By Elizabeth Stapleton
At home, Francesca D’Elia’s family has always had huge gardens, and chickens, and her mother is very adamant about growing what you can and being local. So it made sense that when D’Elia,’20, began tinkering with wire and pliers in an after school art club five years ago, and later grew that hobby into a bonafide business, most, if not all of D’Elia’s pieces tie back to nature in someway. Her creations are littered with suns and mountains and seem to encompass what Vermont is all about.
Jewelry maker and business owner of Homegrown Jewelry, D’Elia, quickly became captivated by the art of jewelry making. Hailing from Jeffersonville, Vt., she began taking classes at a local jeweler her senior year of high school. There, she learned to solder, torch, and learn the basics of working with different metals.
According to D’Elia, the name of the business found itself. Homegrown Jewelry is definitely a reflection of Vermont. Growing up, she always wanted to make pieces based on nature and elements. D’Elia said that travel had a huge influence on everything. “All of my work is a weird combination of home, but also all of the places I’ve traveled to.” She’s picked up a little something from every place she’s been to, from Italy, to Ireland, to out west, D’Elia found a way to incorporate it all into her collection. Vermont has shaped a lot of it, but there’s also been so much else.
After revealing to friends that she hand crafted jewelry her first year at college, she showcased her pieces in her dorm room in Ryan hall. She was very surprised at the amount of people who showed up. She said she refrained from telling anyone on campus until December of last year because she felt uncomfortable just coming out and saying, “Hey! I make jewelry!”
In the beginning of this year, D’Elia made it a point to sit down and plan out her next three years in order to get a feel for how much time she would be spending on school and jewelry alike. One of those decisions included scaling back on her academic courses. According to the amount of credits she has, D’Elia is considered a junior academically due to the amount of AP courses she took in high school, allowing her to maintain her current graduation year. “If I were taking four classes I know that my jewelry would have to take the back seat, which is what I really didn’t want to do,” she said, “Taking three classes allows me to make time for my jewelry, which makes me really happy.”
In addition to being enrolled in three classes, she sets aside at least three hours every week strictly for jewelry planning in order to balance the two. In the past, she felt as though she didn’t have enough time to focus on her jewelry. Now that she knows what it takes to be a successful small business owner, she focuses on being more consistent by dedicating a block of time in which she sits down with her notebook and computer and brainstorms ideas, post pictures on social media, or thinks of different craft shows she can take part in. “It’s hard to get into the mindset of jewelry and then have to switch back to school” she said, “Half of the time I have my class notes open and my jewelry notebook open and I’m trying to write down everything I possibly can while I’m thinking of it.”
D’Elia comes from an artistic family, her mom is an art teacher and artist, and her dad is a talented builder and sculptor, so she couldn’t imagine going to a school that didn’t further her education in the field. “She is the most organized, dedicated, driven, passionate young lady”, said her mother, Rosemary D’Elia, “she knows how to set limits and be somewhat realistic of her time.” D’Elia jokingly calls her mother her personal assistant because she tags along to every show, and every business meeting. Because her dad is also a banker, he helps out with a lot of the finances and advises her throughout the process. He helped her get her trade name registered, and he also builds all of her displays.
Over the next three years, her goal is to build up her business to a point in which she can do it full time and be able to truly sustain herself. As of now, she plans on hand crafting jewelry as a career.