PROPHETSTOWN – There used to be a time when people could stroll the streets downtown and hear the tools of the trade turning raw materials into merchandise at a local shop. In Prophetstown, they still can, and the sounds coming from the workshop in one business have a familiar ring to them.
The tap of a mallet, the clink of metal, printers churning out labels, they’re all part of the hum of activity that’s all in a day’s work for the crew whose job is jewelry, and they’re doing it by hand, turning raw materials into polished products at Jenna Scifres Handmade Jewelry.
Scifres and her team of six helpers spend much of their time hand-crafting rings and earrings, necklaces, bracelets, keychains and more, filling online orders and packing and shipping them all across the country.
The business has grown into so much more than Scifres, 38, could have imagined when she made her first pieces of jewelry. In the last 10 years, she’s gone from crafting items in her basement and selling them online to opening a downtown store, then moving into a larger nearby shop.
Now Scifres is making more jewelry than ever before.
Her talents have taken her merchandise from her home in Hooppole all the way to Hollywood.
Her pieces have been seen in eight different television shows in recent years – on “The Orville,” “God Friended Me,” “Arrow,” “Charmed,” “Fuller House,” “Ozark,” “The Last Summer,” and “The Fosters.” Most recently, one of her pearl and gold necklaces turned up on “Riverdale.”
The Artisan Group, based in California, puts out open calls for certain jewelry to be featured in television shows, and Scifres sends them samples of her work.
“The Fosters” was the first show to feature her work, in 2017. Scifres was working out of her basement when she got word about its appearance.
“I was so excited. I screamed and cried and told everyone, ‘My jewelry is on ‘The Fosters’!’ There’s tons of jewelry worn on tons of shows, but it felt so cool that something I made was on a TV show. I can look at that and go, ‘I made that!’”
For customers who are star-struck by her pieces, she sells replicas of the items worn on screen.
Seeing her work flash across the screen has been the culmination of an adventure that started with a leap of faith. Scifres left a human resources position at Caterpillar, close to her home at the time, in Morton, and moved to Hooppole to be closer to her husband Nicholas McClelland’s family.
“Around that time, I was really trying to figure out if this was really going to work for me or not,” Scifres said. “I had just quit my job, and I needed to figure out what all I wanted to do to promote myself.”
While her talents have brought her to where she is now, her grandmother had a hand in her handiwork, too.
Scifres’ grandmother ran a sewing and embroidery shop in Morton, and Jenna would find something creative to do there when she stopped by.
Her grandmother gave her a jewelry-making kit one day and she fell in love with it. The design influence that followed led to a passion for design and the arts, and she took up playing the violin. It was in the Peoria music scene where she met McClelland, and the two formed a bluegrass act, and later married.
McClelland lends a hand with the business, which came to Prophetstown in November 2020, and Ali McClelland, Nicholas’ daughter, helps Scifres out when she can; she enjoys helping pack shipments.
“I like family and friend time,” Ali said. “I have two kids, so I don’t get out much. This gets me out, and it’s easy for me to do. I like to look at all of the stuff [Jenna] does, too.”
After a reference from a fellow vendor at a farmers market in Peoria 11 years ago, she began selling her items on Etsy. That soon was followed by selling pieces on Amazon, where she still sells much of her product today.
“I looked at it and set up my shop, and it was really easy to get started,” Scifres said. “I was thinking about this at the beginning of this year, and it’s been 10 years. That got my feet wet as far as e-commerce, and it got me thinking about not just selling locally, but all over the U.S. or the world.”
The business’ Facebook page says the shop takes a “minimalist approach to making quality, comfortable, handmade jewelry that makes a bold statement in its simplicity,” and that goes for all her pieces, whether they’re made for customers with two legs or four — Scifres and her team also make dog tags.
For her noncanine clients, stud earrings are popular these days. Scifres has more than 200 different styles, colors, shapes and sizes.
Another popular item: personalized engravings on pennies. The year on each penny can symbolize an important date in someone’s life, and birthstones or charms can be added to make it a one-of-a-kind piece.
Keychains are another customer favorite.
Materials such as semi-precious gems, pearls, Swarovski crystals, druzy, feathers, beads, and pendants are used to give each piece its unique quality.
Sterling silver, aluminum, brass and copper are metals used through a cold connection process, assembling items without heat. The handmade jewelry is hypoallergenic and free of lead and nickel.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped boost sales of Scifres’ pieces, especially on Amazon. Websites like Amazon and Etsy provided a safety net for businesses such as Scifres’, and it eased any worry about the uncertainty of what the pandemic was going to do in the long run.
“I didn’t even know if I had any business getting a place outside of my house. I didn’t know if it was going to continue. I was worried that it would be a burst of sales last summer and then it would die off, but we really got a lot of systems in place and repeat things.”
Some of her pieces, like the stud earrings, were a perfect fit for a pandemic world.
“One thing that people like about them is that, having to wear a mask all of the time you don’t want to wear a big earring,” Scifres said. “They still want to wear something cute, and when it’s a small earring, it doesn’t get caught on your mask.”
Scifres enjoys being her own boss, especially when family and friends are involved. That reduces stress and allows more flexibility for working, but more importantly, a lot more fun.
“I never really thought it was going to be possible to have something like this. I never imagined that this is where I would be. I thought it was just a hobby and I’d make a little extra money.”
On Nov. 7, Scifres moved from 3481/2 Washington St. into a beautiful historic brick and stone building at 338 Washington.
Those interested in buying – or, if you’re a retailer selling – Scifres’ creations can go to jennascifres.com, find Jenna Scifres Handmade Jewelry on Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 224-662-0114. The shop is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, longer for special occasions such as Shop Small Saturdays, and by appointment.
Source: The Daily Chronicle