-a-kind designs.”
That same approach applies to all of her pieces including earrings and necklaces. Coming up with a design for a new piece takes a little bit of trial-and-error playing around with materials and elements.
“Sometimes that is what takes the longest,” she said.
Thoms said she often looks to fashion designers and bloggers for inspiration when coming up with fresh ideas for her designs.
“I like to be different,” she said. “ I don’t want my jewelry to look like anything else you could go and buy anywhere at a store.”
Q&A with Catherine
Q: What do you like to listen to while you work in your jewelry studio?
A: “I have a playlist on Spotify that I like to play and it’s everything from Taylor Swift to Christian music.”
Q: What is the best thing about living in Tupelo?
A: “We like that it has a really good small-town feel without being too small. We think it’s a really great place to raise our boys.”
Q: What are your favorite sources of inspiration?
A: “Fashion designers on Instagram, home magazines — I never know what might inspire me for a new design.”
Q: How would you describe the style of your jewelry?
A: “Overall, it’s an eclectic mix of everyday to formal to statement pieces.”
Q: What is your favorite pick-me-up?
A: “Coffee at home! I drink Starbucks Pike Place blend. I like a strong coffee.”