When Jillian Marsh was 7 years old, she was with her mom at a fabric store that was going out of business. As she rummaged through bins of merchandise, she found some seed beads, took them home and created her first piece of jewelry.
An artist was born, and Marsh has created jewelry ever since. Today, Marsh owns Sandcastle Jewelry, which she runs out of her home. She works with stones, metals, leather and other materials to create her line of jewelry.
“Somebody described (my jewelry) when I was younger; they said, ‘Your style is very organic,’” Marsh said. “At first I didn’t know about that, but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s kind of true. I like the natural colors and natural shapes that I find in the stones and leather. I’d say the jewelry is a little bit bohemian eclectic.”
She named her business Sandcastle Jewelry because she was reading the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew in the Bible. The Gospel says “the wise man” built his house on a rock instead of sand, meaning wise men have a strong foundation with God. Marsh said the name of her business reminds her that jewelry is fun but is not the most important aspect of life.
Marsh sells her jewelry online, and this year she began selling it at three local retail locations: The Sweet Mercantile in El Dorado, the art gallery called The Bank in Matfield Green and the Workroom in Wichita.
She said she didn’t quite consider jewelry making her career until 2015 when she entered and placed in the top 10 on a reality television show featuring jewelry designers on JTV called “Rock Star Designer.”
“They were really complimentary, and it was really nice,” Marsh said. “It was about that time I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I really do this.’”
Although Marsh didn’t major in jewelry making in college, she did take a silversmithing class. After she earned her degrees in marketing and communications and moved to El Dorado with her family, she spent a number of semesters auditing Butler Community College’s jewelry classes until it discontinued its program. She took advantage of an unfortunate situation and picked up some of the equipment the college was selling.
Marsh is married with three children, ages 3, 5 and 7. Her husband, Caleb Marsh, manages the Captain Jack Thomas Airport in El Dorado and runs Marsh Flying Services. Marsh’s children keep her busy, so her work time often is stolen when children are napping or at school.
To create each piece of jewelry, first Marsh needs design inspiration.
“When I am outside doing things outside, I come up with my ideas,” Marsh said. “I have more ideas than time right now. I keep a notebook with me all the time to write them down.”
Marsh cuts her own stones for her pieces using a stone saw and grinding wheels. This process can take two hours for a single stone.
Next, Marsh constructs the jewelry, using items like leather, wood and recycled metals. She often uses old airplane aluminum and metal from scrap yards because she appreciates recycled metal’s imperfections.
“I like to say my jewelry looks fine with a little black dress, but it works really well with blue jeans,” she said.