“Jewelry is taking over my life,” said 23-year-old Brooke Michaels of Saugerties, who has been making jewelry and energetically merchandising it since middle school. Michaels said she had a “jewelry-making party” at age 13, and loved it so much that she and her friends started a jewelry-making operation, which lasted approximately two weeks. Michaels said that experience sparked an obsession in her that has now led to celebrities such as Randy Jackson, Christian Lee Navarro, Neon Hitch AJ, the band Pepper, Nate Kress and others wearing her OOOK (Etsy-ese for “one of a kind”) hand-crafted pieces.
Michaels’ business, Little Blueberryy, sells hundreds of pieces of jewelry, as well as textiles and other pieces. Her work is available on her website, Etsy and six local shops. She hand-stamps bracelets and necklaces with contemporary, spirited witticisms and spicy declarations, such as “Namaste, bitches” and “Selfie Queen.” She also has a line of hand-stamped men’s bracelets too, “Hustle for the muscle” and “Zen as fuck.”
For her earrings and necklaces, Michaels uses crystals and stones she finds on her travels. She most recently visited Fjordan, Norway, where she bought stones and crystals for use in her pieces.
Michaels described her work as an eclectic mix of crystal work, wire wrapping and hand-stamped metal. “I can do a little bit of everything,” she said. “I crotchet dreamcatchers, using leftover yarn from knitting projects as tails, so all my projects flow together.”
Michaels also has a t-shirt line with sayings from the stamped jewelry, or too long for stamped. “I always say my stuff is for college students and their moms, because there really is something for everyone,” she said. “I have birds’-nest stuff for moms and then F-bombs for younger generations, although at the Garlic Festival I had a 70-year-old woman buy one. It is for anyone with humor and sass, that’s for sure.”
Little Blueberryy grows
Michaels started taking private art lessons at four years old. She said her mom forced her into taking the Ulster-BOCES fashion design program. Michaels enrolled under protest. Already making hand-beaded jewelry that she was selling at Riccardi Elementary school craft fairs, she soon named her business Little Blueberryy. “When I was a little girl I had bright blue eyes that looked like blueberries, and me and my grandmother used to go blueberry-picking, and I loved that,” she said.
Little Blueberryy grew as her skills did, evolving into online Etsy sales while she was in college at Fashion Institute of Technology studying advertising and marketing communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and then later at SUNY Buffalo, where she studied fashion merchandising and textile technology.
“I was taught by an elderly friend, Delores Brink, how to knit,” Michaels said. “She taught me once how to cast. That night, I went out to Michael’s and bought a bunch of yarn, and I haven’t stopped.” Michaels gestured to a bundle of yarn and needles. She continues to knit for relaxation whenever she has a chance.
While she was in Buffalo freezing her blueberries off, she knitted headbands for friends for holiday gifts to keep warm. “My friends were really impressed with what I was knitting, and so my entire line grew and grew as I realized my talents,” she said.
Michaels said she works more than 40 hours a week, and structures her day and week ahead of time — creating new inventory the moment her loaded inventory trunk-full is emptied at a successful show. Her mom has been a longtime crafter, and her father owns Methods Tooling and Manufacturing in Mount Marion.
“The business part was natural,” she said. “My father owns a metal machine factory, so that’s where I get my metal from. My mom went to craft fairs when I was a baby. She used to paint sweatshirts and shirts and sell them at bazaars. Manufacturing gene on one side, art gene on the other side.”
Last year, Michaels went on a friend-cation to California with “a business mindset” to expand and grow her brand. She passed out business cards to people she met. Upon her return, a woman in charge of the MTV Music Video Awards emailed her, praising her work and insisting that celebrities would, too.
Michaels returned to California, this time to Hollywood, to attend the MTV movie and TV awards, where she met 250 celebrities all wearing her jewelry, including the cast of 13 Reasons Why, This is Us and more.
She’s also a yoga instructor
When Michaels is not in her studio making jewelry, she is hiking outside, traveling, running, baking, visiting New York city or teaching yoga — her second deepest passion. She is a yoga instructor at Salt and Soul salt cave and studio in Saugerties, where her work is available in the gift shop. “I can talk about my crystals and what they do, and people there really understand it,” she said. Michaels referred to a large citrine point crystal on the desk in her studio as “the entrepreneurship crystal of money and wealth.”
Darlene Colandrea, owner of Salt and Soul salt cave and spa, said Michaels helps individuals learn about the healing aspects of crystals. “The jewelry has been a hit here, and totally complements our holistic environment,” said Colandrea. “[Michaels] has a wonderful, fun-loving personality with lots of energy and a heart of gold. She truly cares about the well-being of people. If you meet her, you love her.”
Micahels just completed a fundraiser for Colandrea’s daughter, Vicki Thompson, who lost her battle to cystic fibrosis. “It was an amazing tribute to Vicki.”
Donating to charity has been a precious aspect of her business, Michaels said. She donates regularly to the UPSPCA.
For more information, visit Michaels’ webpage at littlebluerryy.com, or follow her on Instagram: @littleblueberryy.