Sitting on her dorm room’s beige carpet, freshman psychology major Maiya Garcia spends her mornings using her teal pliers and black wire cutters to hand-assemble earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings for her jewelry business, Maiya Makes Jewelry.
Spread out around her are three plastic storage containers filled with silver lobster claw clasps, gold jump rings, enamel charms and more. As she crafts, her laptop plays a class lecture or a Marvel film, like “Avengers: Endgame.” Because the movie is so long, Garcia said, she can make her bold, statement jewelry for hours without needing to start a new film to play in the background.
As someone who has always been a crafty person, Garcia said, her bedroom closet at home in Gas City, Indiana, is full of craft supplies from watercolor palettes to fabric for making scrunchies. One weekend in early March while she was cleaning out her supply closet, she found leftover fish hook earrings and jump rings from when she tried making clay earrings last year.
Manipulating small pieces of clay was difficult, Garcia said, and she didn’t have the gloss varnish to seal the clay after it baked, so she stopped making them. When Garcia found her supplies again in March, she brainstormed ways to put them to use, ultimately deciding upon a handmade jewelry business.
“With earrings and necklaces — that's something people notice a lot when they're looking at you,” Garcia said. “They’re looking at your face, so they can see right where your necklaces and earrings are, and they’re really good to catch people's eye.”
Because she had just received her stimulus check, she purchased seed beads, earring cards, bracelet blanks and a metal stamping kit to grow her collection of jewelry supplies. After spending a week learning the basics of assembling jewelry from watching YouTube videos and TikToks, Garcia made her first batch of earrings and necklaces in late March.
The first pair of earrings she made were a silver-plated fork and spoon. After she completed this batch, Garcia began posting on her social media and to DeHority Complex’s GroupMe that she was selling her handmade jewelry. She sold all but one piece from her first drop.
Now, Garcia has made about $500 from selling nearly 50 pieces of jewelry to Ball State students and her friends and family.
“I’ve been making crafts for forever, but this is the first time I've really been making stuff that people have really been interested in,” Garcia said. “That's a really good feeling. Even more now, the feeling is stronger. I want to share my jewelry with other people and show people what I’ve made now that I know people like it.”
Abigail Simpson, freshman English education major and Garcia’s roommate, has purchased four pairs of Garcia’s earrings: red mushrooms with white speckles, silver cats with hearts, hanging green succulents in an orange pot and rainbow hot air balloons. Simpson also bought a necklace — a teardrop-shaped pendant made of clear resin with small brown mushrooms inside.
Simpson chose these pieces because they spoke to a specific aesthetic she has always loved but never tried to achieve. Now that they’re becoming more conscious about their outfits and accessories, Simpson said, they wear Garcia’s jewelry nearly every day with a T-shirt and jeans or a button-down and joggers.
“Maiya is really understanding when it comes to making jewelry for others — she's been quick to point out items she has that I would enjoy or have a similar vibe to,” Simpson said. “That personal touch, combined with her willingness to work with others to ensure they get an item that is perfect for them personally, is wonderful. A couple of prime examples include making jewelry out of buttons or pins that a dorm friend of ours had brought by and getting the perfect charm for an online customer with specific requests.”
Since Cassidy Esch, freshman elementary education major, found out about Maiya Makes Jewelry from Garcia’s Snapchat Story. Since buying three pairs of Garcia’s earrings, Esch wears a pair at least once a week, as the silver earrings she bought go with most of her outfits.
“I used to mostly buy things online or at the mall because I didn’t live near anyone that sold them as a small business,” Esch said. “Now that I know Maiya, I don’t see myself buying from retail much at all anymore … It makes me feel good that I’m supporting a fellow student rather than a big corporation.”
Jenise Henning, who has been one of Garcia’s friends since their sophomore year at Mississinewa High School, bought Garcia’s sword pendant necklace from her first jewelry batch. Another necklace she bought is a crystal with flowers inside, which she wears every day because it’s comfortable and goes with any outfit, she said.
“I love watching her business grow [from] friends and family,” Henning said. “It gives her the opportunity to meet so many people along the way. She puts a lot of soul into her work, and she's good at what she does. Maiya is a beautiful person who puts that into her work.”
For her business’ future, Garcia said, she hopes to grow her customer base and continue selling at craft fairs so she doesn’t have to go back to her summer job at Bob Evans. Although, she doesn’t want it to turn into a full-time job, she said, because she enjoys having a creative outlet and making art for the sake of making art.
When Garcia packages the orders she receives, she gently secures her customers’ pieces of jewelry to brown earring cards before placing them in a small plastic bag. Along with tissue paper, Garcia includes a handwritten thank-you note, stickers and candies with each order.
“I read that packaging is one of the most important parts of selling because it gives the person a good impression of your product before they’ve even opened it,” Garcia said. “It’s important to me that people know that I really do put time and effort into what I do. I think personalized notes and candy help get that message across.”