Corporate big shot to small town jewelry maker: Whitney Haynes Designs

Whitney Haynes was never a jewelry person until she started making her own.

“I played a lot of sports, was an outdoor person, went to summer camp. And I think my influence came from doing the summer camp thing, where you wear your friendship bracelets and make kind of craft jewelry. I totally think that’s a big part of it. So I always say my jewelry is grown-up camp jewelry."

For one of Haynes’s jewelry lines, she makes a trip to her cottage and spends the day collecting birch bark from the forest floor, which she proceeds to incorporate into hundreds of necklaces, rings and bracelets.

Her other materials of choice consist of locally made, hand-dyed, hand-cut leather, sheet metal and silver that gets shipped in from an eco-friendly company in the United States.

Though Haynes has always had a love for being creative (more on the design side than fine art), she hasn't been a jewelry maker all that long.

Before starting her own business, Haynes was a food buyer for Costco in Toronto for 17 years. She said she was your typical corporate person, having to be flown in and out of the city a few times a week, working long hours and leaving a nanny with her two children.

"Although I did okay in the corporate world. It just never felt quite right to me,” Haynes says.

And so, her family formed an exit plan.

Having originally been from Kingston, Whitney returned home. Her husband acquired a job at Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School and Haynes decided to make her own living, starting out as an interior painter.

"Part of moving down here, I did have, in the back of my mind, the idea of creating something for myself – a business. And I think I always hoped it would be in the creative, makers' realm."

She began taking part-time courses at St. Lawrence College, trying to find something she was passionate about and finally came across silver smithing.

It was easy to do, didn’t require costly start-up equipment and soon became something she loved doing. However, she didn’t take it on full-time until she knew her business would go nowhere but up, which it has: this year Haynes tripled the number of shows she’s going to.

When it comes to making the jewelry, Haynes says she gets a lot of her inspiration from nature and interior design.

“(Interior design is) kind of ahead in trends and colours. And so, I guess I’m just sort of drawn to the new and changing things, and it happens first there."

With the jewelry she makes, none of it stays with her forever.

“I’m not very sentimental… It’s more like, if I make something really cool, I hope someone wants to buy it."

She says when she picks out jewelry to wear to her shows, she expects them to be bought right off of her, which happens in most cases.

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