The joy of being reunited with a former passion is unmatched. Whether that be getting lost in a novel, skateboarding, sketching or, in Brandy Thomason McNair’s case, making jewelry. McNair, the owner of Bella Vita Jewelry, put some distance between herself and her favorite hobby coming out of adolescence, but in rediscovering what she truly loved, she found her way back.
“I’ve been making jewelry since I was 10 years old,” McNair says. “I then worked at stores throughout junior high and high school making a lot of jewelry, and I got burned out on the craft. So, I decided to pursue another interest at the University of Arkansas and I got a degree in interior design.”
Following graduation, McNair moved to Little Rock to work for an architecture firm. She quickly realized that office life wasn’t for her.
“Sitting in an office wasn’t where I wanted to be, so after about of year of working in design jobs, I decided I wanted to start over with something I enjoyed again. I had all the experience and I had all the tools, so I dug them all out and made jewelry for Christmas. That was in 2008, and for years and years I did lots of art and craft fairs and worked three jobs in addition to my little business,” McNair says. “Then, in 2013, I went full-time self-employed and opened our first tiny little storefront next door to where we are now in the Lafayette building. This space opened up later and we jumped right in. We’re now finishing some remodeling in the store and I’m so excited for everyone to see the space.”
Bracelets, necklaces, earrings, brooches and other special items are made and sold at Bella Vita Jewelry. McNair doesn’t shy away from expressive styles and bringing her customers pieces that are meant to show personality.
“The jewelry the store is kind of known for is my collection of antique buttons. My grandmother was an antique button collector and got me interested as a young kid in the time I spent with her. I go through the collection of buttons a couple of times a year and pick out buttons that I think will appeal to other people, and then we make a choice of the button, and then cast it in bronze or silver and make our jewelry around this design,” McNair says. “I think that’s our most unique and signature style jewelry, but we do a lot of one-of-a-kind work with a lot of gemstones, and then we even do hand stamping where you can get things personalized.”
McNair features local artists and craftsmen as well in her store. From art to accessories, McNair enjoys giving fellow small-business owners that extra exposure.
“My mission here is to support other female entrepreneurs, local and fair trade companies. The store probably has 15 or 20 local artists. Anything from woodworking to watercolor to ceramics are all in the store,” McNair shares.
A woman of many talents, McNair is also on the board for the Second Friday Art Night series that takes place in Downtown Little Rock. Art galleries, museums and participating businesses open their doors to the community for an evening of local talent.
“We hope to have [Second Friday Art Night] for many years to come, and Bella Vita has participated for five or six years now,” McNair says. “Getting the community involved in our local art is so important.”
Prior to the pandemic, Bella Vita hosted workshops and classes on jewelry making for customers to get some hands-on experience and have some fun. Stay up to date with the Bella Vita website on when workshops will start up again, and be sure to browse what all is offered in stores.
Photos courtesy Bella Vita.
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