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Featured Shop: Rebecca Tollefsen

Jan 26, 2017

by Lisa Butterworth

Before Rebecca Tollefsen ever thought of making jewelry as a potential business venture, she picked up the practice for quite a different purpose. “I was doing social work that was fairly stressful, working with the families of young children with disabilities and other lifelong medical conditions,” Rebecca explains. “At night I would come home and make jewelry as a creative outlet.”

Rebecca opened an Etsy shop in 2008, and in the years since, her work has evolved and expanded to become a full-time job. Now, she spends every day crafting personalized bracelets, necklaces, and earrings in her Manchester, New Hampshire, studio—as om sounds drift over from her sister-in-law’s yoga studio next door. (Talk about trading stress for serenity!)

As Rebecca’s business has grown, her real estate footprint has, too: The designer just opened a retail space beyond the French doors of her studio so that people can peruse (and purchase) her “clean, everyday pieces” in person.

Read on to find out the secret mantra Rebecca abides by and how this self-taught jewelry designer found the courage to quit her day job.

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Why did you choose jewelry making as stress relief, and how did that lead to opening your Etsy shop?

Anytime I traveled, I would always collect pieces of jewelry and remember those places or times in my life by the jewelry. I would make jewelry for myself as well, if I couldn’t find what I wanted. That turned into making stuff for other people. A colleague’s wife was selling bags on Etsy and he told me about it. I started listing some of my work and it sold pretty quickly. It is just so much easier to reach people on Etsy than through a craft fair or word of mouth.

Do you remember the first piece you put up in your shop?

It might have been a beaded pair of earrings. At first I was doing a lot of wire wrapping and gemstone jewelry. Then I connected with a bride from Australia who was looking for a locket piece for her wedding party. I ended up refinishing and restoring vintage lockets for all of her bridesmaids. I listed some that I had left over and they sold very quickly. That opened up the doorway to the vintage lockets that I work with and my design aesthetic with mixed metals—I built it from there.

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Why do you think people are so drawn to lockets in particular?

I think it’s the idea of the special meaning behind it. It can hold so many things—a picture, a lock of hair, a charm, a message—and it becomes this keepsake for one person to give another. I love when something can represent a memory or a special day.

How did you transition to making jewelry full time?

Every single day after work and on the weekends I would immerse myself in jewelry making techniques and photography and branding—anything to help propel my business to the next level. I really listened to my customers, and I tailored my designs to get to a place between what I loved and what they wanted. Slowly but surely, I found my own little voice in the world through my jewelry.

In 2011, I had eliminated a lot of the gemstone jewelry and rebranded a bit, and I opened a new Etsy shop with more of a streamlined focus. As soon as I did that, things started taking off. I started getting some press and a ton of sales and within a few months I could no longer keep up with working full time—the jewelry line had become full-time as well. I sat down with my husband and we reviewed all of the financials and realized that I could leave my day job.

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How did that realization feel? Was it something you’d been hoping for?

Yes. I had been religiously reading Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job series and one of the interviews I loved was with a bag maker called Valhalla Brooklyn. I remember being like, “Wow, that’s such a great life; what a dream.” I started building towards that but never really fully believed I could make it happen.

Then my brother passed away unexpectedly in the summer of 2011, and after that I had a new perspective on how you have to make things happen because life is short. It’s cliché to say it, but it is—and that gave me the courage to take that leap. I was working 40 hours a week in my day job and 40 hours a week on my jewelry line and I’d just had a baby, and it was pretty crazy. I just said, “I have to do it now.” And it felt really good. It was a little scary because my husband was a stay-at-home dad at the time, but I definitely had that courage behind me of, No, you only live once. I leapt in and I can’t believe it’s been five years now.

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What’s your favorite part about the work you do?

All of it? I’m so thankful I get to do this. My house is right near my studio and my son’s school and it’s right next to the post office, so my schedule is really sweet. I get up in the morning, get my son ready, bring him to school, and then head over to the studio and work until school’s out. I grab him, bring him back to the studio, finish up my day, head to the post office and then come home. It’s really nice that it allows me to spend those afternoon hours finishing my job, but with my son there. He’s six and has been very interested in the jewelry making process lately, which is so sweet.

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Do you have a special piece of jewelry that you wear every day?

Last year I released the “halos” collection, including a necklace with a little hidden message on the back of the pendant; the back of mine says “peace & plenty.” I’ve been wearing it for a year now. I love that piece because it looks like an everyday necklace that goes with everything, but on the back it has a little mantra that I try to incorporate into my life. I’ve actually had some requests from clients for different situations: A woman’s daughter had cancer, so she and her daughter ordered lockets that said “strength” on the back. And I had someone who’d had a miscarriage who ordered lockets for herself and her mom with “hope” on the back.

