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Meet Sommer Cleveland of Rustic Souls in Berkeley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sommer Cleveland.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Becoming a jewelry designer wasn’t something I dreamt about as a child. Those dreams were more about traveling the world as a photojournalist for National Geographic. However, I still enjoy where my path has put me and luckily enough I still get to travel occasionally and add pieces of my adventures into my jewelry. But lets back up…

I have a very artistic father. I grew up watching my dad constantly create with his hands; whether it was pinstriping a car, painting a mural on the side of a building, building me a birdhouse or helping me decorate a gingerbread house. He always thought outside the box to create something and somehow as I grew, I learned to think along the same lines. In college, I decided to forgo an artistic path for a secure career in Finance, after four years in the industry I was dying inside. I hated getting up for work even though I loved my coworkers and started to craft as a hobby during my time off. I started with stationary, my male coworkers always forgot to get their loved one’s cards until it was too late so I kept a stash of handmade ones in my desk for sale which progressed into a small Etsy store. It’s at this point in my life that I was diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia and was too sick to continue a full-time career. So, I threw myself into more creative endeavors like making myself jewelry and within a year, that hobby created enough output for me to open a second Etsy store. Eventually, I quit my traditional career altogether, closed my stationary store and started to solely focus on jewelry making. The creative possibilities of wearable art are endless and I found I was constantly curious about different techniques, always searching for something new to try. The basic beading skills that I learned as a curious kid got me started but after endless youtube videos I took a metal clay class, then a basic metals class, then my first metalsmithing class and so on. That curiosity has continued for six years now and I still have a giant list of metalsmithing techniques I want to learn. In the end, I believe this is why I love making jewelry so much, there is always something new to create. I never get bored. That is part of the reason I try to keep most of my pieces one of a kind, so I never find myself in a monotonous rut, instead I have the freedom to work on what inspires me the most and I’ll take happiness in my work over a 9-5 with six-figure income that kills me inside.

Today, I work from a home studio keeping the hours I want to keep. In truth, with Lupus and Fibromyalgia, it is more like the hours I’m healthy enough to work, which makes the flexibility of my work even more crucial. I earn a living selling through my online store, local markets and retail spaces like clothing boutiques, hair salons and coffee shops. I have no designs to build a brand empire just a brand known for unique and quality handmade accessories, a mix of my own handmade jewelry and handmade accessories I picked up from other makers during my world travels. My goals for Rustic Souls may expand or shift but the core values will always stay the same.
Shop small, shop handmade.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
For me, it hasn’t been a smooth road. Firstly, because I wasn’t traditionally trained, I’m self-taught. I went to school for finance, not art or metal working so there are always small mishaps and pitfalls you learn the hard way but in my opinion, are still worth the lesson. The biggest hurdle I’ve faced from the beginning is having Lupus and Fibromyalgia. I get sick a lot and by a lot I mean it’s a daily struggle with chronic pain and fatigue. Some days I can work 9 hours and others none. That type of struggle impacts my momentum and the things I want to accomplish with Rustic Souls which may lead to missed opportunities or simply not having the energy to accomplish the things I want in order to polish my brand. Because of this, I have had to learn patience with myself and forgiveness that I’m still not where I want to be professionally.

Tell us about your business/company. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc.
Rustic Souls is a modern bohemian accessory business, focusing on a mix of my own handmade jewelry and handmade accessories I picked up from other makers during my world travels. I celebrate the local, the small-scale, the eccentric, the imperfect; whatever is made out of caring and find beauty in natural, recycled and small batch products.

I am a jewelry designer who specializes in a bohemian luxe jewelry style. Lush pieces that can be worn with a chiffon dress, Sunday brunch romper or a t-shirt and jeans. My pieces are versatile, something for the bride or a summer music festival. Some pieces are soft and romantic and others fierce and bold, both can be worn together. Even men are not left out, there are always custom options available. My work is heavily infused with undyed, imperfect gemstones and inspired by vintage and bygone eras such as ancient Rome. Designs are typically a result of experimentation of textures and colors of metals without the use of harsh chemicals and materials.

I’m often known for using real gemstones that are natural, hand-cut and imperfect, quality and recycled metals and other unique materials like real feathers, carved bone and wood. My color palette is always as a mix of soft earth tones so customers can often come back and find pieces that can be worn with previous purchases.

What are you most proud of as a company?
I am proud to be a woman-owned business. I am proud to be a one-woman show who does it all despite the physical limitations I often face. I’m proud of myself and the fact that each year I continually do better with designs and sales. And I’m proud that I use recycled and imperfect materials, that I shop from other small owned businesses and incorporate their materials and finished pieces into my store.

What sets you apart from others?
Quality, uniqueness, affordable prices and custom design ability

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I am currently working on a revamp of my brand. I just had a new logo designed and am working to redesign all my marketing materials, website, social media and packaging to create a more interactive brand and vibrant customer experience. With this upgrade my focus for the year to is to gain more wholesale accounts so I can move out of doing craft shows in the over-saturated Denver area market.

Pricing:

  • Prices range from approximately $35- $400 depending on the piece
  • Average purchase is around $65
  • Affordable pieces range from $30-$50, luxe pieces range $55 and up

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All images are produced by myself.

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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