Briana Hibbs grew up in southeastern Wisconsin, just a stone’s skip from Lake Michigan.
It’s that proximity that inspired her to name her handmade jewelry business Made by the Lake.
Hibbs, who lives in South Milwaukee, crafts both stud and dangle earrings and releases different pairs each week to her over 2,000 Facebook followers.
She does have a website, www.madebythelake.com, but said Facebook “seems to be where most people want to do their shopping.”
Hibbs bases her designs on the time of year. Now, she’s turned her attention to Christmas-themed offerings like Christmas glitter and Cheetah trees. She also keeps a regular stock of more neutral designs that can be worn year-round. Her earrings are made from wood, acrylic, faux leather and real leather.
Hibbs cuts, assembles and paints the earrings in batches allowing her to get orders made in a couple of days. She designs her own but also buys patterns from other makers.
“It’s cool my business supports other small businesses,” she said.
She also has support at home. Her husband, Mason, helps if she gets stuck designing, cutting or sanding. “He’s always the first to jump in and help me with that,” she said.
Photographing products leads to creating her own product to picture
It was a job at a photo studio following her graduation from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design that first piqued her interest in crafting jewelry. Eventually, following the trend of leather and “dangly” earrings, Hibbs created a pair and wore them out with friends.
“People seemed to really like them, and I decided to stick with it,” she said.
She launched Made by the Lake in January 2019 — and does all her own product photography.
While the work is a creative outlet and Hibbs was looking to make something with her hands instead of just focusing on photos, she had another reason for making her own earrings.
“I can’t wear earrings from big-box stores because their hardware makes me break out,” she said.
That’s also one of the most common concerns among her customers. Because her hardware is stainless steel it is perfect for people with such sensitivities. Hibbs said some products advertised as hypoallergenic often still have trace amounts of nickel or other elements.
“A lot of customers tell me they’re the only earrings they can wear,” she said.
This one-time side hustle is now Hibbs’ full-time focus. It was the pandemic in 2020 that led to her having to work from home for her former full-time job. But she said that allowed her to “focus on my business as well” to create a schedule and be more efficient with batches of products.
“It really made me get tuned in to have a working business for myself,” Hibbs said.
She still does some side work for her former job, which she declined to name, and also still does photography. Hibbs eventually hopes to add more products to her business.
“I think necklaces are next on my list,” she said. She made necklaces for her bridesmaids, calling them her “testers.”
More:Need a unique gift for someone this Christmas? Here are six southeastern Wisconsin crafters to check out.
Pricing and where to buy
Hibbs’ earrings cost between $10 and $20 and she offers both shipping and local mailbox pickup at her home.
Anyone stopping in at the Better Together Café in South Milwaukee will also find Hibbs’ handmade earrings up for sale. She’d made some milk shake studs inspired by the local café and when she went in to buy a milk shake, she gifted owners Becky and Zach Kinzer a pair.
“They asked me if I wanted to have a display of my earrings at their coffee shop,” Hibbs said.
She also complimented James Moran, owner of Moran’s Pub in South Milwaukee, for helping her sell some Packers studs. Hibbs is open to expand into other local businesses if they’re interested.
While she gets inspiration from many sources, Hibbs said it’s the end result of people enjoying wearing her handmade earrings that keeps her going.
“I love that people love my products and I love that I get to make them,” she said. “I start with a blank piece of wood and turn that into someone’s favorite pair.”
Contact Erik S. Hanley email@example.com. Like/follow his Facebook page,The Redheadlinerand follow him on Twitter at@ES_Hanley.