A surprise side hustle goes full-time.
Woodworker and jewelry designer Jess Budnick may be new to woodworking, but the craft has taken root deeply in her life already. Her line of handcrafted jewelry highlights the beauty of the rare wood burl and is aptly named Blonde & Burl Wood Co. She lives and creates in the small town of Clover, South Carolina near the North Carolina border and the greater Charlotte metro area.
“I started playing around with wood back in August 2019. My husband makes custom wooden long range rifle stocks by hand and he had tons of gorgeous scraps he was saving and we started to make small trinkets. He surprised me with some walnut and resin rings one day as a gift and it kind of just expanded from there! I made some earrings for myself and got so many compliments and requests I started to make even more!” explains Budnick.
Her freshly sparked curiosity and eye for accessories quickly turned into a side hustle, and now an LLC. The product line has expanded to include one-of-a-kind necklaces, earrings, and cufflink and tie bar sets for men.
Inspired by the modern combination of the wood burl and epoxy resin, Budnick decided to create her own twist on the now-famous combination of the two materials. Statement styles include bold geometric shapes and fine metal adornments as featured in the Luna Earrings, which are made of stabilized Buckeye burl.
“I have a very understated style. I like solid colors and basic patterns. So I love to get out of my element or my comfort zone and build crazy, colorful statement pieces that make any outfit “pop!” The resin paired with an incredible woodgrain is really key to this.” says Budnick.
Using only a bandsaw and a belt sander, handwork is Budnick’s main tool when creating her designs. Details like the chamfer on the edge of the Maple Burl Tie Bar paired with inset cufflinks adds the right bit of elegance to the already naturally stunning burl grains.
Despite being new to the craft, Budnick has big plans for her designs and woodworking skills, “I’m hoping to do more than jewelry one day soon. So I’ve recently taken on a full time carpentry job to really absorb as much information as I can. My uncle is a master carpenter and lives close by. We hang out often and I’ve been working with him learning for about a month now.”
Budnick is jumping into her new passion with both feet and determination that is as bold as her designs are.
“This wood jewelry business really started out as a fun hobby and then into a side hustle. I’d love to be able to use all this pent up creative energy and turn that into a full time gig and be my own boss. That is the ultimate goal.” She adds, “So I quit my office administrative job in March and decided to take the risk and learn more about carpentry and woodworking as a full time gig. Desk jobs can be boring and safe so I keep telling myself that if I want to work for myself, I need to act like it!”
The labor of love that come with woodworking and hand work doesn’t deter Budnick in the least, if anything it stokes the fires of craft and creativity that so many of us find within ourselves when pulled to the craft.
“It is taxing but so fulfilling at the same time. I love to be able to look at my display table at markets and tell people when they ask, ‘Yes, I built everything on this table.’ My jewelry stands, peg boards, cookies, everything. Gives me a great sense of pride knowing how much time and love went into my pieces. Almost all of my wood is scraps from my husband so it’s all repurposed. Almost all of the wood he uses is locally sourced from another local saw mill we frequent. I love being able to tell shoppers that not only are they shopping from a local business but they’re wearing local trees.”