By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When Bend’s Kimberly Markley decided to make her first pair of earrings in 2012, she says she just wanted to make some cool-looking jewelry shaped like hop flowers.
She had no idea it was the start of what would become a full-time business.
From making beer-themed earrings just for kicks, Markley turned her hobby into a growing endeavor called Hopped Up Jewelry.
Through her sole proprietorship, she now makes earrings, necklaces, rings and more, all based on her own hops-shaped designs. The basic designs are made of machined stainless steel, brass and copper, and she finishes the pieces by hand. Her business includes an account with the state’s biggest beermaker, Deschutes Brewery.
But the decision to go from amateur jeweler to starting a business wasn’t an easy one.
“I don’t have a business degree or a background in jewelry making, so I started learning from scratch — just reading books and branching out,” Markley says while sitting in her studio in Bend.
She relates the story of making her first pair of earrings, simply to express her individuality while waiting tables at a Bend tavern called Brother Jon’s Public House.
When she made that first pair, a friend and regular customer at Brother Jon’s machined an initial design — based on her artwork — on a plasma cutter. She finished it off on her own, and the reaction was almost immediate.
“I think the thing that really got me started on starting a business were my friends,” Markley says. “They were like ‘Kim, these are really cool, you should make them. We want them!’ And I had to be convinced that it was something that people would actually want to wear.”
That reaction from customers and acquaintances is what eventually led to Hopped Up Jewelry.
“So I just started making them for people who asked,” Markley says. “It was definitely a labor of love the first couple of years, because I was working full time and I wasn’t making anything on them.”
She continued making earrings on the side before doing some traveling in 2014, which included a stint living and working in New Zealand. When she got back, she decided to give Hopped Up a go as a full-time endeavor.
Despite a lack of jewelry-making experience, it’s not like it was a huge leap for Markley, at least from an artistic standpoint. She had been a wedding and portrait photographer in the past, and photography is still one of her passions.
That artistic creativity comes out in the packaging as well — the products are mounted on beer coasters she stamps by hand.
Hopped Up Jewelry is still pretty small; Markley does everything from the jewelry making and finishing to sales and order fulfillment on her own. Her studio is in an RV, which she affectionately refers to as Stella. “Good creative vibes happen here,” Markley says with a smile.
But with two years of business under her belt and a growing line of products, Markley says she has aspirations of growing the business.
It’s a pretty good career fashioned out of some earrings made on a whim.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.