Whatever Kenna McCall does, she thoughtfully puts her heart and soul into which carried into her business. From a career as a licensed marriage and family therapist and social worker to ethically sourcing stones and gems and telling their stories through custom-made jewelry. Kenna looks at things from all angles as she does not only what’s best for herself but everyone else and the environment too.
Kenna started mining gems and creating jewelry later in life as a creative outlet for her emotionally exhausting 9-5 job. She found belonging and friendship in the local mining community. And shortly after, she started experimenting with making jewelry, where she got amazing feedback on the uniqueness of her designs.
It was then Kenna realized she had a superpower in making jewelry to enhance the gem and tell the stone’s story.
Between the feedback she was receiving from pros in the industry despite minimal training and the fulfillment she felt making jewelry, Kenna decided to quit her 9-5 job and pursue her passion full-time.
Shortly after she began mentorship programs, she took jewelry-making courses and metalsmith classes. She invested in herself because she knew this was what she wanted to do more than anything.
And beyond that, she had an innate natural talent unlike anyone else’s that helped her see this was what she was meant to do.
Kenna shares the advantages of buying from small local artists and investing in your community instead of making millionaires and billionaires even richer.
This interview has it all, from the major disadvantages to fast fashion, ethically mining stones, and pushing past the fear of imposter syndrome.
I learned so much from Kenna McCall, and I think you will too.
When it comes to making jewelry it seems you’re a ‘jack of all trades.’ How did you get started doing it all?
Kenna: I got started with the stones first. Most people either do stones, or they do metal, but I do both. I was a marriage and family therapist and social worker dealing with mental health, homelessness, very high stress, child welfare, that kind of thing. I was always in my head, and I needed something to take my focus onto something beautiful.
Since I was a kid, I’ve been a rock collector. In the city I was living in at the time, they had a lapidary club, and lapidary means people who cut gemstones. There were so many amazing, quirky people who have been doing this all their lives as amateurs or geologists. And so they taught me how to identify stones and how to cut stones and all of that.
And I had an opportunity to leave my career early, so I just threw myself full time into the gemstone and learning. And I just couldn’t get enough of it. I would go out on field trips and dig and all that kind of stuff.
Then I cut all these stones and sometimes sell them. But I didn’t like what people were doing with them. And I realized I had a vision for the stone when I was cutting it.
So I took metalsmithing courses and classes. I got mentors and learned how to work with silver and copper to make my own designs. Then when I looked at a stone, I could also design the setting. I could complete the story of the stone.
Is there a specific meaning behind the name of your company, TerrAdore?
Kenna: Yes, TerrAdore in Canada. But English is Latin based, and these stones are Latin based. So ‘terr’ means the earth, and ‘adore’ means love. So TerrAdore means to love the earth.
What led you to make the leap and pursue TerrAdore full-time?
Kenna: It took a while because I loved my job, I loved the people I worked with, and I was good at it. It was a very rewarding career, but it was also exhausting. By the time I left, I was ready to go and turn a page. The creative and artistic side has always been there, and I would manifest it in different ways, but it was always pushed to the side.
I had a yearning to express that more because I felt it had been suppressed in the interest of helping other people. I was attracted to the stones, and then as I worked more with them, I developed this appreciation of their beauty and potential.
It was just a flow, emerging, evolving process of my creativity coming to the surface, especially as I started the metalsmithing. People start that in their twenties and go to schools in Europe to learn goldsmithing.
I was starting way back. I didn’t have a lifetime to learn, so technically, I wasn’t great, but I was getting an enormous amount of positive feedback on my designs. There were people who had been making jewelry forever whose work was beautiful, but the design wasn’t particularly outstanding.
Whereas mine, the technical part, was alright. Your average person wouldn’t notice, but a jeweler would. However, my design was really unusual. I hear all the time, whether it’s other jewelers or people who buy for me, I’ve never seen anything like this. Or I’ve never worn jewelry, but I love yours.
So I realized something was there. There was some sort of creativity and artistic expression. So I tried to cultivate it. I had no artistic or design background or anything like that, so it was just completely intuitive, just from a dream kind of thing.
What are the benefits of ordering custom-made jewelry compared to fast fashion jewelry?
Kenna: Well, apart from the fact that it’s one of a kind, so when you wear it, nobody else has it. And if it’s particularly unusual, you will get a lot of attention.
If you’re buying things from a major jewelry producer, yours might be custom to you because you’ve chosen the pieces, but everybody else is wearing the same style.
You can choose a design that speaks to your personality, say it’s bold or strong. You’re communicating that before you even open your mouth. You’re giving an impression. So that’s one aspect of it, but there’s also its practicalities and the ethical issues.
