photographs by Jane Schneider
Cheryl Pesche is living her dream as a jewelry maker. Pictured here with her daughter Avery (seated).
Cheryl Pesce strides into La Maison Antiques on Poplar with a sense of purpose, eyeing the booth she’ll soon transform for her trunk show, placing elegant racks and forms amidst the furnishings that will display her handmade necklaces and bracelets made of freshwater pearls. She often chooses pearls with irregular shapes “because I think they’re far more interesting,” she says with a smile. She plants pairs of cufflinks in bowls of black-eyed peas, a good luck nod to her grandmother.
When this 53-year-old single mom started her business several years ago, it was a far cry from her original career as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Yet her creative streak was apparent even as a kid. Her sister reminded Pesce “that when I was 4, I was often creating pins out of safety pins, buttons, and beads.” In fact, she always enjoyed making things, be it button jewelry or macramé plant hangers. After college, Pesce’s focus shifted to sales and her creativity was poured into helping her then-husband market his cardiology clinic in Jackson, Tennessee.
When her daughter was born, she busied herself with motherhood, stepping away from the corporate world to be home with her daughter, Avery, even after a divorce. Like many moms, “I was helping everyone else fulfill their dreams,” she says.
For 15 years, she shepherded Avery through private school, involving her in afterschool activities, and being the go-to mom for field trips and play dates. “I was doing what I thought I should be doing,” she says.
But she soon realized something was missing. There was too much busyness, too much focus on consuming. So she pared back activities and had her daughter home after school, where they’d listen to books, play board games, or do activities that fostered her creativity. “Mom would write down my stories,” says Avery, reflecting on her childhood, “It made me feel like my words were worth something.”
Pesce remembers one morning stopping at the Starbucks after dropping her daughter off at school, and writing on a napkin: “I want to be a producer instead of a consumer.
“I’ve always been a self-starter, it seemed logical to me to be the producer of something.” The question was, what? Inspiration struck when Avery returned from a trip to Europe during high school and showed her mom some interesting keys she’d picked up. Something clicked, and Cheryl was soon stringing old skeleton keys and beads onto leather cords and giving them as gifts to Avery’s teachers. That key unlocked the creativity that had long been focused elsewhere.
Once her daughter was admitted to college (she’s now a sophomore at DePauw University and studying writing), Pesce knew the time was right to dream a new chapter for her life. Instead of returning to the corporate world, she threw her energy into her passion: jewelry making.
She discovered the iridescent beauty of freshwater pearls and began stringing them into long, elegant necklaces. Her collection grew to include sophisticated beaded necklaces, bracelets, and cufflinks made of objects like Tennessee quarters and Buffalo nickels.
She frequently does trunk shows and her jewelry is now available at a variety of specialty shops, including La Maison Antiques, Oak Hall, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the National Ornamental Metal Museum, and Lavish in Collierville.
Today, Pesce says she’s living “the Bohemian life I’d always dreamed of,” residing in a condo downtown and growing her business. It turns out the key to a new life is listening to your heart — and following your dreams.