Tolleson jewelry maker heading to Emmys – azcentral.com

Holiday Manning wanted to bring her business into prime time, but she didn’t expect that her next audition would be the Emmy Awards.

Manning, who handcrafts original jewelry at her Tolleson farm, was shocked to receive an invitation to include her work in the “swag bags” that will be given to some of the actors, stylists and other trendsetters attending the television awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sept. 20.

After 20 years of building her business, the 38-year-old is eager for her big break.

She has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the money for the venture.

“It’s such a leap of faith,” Manning said, “but when else am I going to see all those people in one room?”

Getting started

Manning attended  Peoria High School, where she participated in Future Farmers of America  and leaned toward a career in agriculture, not art. But for a boyfriend’s birthday, she decided to try making a necklace. “It was just seed beads,” Manning said, “but it was the first time I’d done anything like it. Then all my friends wanted one, so I made them for everybody and kind of got the bug.”

The bug persisted. Manning got a job after graduation, and her co-workers requested so many custom pieces that she often carried a briefcase full of beading supplies to the office. When she was 19, she started selling her jewelry at festivals under the business name “The Queen Bead.”

However, beading didn’t squelch Manning’s love of gardening. She worked at plant nurseries until she married and started a small farm with her husband. In 2001 —the year their first daughter was born — the couple bought three acres in Tolleson, which her husband, Jon Manning, named Holiday Farm. They planted pomegranates, mulberry trees and rows and rows of strawberries.

Discovering silver

While tending both baby and farm and doing beading on the side, Manning enrolled at Arizona State University to study biology. One semester, she picked up an elective in silversmithing. It was her first experience with metal-working, and she described her reaction as, “Oh, this is exactly it! This is what I want to do!”

Manning’s second daughter was born in 2003, and for a while she had little time for either jewelry or school. But as the girls got older, she took classes at the former Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, the Mesa Arts Center and anywhere else she could find them. She studied stone-setting, soldering, and casting, as well as business and marketing. She interned with other jewelers, trading free work for the lessons that come only from experience.

As she added skills, Manning’s work evolved into a style she calls “country meets Boho.”

She described her customers as “people like me, who like to garden and be outdoors and who love a simpler life.”

Her studio, tucked inside a storage building on the farm, is filled with metal-working tools and botanical inspiration. Dried agave stalks flank her desk, and field guides share shelves with boxes of beads. The steel work table was salvaged from a nursery.

Seated at that table, Manning crafts earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings featuring natural images such as stars, flowers, horseshoes, butterflies and bird’s nests. She combines silver and bronze with beads, semi-precious stones and other materials for an intentionally rustic effect.

“I don’t want my jewelry to be perfect,” she explained. “I have no interest in designing jewelry, then having a machine make it. I run from that kind of jewelry.”

From Etsy to Emmys

In 2004, Manning recognized that she had far outgrown her beading hobby and relaunched her business, naming it Soli after her daughters, Sophora and Lily. She began leasing a weekly booth next to the Holiday Farms stand at the Estrella Farmer’s Market in Goodyear. By 2008, the Mannings had moved the farm and jewelry stands to the larger Phoenix Public Market.

Sales from the market, various festivals, pop-up shops and custom orders have brought Soli Jewelry to the break-even point. But Manning has yet to make a profit. Last year, she set up a website, Etsy shop, Facebook page and Instagram feed to reach new customers. By this summer, with her daughters turning 14 and 12, she was ready for Soli to grow, too.

Her efforts were rewarded on July 13, when she received an e-mail asking if she wanted to distribute her work at a gift suite for the Emmys. Manning was so surprised that at first she thought it was a hoax.

Happily, the invitation was legitimate. It came from Jennifer Heumann, a producer for California-based Celebrity Connected, which organizes gift suites for gala events like the Emmy Awards. Heumann was looking for new vendors when she spotted Manning’s Facebook page.

“I’m always looking for something unique and special that would appeal to the celebrities we work with, and I really got that sense from (Manning’s) work,” Heumann said.

According to Heumann, there are other gift suites, including some featuring mega-brands and luxury items. However, the Celebrity Connected event, which will be held at Club Nokia on Sept. 19, will include only 40 small businesses, allowing each to snag some precious face time with the 100–120 attendees. Vendors will be able to give their work directly to the influential guests, tucking samples into the giant totes known as swag bags, and making their best pitches to people they might otherwise never meet.

Reaching for the stars 

Manning decided to accept the invitation, hoping that at least one of the celebrity guests will be the connection that gets her to the next level. Maybe an actress will be photographed in one of her necklaces, or a magazine will feature her earrings, or a costume designer will hire her to accessorize a character — or a whole show.

But there is still what Manning jokingly called “a small hurdle” to overcome. The vendor fee for the event is $5,000, plus the cost of 200 gift items, marketing materials and packaging, which add up to a huge cost for her small business.

Seeking a boost over that last hurdle, Manning launched a GoFundMe campaign that has so far received almost $1,300 from family, friends, customers and other businesses. One contributor, Cheryl Chapman of Yuma, met Manning back when they were FFA officers, and is happy to help a farming buddy share her other passion.

“She always encourages everyone to be creative, but she really lives it,” Chapman said.

Even if Manning has to find most of the money herself, she said the support of her backers has pushed her to do things she wouldn’t ordinarily do, like contact costume designers and invite them to visit her booth. It’s far outside her comfort zone, she said, but after 20 years she doesn’t want to miss this chance.

With barely two weeks until she leaves her farm and heads to LA, Manning is polishing necklaces, packaging earrings and tying ribbons onto the boxes that will carry her creations out to a wider world. And what did she put in those boxes? That decision, at least, was easy: several dozen lucky horseshoes and a whole lot of stars.