In the fall of 2012, jewelry business owner Karla Piper was still looking for her niche. The former merchant marine and Vicksburg resident wanted to market her Siesta Silver Jewelry line to women over 30 with disposable incomes and who liked nice things, but so far Piper had not been successful.
Then, after exhibiting her wares at the Lawton Country Quilters Quilt Show that only 195 people attended, she realized she had found them: quilters.
“They’re so nice!” she says.
Piper went home and, with her mother, who is a quilter, brainstormed how to capture that market. Inspired by the Vicksburg Quilt Trail in her hometown, Piper designed jewelry featuring textured blocks from historic quilt patterns available in the public domain, like the Dresden Plate. She sold her first quilt block jew-elry to enthusiastic buyers at the Marshall Stitches in Time Quilt Show in March 2013.
More than 60 quilting-related stores across the U.S. and Canada now sell Siesta Silver Jewelry, which features 11 quilt block patterns in sterling silver variations like rings, pendants, bracelet charms, and quilt pins. Piper designs all her jewelry and has it made through a business liaison in Taxco, Mexico, a city known for its silver deposits and jewelry artisans.
In addition to being carried by stores, Piper sells her jewelry online and at quilting shows across the country. She spends 7—10 days each month traveling to shows and alternates travel schedules with her husband, Mark, a training manager for Packers Sanitation Services, to accommodate their two teenage sons.
Piper says she loves meeting new customers and seeing the people who knew her at the beginning of her business. “With the vendors, it’s like a circus family,” she says. “You see the same people at different places.”
The shows are all-day affairs Piper attends with the help of her mom and sometimes a family friend. “It’s fun, it’s just a lot of work,” Piper says, but boasts that she has whittled packing her van with inventory and signage down to a 20-minute science.
Piper’s jewelry appeared as a “Fabulous Find” in the November 2013 issue of American Quilter, causing the demand for her jewelry to explode. Members of Kalamazoo Log Cabin Quilters, a guild with more than 250 members including Piper, kept requesting she make a special Log Cabin block until Piper created it for them.
Piper periodically “retires” block patterns to keep things fresh and because, she says, “If you don’t have new items, people are going to pass by.” This summer, Piper will give any jewelry she is retiring to an organization called Quilters Dream Batting that gives quilts to people diagnosed with ALS.
And she’ll be back out on the road, selling at quilt shows. “You have to go to these markets to create that buzz,” she says. “It’s imperative.”
So far, her plan seems to be working.