Etsy Crush: Dangling Jewelry

Tam Lai was a tired medical assistant, sick of the morning commute and fed up with relying on child-care. Then, a stroll into A.C. Moore in Dedham changed her life: “As I passed through the jewelry and bead section, I thought, wow,she says. “I started buying all this stuff.” Some trial-and-error, experimentation, and a few how-to books later, she was on her way to becoming the designer behind Etsy’s Dangling Jewelry, a shop offering delicate, nature-inspired pieces.

How did you get into jewelry design?
I’m a very crafty person. I was a florist until I became allergic to flowers. After four or five years, I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when I became a medical assistant, and eventually made jewelry on the side.

What gave you the push to quit your day job?
I had my first baby in 2009. Traveling from Brockton to work [at Newton-Wellesley Hospital] was awful. I had to sit in traffic for two or three hours each way. My husband and I were like, we have to find a better way. One day I was looking online for jewelry stuff and I found Etsy. . . I started listing stuff on the site, and people started buying. From there, I made and sold more. Just last October I quit my job. Everyone was like, “Are you sure? Are you sure?” But I thought if I don’t try, I will never find out.

So what’s your favorite thing about being your own boss?
I can wake up anytime I want! I used to wake up at 5:30 or 6 a.m., to drag my kids out of bed. Now I can get up and do anything, any time.

What inspires your designs?
I take custom orders and I do a lot of bridesmaids jewelry in the summer. Much of it’s personalized, so a customer can request anything—but I always have designs with flowers. Sometimes in the middle of night I come up with these things, or I look in magazines.

What materials do you use?
Sterling silver, gold fill, and gem stones. I have more than 50 kinds of gem stones — it’s very addictive because they’re so beautiful.

Are your designs sold anywhere locally, or just online?
I sell my jewelry at Sisters We Three in Newburyport . . . they offer local artist designs. I deliver worldwide. I get orders from Thailand, Hungary, France—I must have shipped to more than 40 or 50 countries since I started my shop.

And, what’s your busiest time of year?
Christmas, especially this Christmas. I had someone come stay at my house to help with packaging and everything, which takes a lot of work, especially if I do 30 or 40 orders a day.