by Rachel Johnson
Like many of our other Spotlight features, Heather Gardner found herself in a rut and sought a transformational life change. Trained as a teacher, Heather kept getting the feeling that, though her work was wonderful, it wasn’t the right fit for her life. Inspired by a friend who admired some jewelry she made, she retired from teaching to open her namesake jewelry company, Heather Gardner. She set herself apart by incorporating her faith into her work and supporting various non-profit organizations through purchases made on her website. Read more to learn about Heather’s fascinating work and her wonderful life journey.
Q: Thanks for joining our Spotlight series, Heather! Tell us about your jewelry company—what types of pieces do you sell and what inspires your designs?
My jewelry company’s primary description is “The Essence of Earth, Femininity, and Fashion.” I try to have all of my designs reflect some type of the essence of the earth’s beauty. I stay inspired for designing by being out in nature and all the beauty it gives us.
I desire to create jewelry that women will feel beautiful and feminine wearing, and I want that design to be something unique and eye-catching. I gain inspiration from not only what I see out in the marketplace but also from what the every day woman is wearing. I am inspired by all that is around me, but mainly my love for nature and the palates of color I see when I look out at the ocean, drive up the coast and see the hillsides with wildflowers growing, and swim in rivers up in the mountains.
Q: How did you first start designing jewelry? Your website says that you were originally pursuing a career in education. How did you make the transition into owning your jewelry company?
I always knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so after I got married, I began to explore new types of careers that would allow me to work from home-part time and be around my child as much as possible. I tried real estate for a short time, but after a friend encouraged me to take my hobby of jewelry making for myself and try to do something with it, the jewelry designer in me came alive!
I had to lay a foundation so that once we had our baby my new job would be well on its way. So I worked as a teacher and jewelry designer for a few years until I was too busy to do both and then I went for it and retired from my teaching career.
I have never been the same since making that transition and I absolutely love having a job where I can create and design, but most importantly, be with my son, Dakota. It has been challenging to try to work out the details of having him at home with me and having a business, but I am so thankful that the Lord gave me this business. I never expected to be where I am today, and I am so amazed at His handiwork in my life.
Q: When do you find yourself being the most innovative and creative with your jewelry designs?
I find that when I don’t have the pressure of coming up with new designs, or when I am free to explore nature and experience the beauty of life, that I find myself inspired for create new pieces. Sometimes I’ll be shopping or looking through a magazine and get an idea. I always have an “ah-ha” moment of excitement inside when I find inspiration for a new design.
I truly find myself most inspired when I’m not even thinking about jewelry design but instead when my heart and life are in the right place and I’m out in nature. God’s creation is so majestic; I often feel His presence most when I’m at the beach or on trails in the mountains surrounding Malibu. There are endless points of inspiration for me; all I need to do is take the time to enjoy them.
Q: If you had to choose, which of your collections is your favorite?
That’s easy! I can usually be seen wearing my favorites: our Petite Shark Tooth Necklace; various layers of Ethiopian base metal with brass, copper, and turquoise Swarovski crystal; my Signature Feather Earrings; and my latest Cali Fringe Cuff in grey snakeskin with a few stacked bracelets.
Q: You give 10% of your proceeds to charity. Which organizations do you give to, and how did you decide to incorporate this component into your business?
I was raised in a Christian home and tithing was a big part of our relationship with the Lord. I wanted to do something different with my business to encourage others to give and have humanitarian perspectives in their lives, so I decided that I would have a page dedicated to some of the organizations that I love to support.
I also am involved in events where a percentage of my jewelry sales goes to the organization that is hosting the event, whether that is local schools or organizations that help cancer patients. My favorite organizations to help support are World Vision, Operation Smile, and SurfAid International. I also can give by donating jewelry for silent auctions and fundraising events as well.
Q: When you were little, did you envision that you’d be a jewelry designer when you grew up?
When I was little, I always role-played being a teacher. I never thought I’d have a job where I actually got to design jewelry that people would want to wear. Even when my friend suggested I try to make something of my jewelry hobby (she saw a piece that I was wearing that I had designed), I still didn’t actually believe that I would one day have a successful jewelry business. So I am living a dream, and although it’s very challenging at times, I try to remain thankful for this amazing opportunity.
Stay tuned for part two!