It started with a retail job. Kerry Long was working sales at The Gold Concept in downtown San Luis Obispo, but her fingers itched to do more.
"I've always been into making things. My grandma taught me how to knit and crochet; I painted," Long said. "In high school I got super into pottery. In college I wanted to be a ceramicist."
- PHOTO COURTESY OF KERRY LONG
- A NICE RING TO IT: Kerry Long’s metal stackable rings are priced on the lower end for her line, around $20. Her jewelry comes in sterling silver or a gold or rose-gold fill.
Her bosses caught on to this when they saw her knack for putting together the jewelry displays. Soon she was learning basic jewelry repairs like soldering, hammering, and restringing pearls. That was 14 years ago. Today, she works full time, creating for her own company, Blueberry Jewelry. Like many things, it happened one small step at a time.
Before Blueberry came another retail job, this time at Kevin Maine Jewelry, also in downtown SLO. But Long also got to work one day a week as a bench jeweler, doing repairs on the pieces customers brought in.
"That was one of my most valuable experiences, just because we got to see what people were bringing in that was broken, which taught you what wouldn't work when you made something," Long said. "And you could really see how people wear jewelry and what got a lot of wear and tear."
By this time Long was making and selling her own delicate metal jewelry—which often incorporated natural gemstones—on the side. With her daughter to think about, she looked for a steady job and worked a stint as a paralegal, where the pay was good and the hours flexible. A rush of orders for the holiday season in 2014 prompted her to take a month off to focus on making jewelry, and she never went back to her day job.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF KERRY LONG
- SOLDERING AWAY: Jeweler Kerry Long cuts, solders, and hammers away at her workspace at The Bunker in SLO as she creates one-of-a-kind metal jewelry.
"After that I thought, 'If I did it for a month, I'll see if I can do it for another month,' and soon enough a year passed," Long said. "I always thought, 'What's the worst that can happen? I'll just go find another part-time job somewhere.'"
On most days, Long cuts, solders, and hammers sterling silver, gold fill, or rose-gold fill into submission or carefully affixes stones like turquoise, onyx, quartz, and freshwater pearls to her latest piece in her shared creative workspace at The Bunker in SLO. Her Blueberry Jewelry line of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, and charms feels both timeless and current ranging from items like her metal stackable rings and bangle bracelets to dainty earrings with purple gemstones. Long seeks to create wearable pieces for women of all ages in a range of price points (from $20 to $250), but she's also constantly trying to change it up on her end. One of her newest creations are metal earrings shaped like a pair of leaves. She didn't have a blueprint for how to make that particular design and the first attempt was a wash, but by round two Long had figured it out.
"I love metalworking," Long said. "It's just creative, you get to think of an idea and then play around and see if it works."
Ryah Cooley loves rings, bracelets, and necklaces, but has a contentious relationship with earrings at firstname.lastname@example.org.