The pandemic sparked the creation of a handmade-earring business.

This article first appeared in the January/February issue of Missouri Life magazine.

People who view the glass as half empty might be tempted to dwell on the negative repercussions of the pandemic. But those who view the glass as half full, however—like clay artist Katie Simmon—know the pandemic didn’t forever change the world without a little serendipity, too.

If it wasn’t for the pandemic, Katie’s polymer-clay earring business, Soulful Clay Co., would have never seen the light of day. Since she was about ten years old, Katie has frequented Springfield Pottery, a pottery studio owned by her aunt and uncle, Jennifer and Nathan Falter. When it had to close its doors temporarily due to the pandemic, Katie thought her time working with clay had reached its end.

“I didn’t see myself going back to the studio,” she says. “I was moving on with things.”

Polymer-clay earrings became ceramic artist Katie Simmon’s passion during the pandemic. Photos courtesy Katie Simmon

Katie didn’t go back to the studio, but she did find a creative outlet using clay amidst the pandemic—polymer clay, to be specific. Polymer clay is a plastic. It hardens when it is baked in a household oven, so there is no need to get out of the house to find a kiln.

“I think it’s important for people to have a creative outlet, whether you sell it or keep it to yourself or give it away.”

It took time for Katie to master her craft, and she is adamant that everyone must start somewhere. She recalls pink earrings with white fringe that mark the early days of her business and can see how much she has grown since she began. A year and a half later, it’s easy to see the honed skill involved in making her earrings, which come in a variety of colors and shapes. Katie draws from current trends, Pinterest color palettes, and custom orders when she designs her pieces.

The magic happens in a studio area in Katie’s apartment that is dedicated to Soulful Clay Co. It starts with conditioning the clay by rolling and folding it. Then, she uses stencils or clay cutters to shape the clay. Baking the clay in the oven hardens it, then it’s ready for sanding and buffing. She uses a hand Dremel to add holes and attaches the jump rings and backs.

Katie creates nearly one hundred pairs of earrings a month, on average, to fill her Etsy shop and her booth in Formed, a Springfield art gallery. Recently, she participated in Cider Days, an arts and crafts festival that takes place every fall on historic Walnut Street in Springfield. Katie was encouraged by the experience, interacting with people face to face, getting feedback on her products, and sharing her creative process.

“It doesn’t always have to be about a sale,” she says. For Katie, being creative is rewarding in and of itself apart from turning her hobby into a business. As a full-time nursing student and working part-time in a cardiovascular intensive care unit, she knows it is important to make time for creativity, a realization sparked by the pandemic.

“I think it’s important for people to have a creative outlet,” Katie says, “whether you sell it or keep it to yourself or give it away.”

Visit Etsy.com/shop/SoulfuClayCo for more information.