Fast fashion is fast because it exploits people to make it cheap and make it fast. And even beyond ethical reasoning, custom-made jewelry helps support people in your own community.
People are always saying, oh, I love the artists. I love the markets. I love this and that. But then they go to the internet and buy from the big billionaires so they can buy a new toy to go to space in.
Your local people make your community what it is, and they’re struggling to get by. So to have your support means everything to them, and they have beautiful products on top of it.
Yes, you may not be able to get five of them for that dollar amount, but you have one spectacular piece that can be your legacy piece. You can leave it to your children and your grandchildren or whoever, or to a friend who loves and admires it because it will last.
And then there’s also safety, which people don’t know about. Fast fashion uses metals that are obtained from China or somewhere else in Asia. And the regulatory controls of metals, even if it says sterling silver, that’s not what they are. The standards aren’t the same.
So the piece that says sterling silver might have toxic things like lead or nickel. And the worst-case scenario, they might have cadmium in it, which is fatal. It’s deadly in large amounts. And it may not be to you, but it might be to your child or your baby who’s rubbing up against it or putting it in its mouth.
And then, for fast-fashion costume jewelry, it’s even worse. They don’t regulate that in North America the way they do in Europe. Here they’ve only performed random testing. And whenever they do random testing of the jewelry at the local mall, where all the teenagers and kids shop, because it’s cheap and it’s trendy, they find horrible things in them like cadmium and lead.
Children put jewelry in their mouths and wear it all the time. They wear them in the shower. And they can have health repercussions, particularly to children, but to adults as well. Nowadays, people are so sensitive because of the environment.
I only use metals produced in North America so I know they’re safe and don’t have toxins. And I never use anything that has anything people might be sensitive or allergic to.
For example, the only metals I use are for earrings are sterling silver, gold, or niobium, which is a new metal, but it’s non-reactive. If I’m making copper jewelry, I don’t want silver ear wire on it, I want it to match, so I’ll get niobium. And it’s not a cheap metal either, but it’s that extra care and attention you’ll get with custom jewelry rather than fast fashion where all they want is your money.
Fast fashion doesn’t care about your safety, your children’s safety, the ethics of making it, or how the raw materials were obtained.
As a business owner, what are the benefits of being on a smaller scale and only creating original jewelry?
Kenna: Well, as a small business owner, you’re your own boss. I have had bosses for a long time, and I really enjoy being my own boss because it’s on you if you fail. But if you’re successful, you know what you’re putting into it. And if you’re really passionate about it, that can be extremely rewarding.
You have to be prepared for the downsides, though. COVID just about destroyed artists because we sell at art shows which stopped. It’s difficult to appreciate art jewelry or custom jewelry online. It just doesn’t translate the way it does in person.
Do you have a favorite type of jewelry to make?
Kenna: Well, geez. They’re your babies. When you’re making them, they’re your children. And you’re asking me which is my favorite child.
There are some things that I’m not so crazy about doing, but I do them. I make a more affordable line of jewelry in copper, for example.
They sell at some of the local boutiques because I understand that not everybody can afford a piece of silver. Silver’s gone up in price 250% since the beginning of COVID.
Some gemstones are very expensive. Even though I try to keep my prices for silver gemstone jewelry down to $100, that’s still too much for some people. So I try to do affordable copper earrings and that kind of thing.
But I don’t know; they just don’t fill my soul as much as a gemstone will, as I see it evolve into its setting. So it’s not so much which ones I like better. The more time I have with a design and a gemstone, the more attached I become to it. I’d say that.
On your website, you mention you’ll dig and collect materials yourself. What’s that process like?
Kenna: Well, I don’t do a lot of it anymore because I’m getting a little past that, but the lapidary clubs often organize field trips, but I’ll do it two ways. Either on my own or with a group.
There’ll be one or two of these prospector types who have found somewhere within maybe 100 miles of where the club is, and they will get permission, whether it’s on private property or if it’s public, to bring a group there.
And so off we go in our little cars, and then the leader or whoever it is that organized it will say, okay, this is what you’re looking for. And we found some here, there, and over there. So off you go, and everybody’s got picks, sledgehammers, and the whole bit.
On those occasions, there’s always a bunch of young guys. So I hand them the sledgehammer and say, how about right there? Everybody helps everybody else.
But, you end up with these giant boulders. Not much I can do with that. So I take them into the city where they have a special slabbing machine, which is super expensive. And we pay to have them slabbed. Then I’ll take it, draw in whatever shape I want, and cut it on my saw.
