Outside, the temperature is freezing cold and the winter wind is whipping through the bare trees, making them sway and dance as if keeping time to an ancient melody. But inside the Hopewell home that Angela Bliss shares with her two daughters, two dogs and two cats, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
And inside the cosy den that Bliss uses as her workshop and lovingly refers to as her “cottage,” the welcoming feeling is even more palpable as she is surrounded by everything she loves. Family photos, aromatic candles, dried flowers, precious keepsakes. And jewelry. Lots and lots of sparkly, decadent jewelry.
Bliss is a jewelry maker and runs two companies single-handedly — Blissforium Jewelry Emporium and JanuarysGrace Children’s Jewelry for the younger set.
It’s a craft, and a business, that Bliss admits she just kind of fell into.
“I never wore jewelry. I’m one of those people that I’m great at buying gifts and giving them to people but I wouldn’t necessarily buy it for myself. In fact, I never even wore jewelry until now … But there’s a beauty in jewelry. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item, just something you treasure.”
Bliss began by buying items for her children to put away, when they were too young to appreciate them. Then she started buying and making jewelry as gifts. Branching out, she would make it for her daughters to give as gifts for their friends at birthday parties or for family members.
“I started making personalized gifts for their friends, and when they opened the gift other parents would see it and ask if I could make something for them or their child or for Christmas.” And it just snowballed from there.
“It blossomed just like a flower. It began as a little tiny bud.”
Bliss took great delight in making personalized pieces for the many foster children she raised over the years, a special personalized keepsake just for them. “It gave me a warm feeling in my heart giving a little piece to keep them connected to us. Now, they’re mostly all grown but I’m still connected to them all. And now they’re doing it for their children.”
Today, she spends a great deal of time plying her craft. “It’s not just the making of the jewelry,” she smiles. “It’s all the rest of it that comes with it. I have a whole new respect for any business owner and small business owners.”
She said, “You always hear ‘shop local’ and I always did. But now that I have my own small business I realize how important that truly is.”
While she has been making jewelry for 15 years or more, she has only been concentrating on the business for about seven months. She formed the two companies and offers her jewelry on Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
She laughs, “I could barely email before I started this.”
She credits NOBL (Northern Opportunities for Business Limited) with guiding her through a lot of the business and networking aspects of her venture. Bliss took a course for social networking once a week through NOBL.
“It has been life altering for me, being a very quiet person,” she praised of the program. “The participants are all other small businesses in the community and the support has just been phenomenal.” She says the networking and wisdom learned from the participants has been invaluable.
She also is grateful to a local couple who she says were an inspiration to her. “Every year I would hear about Oliver’s Express and I would think, ‘I wish I could do something to help them’. But I don’t know about hockey and I don’t even know the people to offer help. Finally, this year, I emailed them.”
Oliver’s Express is organized by the Graham family who hosts the annual Cancer Sucks Cup in memory of their son Oliver, who passed away from cancer in 2010 at the age of three. Bliss offered to provide handmade jewelry for them to use however they wished to benefit their cause.
“I made a bunch of kids jewelry and they donated it to the IWK. As I read the articles every year about the parents and what they did and how they did it… I wished I could be like them and do something, but I knew I couldn’t.”
Their story hit especially close to home for Bliss who also suffered from the loss of her young son.
“After I made the jewelry and started to network and take the class I started to think, gee that felt so good. What else could I do and who else could I do it for?”
So she reached out to a few people and groups and asked if they could use some of her products to raffle off or use in some way to raise money for their groups. The idea grew and word spread and it brought joy to Bliss.
“It gives me such a good feeling to do it,” she smiled. “That’s when it hit me that, like Oliver’s people, I wanted to do something for the people that were in my life in memory of them, but I knew I couldn’t host a hockey tournament or anything like that. So now, when I give the jewelry, I include a card that says who it’s in memory of.”
For Bliss, it’s her way of honouring the memory of Michael Cleary, who she lovingly refers to as “her person,” her life partner who passed away in September 2006. She says Mike spent his career working for Community Services and was an avid volunteer, so she feels donating her work in his memory is fitting.
“It was always a dream that I could do something for Mike in his memory.”
Bliss invites, “So for any organization in the community that could use jewelry to sell as a fundraiser, I would love for them to contact me.”
Bliss’s affordable works of art can be found on Facebook or Etsy at Blissforium Jewelry Emporium and JanuarysGrace Children’s Jewelry and she can be contacted at Irelandbliss@icloud.com.
Angela Bliss in her “cottage” getting ready to create some jewelry for Blissforium and JanuarysGrace. (Submitted photo)