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What inspires you?

The biggest thing that inspires me is when I connect with customers and talk with them about what the piece means to them, who it’s for and what it represents. I’ve had people tell me some really fascinating stories about why they’re ordering the jewelry and I feel really proud and honored to get to make that piece for them. When they receive it and write me to say that they loved it and that it made the person cry, or that they wear it every day because it represents someone so special to them, I mean—I love that feeling.

Follow Rebecca Tollefsen on Facebook and Instagram.

Photographs by Rebecca Tollefsen.

Shop Rebecca Tollefsen

Initial Locket Necklace, Personalized Jewelry, Fall Wedding Best Friend Gift for Wife, Message Locket, Mom Jewelry, Personalized Wife Gift,
Initial Locket Necklace, Personalized Jewelry, Fall Wedding Best Friend Gift for Wife, Message Locket, Mom Jewelry, Personalized Wife Gift,
Mothers Gift, Heart Locket Necklace, Heart Jewelry, Gift for Wife, Personalized Jewelry, Mothers Necklace, Memorial Jewelry, Initial Jewelry
Mothers Gift, Heart Locket Necklace, Heart Jewelry, Gift for Wife, Personalized Jewelry, Mothers Necklace, Memorial Jewelry, Initial Jewelry
Personalized Wedding Gift, Personalized Couple's Necklace, Date Necklace, Engagement Gift, Gift for Bride, Couples Gift, Custom Date Jewelry
Personalized Wedding Gift, Personalized Couple's Necklace, Date Necklace, Engagement Gift, Gift for Bride, Couples Gift, Custom Date Jewelry
Personalized Locket Necklace, Initial Necklace, Mothers Necklace, Mom Gift, Wife Gift, Personalized Bridesmaids Gift Secret Message Necklace
Personalized Locket Necklace, Initial Necklace, Mothers Necklace, Mom Gift, Wife Gift, Personalized Bridesmaids Gift Secret Message Necklace
Personalized Mom Jewelry, Initial Jewelry, Wife Gift, Mother's Necklace, Layering Necklace Set, Birthstone Jewelry, Gemstone Bar Necklace
Personalized Mom Jewelry, Initial Jewelry, Wife Gift, Mother's Necklace, Layering Necklace Set, Birthstone Jewelry, Gemstone Bar Necklace
Fall Wedding Gift, Mother's Gift, Mom Jewelry, Mothers Locket, Bridal Locket, Flower Locket Necklace, Bridesmaid Necklaces, Wedding Bouquet
Fall Wedding Gift, Mother's Gift, Mom Jewelry, Mothers Locket, Bridal Locket, Flower Locket Necklace, Bridesmaid Necklaces, Wedding Bouquet
Wife Gift, Bridesmaid Gift, Best Friend Gift, Personalized Gift, Message Locket Necklace, Personalized Necklace, Subscription Locket ©
Wife Gift, Bridesmaid Gift, Best Friend Gift, Personalized Gift, Message Locket Necklace, Personalized Necklace, Subscription Locket ©
Best Friend Necklace Set, Friendship Jewelry, Mother Daughter Gift Set, Gift for Daughter, Initial Jewelry, Sister Gift, Anam Cara Necklace
Best Friend Necklace Set, Friendship Jewelry, Mother Daughter Gift Set, Gift for Daughter, Initial Jewelry, Sister Gift, Anam Cara Necklace
Gold Initial Necklace, Short Gold Necklace, Bar Necklace, Tiny Gold Necklace, Delicate Jewelry, Bridesmaid Necklace, Gold Initial Jewelry
Gold Initial Necklace, Short Gold Necklace, Bar Necklace, Tiny Gold Necklace, Delicate Jewelry, Bridesmaid Necklace, Gold Initial Jewelry
Mother's Gift, Personalized Mom Gift, Birthstone Jewelry, Family Jewelry, Best Friend Gift, November Birthstone Necklace, New Mother Jewelry
Mother's Gift, Personalized Mom Gift, Birthstone Jewelry, Family Jewelry, Best Friend Gift, November Birthstone Necklace, New Mother Jewelry
Fall Wedding Gift, Personalized Wife Gift, Personalized Gift, Mom Jewelry,  Locket Necklace, Anniversary Gift, Subscription Locket©
Fall Wedding Gift, Personalized Wife Gift, Personalized Gift, Mom Jewelry, Locket Necklace, Anniversary Gift, Subscription Locket©
Personalized Disc Necklace, Tiny Initial Jewelry, Mommy Necklace, Family Jewelry, Silver Initial Necklace, Gift for Mom, Wife Gift, Monogram
Personalized Disc Necklace, Tiny Initial Jewelry, Mommy Necklace, Family Jewelry, Silver Initial Necklace, Gift for Mom, Wife Gift, Monogram

55 comments

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 1 year ago

    Your work is beautiful! Congratulations on the feature! I am so sorry about your brothers passing. You are such an inspiration! And having a little boy to go through your journey with is awesome!

