Jewelry designer Brandy Thomason McNair started Bella Vita Jewelry 13 years ago. This fall the small business will expand its Little Rock shop into an adjacent loft, which will contribute 1,200 more square feet to the storefront at 108 W. Sixth St. This means that most of the jewelry production can move off the sales floor, freeing up space for Bella Vita to increase its inventory of apparel, local art, home décor, crystals, and even fair trade items for pets. “I’ve wanted to branch out into more ethically sourced, ‘slow fashion’ apparel items, which this will allow me to do,” Brandy says. …
Arkansas in the Making is a series of interviews featuring local artisans, their workspaces and accoutrements. For this post, we spoke with Brandy McNair, a Little Rock jewelry maker who just celebrated the grand opening of her new store in the Lafayette Building, downtown.
At Home in Arkansas: Define your personal style in 6 words. Brandy McNair: classic, laid back, minimal, natural, no drama!
AHIA: What are your current obsessions? Brandy McNair: I am currently obsessed with anything floral. Floral glass buttons, Italian micro mosaic jewelry, floral prints in textiles and art prints, bouquets of fresh flowers. If it has flowers on it, I am digging it right now!
AHIA: What color could you not live without? Brandy McNair: gosh…turquoise, teal, black…sorry I can’t pin it down to just one!
AHIA: Tell us about why you make what you make…a history, timeline or some sort of list. Brandy McNair: I started making jewelry around age 10. I made jewelry all through High School and took a break to obtain a BA in Interior Design from U of A. After a short stint in the design world I decided I wanted to start making jewelry again…6 years later I am still at it. Jewelry making has always just come naturally to me and it is something I am very confident with. From selecting materials to composing a new piece to the actual craftsmanship. I love it all. My jewelry has evolved a lot over the years but I think that if you saw older designs you would think “that fits her style” of design and making.
AHIA: What is your greatest achievement or goal for your brand? Brandy McNair: Gosh, being self employed, my main goal is always to just succeed! But on a lighter note, I’d like to get my designs in stores across the country and possibly worldwide. I would say my greatest achievement to date is the recent opening of my retail shop. It is something that I have wanted to do for a while now and I have accomplished that. Most people don’t just wake up one day and say “I want to open a shop.” It is something that takes a lot of time and planning. I am excited to see what the future holds for my little retail shop.
AHIA: What is your go-to for a quick burst of inspiration? Brandy McNair: If I am feeling un inspired the best way for me to get inspired is to pull out my trays and trays of vintage baubles. They are so incredible and immediately spark design ideas in my head. Once I get going on those designs it seems like others start coming to me as well. If for some reason this doesn’t work, a walk with my dog can usually clear my head and get me on track again.
AHIA: Which of your tools is most important for your work? Brandy McNair: Describe it, how long you’ve had it, etc. I use a lot of tools… I guess I would have to say that my wire cutters, and small pliers are the ones I just couldn’t live without. Some of these small hand tools I’ve had since the begining so they are appx. 20 years old! Then my rotary tool for drilling, polishing, etc and my hammers are a close second.
AHIA: To an aspiring artisan, what would you say is the most important part of doing creative work? Brandy McNair: Always stay true to yourself and your designs. And be a stickler for craftsmanship, finish your edges and wrap your wires well.
AHIA: How does your lifestyle support your work? Brandy McNair: My work is my lifestyle, it’s such a huge part of my life. Bella Vita is all I do sometimes. I mean I take breaks for vacation when seasons allow but I basically eat, breathe, and sleep Bella Vita Jewelry. I love it though. And hopefully in the future I will be able to hire another studio assistant or two to help out but for now, I pretty much run the whole show!
AHIA: What do you want your customers to know about you/your work? Brandy McNair: All of my jewelry designs are original to my brand and they are carefully constructed in my studio in downtown Little Rock. In addition to my jewelry designs, I also take on custom orders.
AHIA: Within the field of your work, who is your greatest inspiration/influence/role model, etc? Brandy McNair: Other entrepreneurs, especially other women entrepreneurs. Running a small business is hard work and isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be an emotional roller coaster at times. It’s nice to have a tribe of other entrepreneurs to learn from and to get advice from when it is needed.
Thank you, Brandy! And as a bonus for you, today, Brandy is giving away a $40 store credit, so that you can shop for jewelry and gifts at her new store. To enter: go and “Like” Bella Vita Facebook page, then “Like” the At Home in Arkansas Facebook page and let us know you’ve done so by leaving a comment below! A winner will be selected at random This Friday, November 21, at 4pm, so be sure to check back to see if you won. Best of luck!