Susie Theroff has always been involved in some form of artwork.
So when she left her position as a graphic artist at the Missouri State Highway Patrol to focus on being a stay-at-home mom, she looked for ways to keep those creative juices alive.
“I was always doing little art projects here and there,” Theroff said. “I was always trying to do things to stay creative.”
Those included pen and ink drawings for friends and even a mural painting for someone else. She also has done freelance artwork for places like the Special Learning Center.
Then, about three years ago, she saw a pair of earrings she liked that she couldn’t find locally and thought maybe she could make them herself.
Turns out, she could.
Now, Theroff runs Designs by Susie, where she creates handmade earrings from leather, brass, copper, aluminum, gold and silver toned wire and beads.
Theroff said the business started slowly, with her posting the earrings she made on social media and friends asking to purchase. It began to grow as people would invite her to their place of business to sell her designs. Then, this past summer, her two oldest daughters helped push it even further as they took on photographing her products and marketing more thoroughly through social media.
“So then, I got a little more interest,” Theroff said.
That interest has continued to grow, as Theroff prepared in early fall to take part in her first vendor show — the third annual Holiday Mart JC that took place earlier this month.
“Since I was coming up with some different designs, I thought I might like to try that,” Theroff said of her participation in the event as she completed a pair of aluminum earrings in her home workspace.
Though she never exactly planned to go into the jewelry making business, Theroff did have some experience before starting. She said she took a jewelry making class in college and loved it, knowing it was something she would want to try again some day.
“I thought, eventually I wanted to make jewelry again,” Theroff said.
Her earrings are simple in design, which makes them easier to complete and attractive to a lot of shoppers. Theroff said there are some pairs that she can complete in 10 minutes. She will do custom orders — in early fall, she was working to complete a custom order for a group of bridesmaids — and even purchases specific supplies to use when she gets an order for someone with sensitive ears who may not be able to wear a pair made from standard materials. Theroff said titanium and niobium are two materials that she can use that are generally considered hypoallergenic. Gold-filled and sterling silver are also generally considered hypoallergenic, she said.
Theroff said she recently started working with gold-filled material, which she said is a bit of a nicer quality and lasts a lot longer. But it is a bit more expensive, she noted.
Most of her supplies come from Creating Unkamen, a jewelry supply store in Fulton, those she does buy patterned leather on Etsy. Theroff said she buys coils of brass, copper and aluminum, then cuts and shapes them before applying finishing touches, such as filing edges for a smooth finish.
For Theroff, the best part of the process is designing the earrings. It gets her back to her designer roots, just without the graphics. And with her three children in college or late teens, she’s got more time on her hands that can now be filled with her jewelry work.
“It’s keeping me busy enough,” Theroff said.
Her designs change, often trying to match what trend is currently popular with her customers. Theroff said when she first started, it was leather earrings that were most popular. Now, it’s her wire designs and ones with mini pom poms on the ends.
Theroff said her business profits are essentially her “fun money” — what she can use for fun activities or trips that the family may not have been able to do otherwise.
See more of Theroff’s designs at Facebook.com/DesignsbySusie.Jewelry.