  • suemako

    Sue from SuesAkornShop said 1 year ago

    Gorgeous shop and products. Congrats on the great feature! It's nice to see your son and to know he is there with you and I was sad to hear about your brother's passing. I opened my shop after my father in law passed away and named it after him.

  • PrimCountryCurtains

    Francine from HomespunHeartofMine said 1 year ago

    What a great story, Rebecca! Your halo necklace is beautiful in its simplicity and must bring such serenity to the special lives the hidden messages touch! Such a blessing!!! Congratulations on the feature and many wishes for your continued success! :D

  • keniki01

    Niki from JandEdoodles said 1 year ago

    Your lockets are gorgeous (and so is your studio space!). Congratulations on the feature.

  • helenharwood

    Helen Harwood from FatBerry said 1 year ago

    Amazing creations and lovely workspace. Thank you so much for your work. Congratulations on the feature!

  • babsfsu

    Barbara Gable from CrazyLovely said 1 year ago

    Kudos to distressing! Love your story!

  • wireandwoods

    Eric Lindley from wireandwoods said 1 year ago

    Very nice work! Glad you are able to follow your dream. Thanks for lifting us all up today!

  • Kashuen

    Kashuen Collectibles from Kashuen said 1 year ago

    Really sorry about your brother. My father just passed away two and a half years ago. You have a beautiful shop. Congratulations on the feature.

  • truthbeautyandlove27

    Colleen O'Neal from truthbeautyandlove27 said 1 year ago

    Your story is so very inspiring to me, I too hope one day to have a studio and more time to spend with son and be closer to home! Congratulations, I also love the idea behind lockets and the way they can represent something so special and personal!

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 1 year ago

    Congrats on the feature! You have a lovely shop with beautiful designs! I'm so sorry for the loss of your brother. May God bless you with peace, strength and comfort as you move forward. Wishing you much success with your shop!

  • msbijouxbeads

    Cathy from msbijouxbeads said 1 year ago

    Love the hidden messages, beautiful work, congratulations on the feature!

  • TheNorthWayStudio

    Maria B. from TheNorthWayStudio said 1 year ago

    What a gorgeous aesthetic--lockets are just magical pieces of jewelry. Congratulations on your wonderful feature!

  • rellyh

    Relly from RelsFindsNapaValley said 1 year ago

    I love your design style... marrying old vintage locket with personalized charm. Awesome idea. Rebecca, congratulations on your successful business!

  • TSminibears

    Tatiana Scalozub from TSminibears said 1 year ago

    The workplace is so speaking! it is also interesting to look how other artist work and follow them ;)

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories from ClassicMemories said 1 year ago

    Lovely items and wonderful shop. Congrats on the feature.

  • SuzisPillowStudio

    Suzi from ThePillowStudioShop said 1 year ago

    I love this jewelry. It is unique and beautiful. Well done. :)

  • kgarrett1966

    R.M Garrett from ArtisticAcrylics said 1 year ago

    Your story is touching, beautiful, inspiring, and empowering! Thank you for sharing your journey, and I wish you continued success and blessings!!

  • GraphixLLC

    Stacey from GraphixLLC said 1 year ago

    Congrats on the feature! Your story was so inspiring! Taking the big leap and doing what you love is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story and your gorgeous products!

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 1 year ago

    Lovely jewelry....Your creations are so unique! You packaging is very pretty too!

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    TreasuredMemoryLane from TreasuredMemoryLane said 1 year ago

    Beautiful creations and work space. Congratulations on the feature!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 1 year ago

    Great style ~ Authentic and kind gifts !

  • LnRworks

    R. Anne from LnRworks said 1 year ago

    That looks great! Congrats <3

  • DivineOrders

    DivineOrders from DivineOrders said 1 year ago

    GLORIOUS! Congrats on the feature. Thank you Rebecca for sharing your blessed journey, lovely arts and peace-filled inspiring life with us. Peace.

  • theroyal

    elm the person from elmtheperson said 1 year ago

    you had me at lockets

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 1 year ago

    Great article! Beautiful work!