And then other times we’ll go to a mine. There are some small mines around here, and we’ll pick through their waste pile. They’re mining for something specific, and often it’s for industrial metals or industrial minerals. And so their waste pile is full of really beautiful things that we can use.
My family lives on Vancouver Island, so I go there quite often. And like most islands, it was created by a volcano. There’s a mountain, streams, and rivers that go down to the ocean. I love digging around in the river.
The process of coming down the mountain in the water smooths off a lot of the hard edges, and they’re clean. So the rivers are really nice for me and even beaches. Lake Ontario has amazing agate beaches and things like that. I’m looking for anything that has a pretty color and a nice pattern.
Why is it important to only purchase gems from local miners or people who are respectful to the land, people, and environment?
Kenna: Well, a lot of people ask me if my crystals or gemstones are cleansed. And what they mean by that is have I taken sage and smoked them.
And I think to myself, well, if they were obtained by child labor or inhumane labor practices or areas where the mines are exploiting people and destroying the groundwater of their village, these kinds of things, and disrupting the whole economic system in their village, then I can cleanse them with sage forever and they’re still going to be tainted.
There’s a lot of people who love crystals, and I think that’s fabulous because they appreciate nature’s beauty and what it produces. But I want them also to think of how they came to them. And if they’re asking if they’re cleansed, they care about the energy and how they were obtained.
I want to encourage them to go a little beyond that and think, okay, who actually took it out of the earth and what were the circumstances there? Was it paid for it? And was it respectful to the land as well?
That’s what I appreciate here in Canada because there’s a lot of gemstones in indigenous lands and the indigenous people are much more conscious. I’m generalizing here, but conscious of treating the land respectfully and not just going in with this attitude of taking it out and making money now because who cares what happens tomorrow?
And particularly now, with the environment the way it is, we have to start thinking about our planet and how we care for it. And the people on it who are less fortunate than us too.
What made you decide to start using Tailwind for your business?
Kenna: Well, I am in the pre-internet age, so I am not very tech-savvy. I was aware of Tailwind in the early days when it was more of a scheduling app. Then when COVID started, I had to get my technological act together and get a better presence online.
I had social media and a website, but I didn’t spend as much time on it as I should have. With COVID, I had the time to do that. But I found it was time-consuming to be on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. There are just so many.
So yes, I finally learned how to use it. I learned graphic design for social media and photography. Along the way, it had been recommended, I spend more time on Pinterest, being a very visual platform.
I needed to up my game on Pinterest, so I took a webinar, and she talked about Tailwind. I was surprised because I knew about Tailwind, but I thought, what do they have to do with Pinterest? I looked more into it and thought, oh, you mean to say that I could do a post once and get it on three sites? The time-saving really appealed to me.
What’s your favorite Tailwind feature, and why?
Kenna: Create. Before Tailwind, I took my photos, went to a photo editor, then created graphics in Canva, and then went to a scheduler. I will be honest it took me a little longer to get, but I was committed to learning Create.
I spent the time, and I got a lot of great help from customer support. That was one thing I was really impressed with. They were patient with me and explained it very clearly.
When I figured it out, I liked the graphic options. I didn’t have to sit there and pretend to be a graphic designer. All I had to do was plug in the style that I wanted, the colors, the things that were distinctive to my brand, and upload my photo. And then I was getting all these amazing options. Then you can edit and tweak them a little bit too. So I thought, oh, this is great. And then the scheduling too. They even give me recommended times.
Create saves me so much time, and it ups my game. I’ve had so much positive feedback on my social media pages and my website because of the graphics. And the graphics, too, are consistent because they’re created for me, almost customized for my brand.
What’s next for you and TerrAdore Jewelry?
Kenna: After Christmas, I’m going to take some time and take stock. Not with the jewelry-making aspect of my business. However, I want to learn some new things, some new techniques like using ancient techniques. And I’m a perpetual learner. I love to try and learn new things.
From a business perspective, I would like to slow down on doing shows. The packing up and moving of everything in the displays is just exhausting. And I would like to have a better online presence.
When I do my Google analytics, I noticed people from Europe, the United States, and across Canada are buying from me or coming to my website. I’ve been thinking more locally, so I need to start thinking more about what I’m offering online and how I’m offering it. I’d like to be international.
Where you can find Kenna McCall and TerrAdore Jewelry
Want to take a look and purchase one-of-a-kind statement pieces from TerrAdore Jewelry? You can find her pieces listed for sale on her website!
Psst! This Pin was made in seconds with Tailwind Create. Try it for yourself!