When COVID-19 sent the province of Ontario into lockdown, local jewelry maker Melissa Dumais wasn’t expecting many sales.
The owner of Miss Melissa’s Things, who lives in Lively, didn’t think many people would want to spend money on jewelry during such an uncertain time.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on small businesses. I was worried that small mom and pop shops like my own wouldn’t survive and would have to shut down for good,” she said.
“I was surprised. Not only did I start getting orders, but I noticed that the kinds of orders I was getting started to change.”
Dumais creates handmade jewelry and other items using a variety of mediums, but for the last three years or so, she has specialized in resin wares.
She sells necklaces, pendants, keychains, broaches and other items via her online store and often works with resin to preserve items she finds in the wilderness like flowers, butterfly wings, or seashells.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dumais would often get requests for custom-made orders that were slight variations on pieces she had already created.
“I would get calls from customers and they would ask me to make a similar piece that is maybe less sparkly or features a slightly different design,” she said.
“After the pandemic started, I started to notice that many people were requesting much more personal items. For example, I got requests to preserve a loved one’s ashes, a woman’s breast milk, and horsehair for a couple who cherished their horses. I have also made custom pieces containing wedding bouquet flowers or flowers from a funeral service.”
Creating art has always been a form of therapy for Dumais. She has always enjoyed using her hands and creating pieces from scratch.
“I decided that one of the things that brings me the most fulfillment was not only creating for my own enjoyment but also creating for others,” she said.
“During the pandemic, we have all been pretty isolated, and our lives have changed so much. We’re usually in such a rush. I think the pandemic has changed our perspective and our priorities a little bit.”
Personally, Dumais has found social distancing to be an isolating experience. Because she works from home, she is used to getting out of the house to see friends and family as much as possible.
After the pandemic started, she began to feel cut off from the world. She decided to reach out to others who were struggling with isolation and connect through her art.
“Usually in the spring, Miss Melissa’s Things is very busy. Almost every weekend there are spring craft shows at the local legions, high schools, and city facilities,” she said.
“This year, everything was cancelled. There was no opportunity for me to interact with customers and see how I am able to help them.”
Social media has been instrumental in helping Dumais stay connected to her customers and create pieces that are meaningful to them.
“I take these custom orders very seriously. They trust me with items that are priceless to them and are asking me to create something beautiful that they are able to wear or use on a daily basis. I would not be able to forgive myself if I ever erred on a custom order like this from a client, so I ensure that there is constant contact. I think that has helped not just myself but also the client to have some sort of communication with the outside world during these troubled times.”
Working with resin is a process that requires patience. When a customer makes a request for something that Dumais has never done before, she asks them to give her time to practise before making the final piece.
“I had one woman approach me in December asking me to preserve a bit of her breast milk in a pendant,” she said.
“I had never done anything like that before, so it took a bit of practise to get it right. December is a busy month for me, so I was able to deliver the final product this spring. I put it on the hood of my car so that we had no contact when she picked it up. Seeing the look on her face and how much that meant to her was incredible.”
As pandemic restrictions continue to ease, Dumais plans to continue experimenting with her art and she looks forward to connecting with customers in the future.
Anyone interested in checking out Miss Melissa’s Things can visit www.facebook.com/MissMelissasThings.
To request a custom made piece, contact Melissa Dumais at (705) 207-4713 or by email at email@example.com.
Colleen Romaniuk is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter at the Sudbury Star. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.