  • Pysar

    Yuri Pysar from Pysar said 1 year ago

    lovely story and beautiful work! congrats on the feature.

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 1 year ago

    wow...that locket with the florals is divine!! beautiful work and what a sweet set up all around! congrats on a lovely feature!

  • suzannerorick

    Suzanne Rorick from SRorickArt said 1 year ago

    You are very talented Rebecca and you have a lovely collection of unique jewelry! It's encouraging to hear stories from artists who are able to create a living doing what they love and be able to leave a stressful job behind. Congrats on the feature.

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 1 year ago

    dear lord this is wonderful !

  • jacobswoodentoys

    Tim and Brigita Cornwell from jacobswoodentoys said 1 year ago

    Beautiful lockets! Congrats on the feature. Well deserved.

  • seattecamille

    Camille Turner from rosegoldnecklaces said 1 year ago

    Seriously love your shop. Everything looks like perfection!

  • donnastrnad1

    Donna Strnad from SaltyScavenger said 1 year ago

    Amazing and lovely work, Your an inspiration and thanks for sharing .

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 1 year ago

    Beautiful work! Congratulations on the feature!

  • birdhouseaccents

    birdhouseaccents from birdhouseaccents said 1 year ago

    Great job

  • juliepwolfe

    juliepwolfe said 1 year ago

    I have been wracking by brain how to thank a group of loving people who have been spending half their life over the past six years supporting our local public school, and you inspired me. I was thinking lockets - that how I found your work. How do you give something that shows appreciation, and leaves them with something that penetrates meaning to describe their valuable efforts? Your lockets are beautiful and loving.

  • Etrennes

    Etrennes from Etrennes said 1 year ago

    Beautiful and unique creations! Wishing you all the best for continued success!!!

  • solomia7

    Monika Moroz from NickoArts said 1 year ago

    Congratulations on the feature of your lovely shop. All the Best :)

  • Sokushin

    Kathryn Hilbert said 1 year ago

    A new Favorite!! xox

  • rhondastubbs2

    Rhonda Stubbs from RhondaCorner said 1 year ago

    What a great story! Thank you for sharing and congratulation on your feature.

  • bennaandhanna

    benna and hanna from bennaandhanna said 1 year ago

    I wish i can go full time with my shop one day. Very inspiring and i pray for more blessings to you.

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 1 year ago

    I love your work! Congrats on the feature!

  • rachbing

    Rachel Bingaman from BingArt said 1 year ago

    Love your shop! You have such great pieces and such an inspiring story. Congrats on a well-deserved feature!

  • FireDrawings

    Harnit from FireDrawings said 1 year ago

    Very inspiring and best of wishes for your work.

  • petalalley

    Laura from PetalAlley said 1 year ago

    I love the necklace with the tiny bouquet! So clever!

  • TheFancyFrog

    Sarah Moore from TheTangerineViolet said 1 year ago

    Love your style, Rebecca!

  • VERONAART

    JOANNA from BUSTANI said 1 year ago

    Beautiful work, lovely !Congratulations on the feature! ♥

  • YearsAfter

    Sharon from YearsAfter said 1 year ago

    Love how the inside of the locket is as important as the front. Lockets hold meaning and secrets of love! Your work space is wonderful too! Thanks for sharing and congrats on the feature!

  • mflower23

    Melissa Partridge from ColorMelissa said 1 year ago

    Gorgeous work from a fellow New Englander!! So sorry to hear about your brother. It's amazing how healing Art is. Art helped me through the grieving of my Dad in 2013 as well. Congrats on the feature and best of luck on your continued success!!

  • SallysVintageKitchen

    Sally from SallysVintageKitchen said 1 year ago

    Beautiful jewelry! Congratulations on the feature!

  • agildedleaf

    Sara Beznicki-Kang from agildedleaf said 1 year ago

    Really beautiful work - and such an inspiring story!

  • handicraftafrica

    Jafeth Moiane from handicraftafrica said 1 year ago

    Beautiful Items! Congrats!

  • sandcanyonjewelry

    Jane Brown from SandCanyonJewelry said 1 year ago

    Your work is beautiful, and I love your studio! It's so light and airy--and neat! Much success to you.

  • dewaldbotha

    Dewald Botha from DewaldsFotos said 1 year ago

    Amazing work ... !!!

  • sheilapikes1

    sheilapikes1 from sheilapikes1 said 1 year ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and photographs. I do not have a shop but my sister-in-law does and I have learned how to appreciate things made by others who put TLC into their work. Continue to prosper. Sheila

  • starkphotographycom

    Stark Photography said 1 year ago

    Gorgeous jewelry! Your work is amazing - big congrats on the feature!

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