What you’re looking at is the 100 year old barn behind the home of Kristi, aka SilverSparrowDesigns. With the help of her family and members of her community, Kristi was able to transform the space into her very own working environment, lovingly nicknamed “Spider Dodger Studio” by her husband.
As these things tend to, it all started with a dream. During my senior year of high school, I took a year long silver-smithing course at the local community college. I fell in love, vowing to make jewelry for a living, but life happened instead and I followed a different path. I taught 4th grade for a few years, got married to a wonderful man, and had two amazing children. But the dream was always there, asleep.
[My daughters, Hazel and June, wearing hats made by nuxiemade.]
About two years ago it awoke. It stretched and yawned and then got down to business. All of the sudden, I had such a powerful yearning to make silver jewelry that I could think of little else. One of the roadblocks that had originally kept me from pursuing a life of silver-smithing was the start-up cost (materials are expensive!). So, I made a fancy flier that said “I want your old silver-smithing equipment,” and placed it in different areas of my community. Miraculously, I got a response. A toothless old man named Arky (short for Arkansas, I believe) called me and even came over to basically set up my shop, all for free. He gave me a lot of the basic tools, helped me set up a bench in my old barn, and built me a buffing wheel out of a dryer motor. A dear friend of mine, Kelly aka kellybaldwindesign, loaned me a torch, and another friend, Maegan aka ironmaegan, offered to come over and refresh my memory on the basic skills I needed.
I started working with silver again. I live in the middle of nowhere in southwest Colorado, but as chance would have it, there is a silver supply store, San Juan Gems, right down the street from me. This is where I purchase silver and all of the incidentals I need. I know it’s hokey, but the first time I started sawing a piece of silver sheet, as the silver dust was falling onto my hand, I felt at home. I knew I was doing what I had always been intended to do. And as other “miracles” continued to happen, that feeling was only reaffirmed.
I was having a hard time finding a place to sell my crude little first pieces. I knew something would come together for me, but I didn’t know what. Then, Kelly aka kellybaldwindesign started her Etsy shop and suggested I do the same. I figured I had nothing to lose, and lo and behold, SilverSparrowDesigns has been the answer to my prayers! Once I started having consistent sales, I realized I could quit my part-time job and do this for real! So I did. The next hurdle was to establish a place where I could continue to work throughout the winter.
The 100 year old barn behind my house, dubbed “Spider Dodger Studio” by my husband, had been a great place to work at first. However, it was not without its flaws. As it got colder, I realized it would not be possible to work out there through the winter without freezing. I started planning ways to better prepare the barn for the cold months, trying to work with what I could afford on my meager budget. I was at the local hardware store, pricing materials to form makeshift frame walls with black plastic stapled to them and insulation stapled to that. As I was talking to the employees, I didn’t realize that the mayor of our little town (who is also a contractor) was standing behind me, overhearing the questions I was asking. When I was finished, he stopped me and offered to come over and take a look at my space to see what we could do. After looking around, he offered to not only help with the project, but to put all of the materials on his account at the store. He said I could pay what I could, making up the rest by babysitting for his son and making jewelry for his wife!
[Jim Lein, the generous mayor of Dolores, Colorado.]
We planned a weekend when my parents could come down from Denver to assist with building and babysitting, and recruited friends to come help out as well. We got the whole project done — framing, insulation, drywall, wood stove — in about 10 days.
About a week after the studio was finished, with its cozy old wood stove blazing away, another wonderful coincidence occurred. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and met an amazing woman who had all the equipment I could ever need, (torch, Foredom, buffing wheel, etc.) all top-quality stuff, just sitting in her garage, needing a new home. She agreed to sell it to me for a fraction of it’s worth! Now I had all brand new equipment to go in my brand new studio.
[My dad, Jim, and my husband, Glenn, hard at work on the framing.]
I just know I am doing what I was always meant to do. Ever since the completion of the studio, the orders have been flowin’ in. I am doing it now. I am what I always wanted to be, a full-time mother and a full-time jewelry maker. I am so very grateful for all of the wonderful people who helped make my dream a reality, and for Etsy, for all of my fabulous customers who enable me to continue doing what I love while being at home with my kids!
My nice warm cozy new shop!
Feeling inspired? There’s more where that came from!
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