Even in a 21st-century world of dollar stores and outsourced labor, the demand for local artisans’ work doesn’t wane.
At least that’s been the experience of Franklin resident Michele Saulson, 41, whose one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces continue to gain a following despite the flailing economy. Crediting her mother’s encouragement early on to experiment with different mediums, Saulson also believes artistic passion is a quality gifted by nature.
“I think that there is a genetic tendency toward creativity,” she says, over the phone. And, while the search for the elusive “art” gene continues, Saulson has parlayed a hobby, honed over the past couple of years, into a legitimate business with paying customers and store orders.
The rise of entrepreneur happened quickly for this stay-at-home mom to three young kids, ages 8, 6 and 3. But her ability to make it appear seamless appears, by some measure, a combination of breezy personality and analytic skill.
It’s the personality part that seemingly gets incorporated into the bracelets she has become known for.
“I pick materials that I am drawn to so I tend to work with an earthy feel,” Saulson says. “But the historic preservation side of me comes out in my work, too; I find myself drawn to a variety of techniques incorporating vintage found objects.”
After taking a jewelry-making class at a local bead shop in Franklin, this one-time urban planner began creating bracelets as gifts for friends and family members. It wasn’t long before they were coming to her, requesting items in specific colors.
Last fall, she started posting pictures of her bracelets on Facebook, and that’s when things exploded.
“Complete strangers were calling me and ordering gifts. It went viral very quickly,” says Saulson, who went from creating holiday gifts for loved ones to being featured on store shelves in the span of 10 weeks.
Carra Stoller, co-owner of Ecology, an organic and natural beauty boutique in Birmingham, says that Saulson’s bracelets are a featured item in her store, which prides itself on unique, one-of-a-kind items.
“Our customers love the fact that all of Michele’s pieces are one of a kind,” Stoller says. “We’ve all fallen in love with her vintage button bracelets, too.”
Other stores in which Saulson has found homes for her jewelry include Emery’s Jewelers in Farmington Hills and Hope’s Chest in Berkley.
While she may be the new darling of the neo-hippie-chic meets bohemian moment, Saulson has no plans to abandon her primary responsibilities as wife and mother or relinquish her role in the community, which includes her involvement at Yad Ezra, Hillel Day School and the Jewish Community Archives.
“Being the craftsperson and the salesperson is very time consuming,” she says. “It’s difficult to decide where I need to devote my energies some days.” But, recognizing her good fortune, she is quick to add, “It’s fun, and I love doing it.”
Saulson is one of five craftpersons selected to participate in an upcoming trunk show to benefit the Friendship Circle on March 27.
“It was very inspirational to see how one of our families wanted to bring more support and was able to reach out to her friends,” says Bassie Shemtov, director of the Friendship Circle. “(Michele) wants to get more involved. It was very cool how she jumped right in and moved to help.”
With more and more Michiganders seeking out local businesses and local artists, Saulson is quick to point out that her work benefits more than just her bottom line.
“When you purchase locally made items, 50 percent of those monies go back into the local economy,” she says. “I’m proof of that because I make a point of purchasing my supplies and materials locally as well.”
And, in keeping with her personality, her pricing reflects her commitment to take what she needs versus as much as she can get. Most items are priced less than $100. Prices range from $50-$200.
“I want people to be able to buy my work. I don’t want to be high-end and out of range. I want to create something beautiful and attainable rather than something people admire and walk right past.”