NEELY PHELAN, Founder & Design Director
A self-described “crafty” type, Memphis-born Phelan got her start when she saw a necklace that she loved in a magazine. “It was aquamarine,” she recalls. “I really wanted it, but I think it was like $5,000, if I remember correctly.” Unwilling to invest that much, Phelan decided to source the stones and make her own version of the necklace. It wasn’t long until someone bought it right off of her neck.
“And I thought, ok, I’ll make another one,” she says. “It kind of sparked my interest and I started making more things. I’d say it was probably more of a hobby then. I was making a little bit of money on the side.”
At the time, Phelan — who majored in marketing and advertising at Southern Methodist University — was living in Little Rock and working for ad agency Cap Media, but her jewelry making soon launched her into a position at Dillard’s as a product developer and private label jewelry designer.
Then, in 2005, Phelan and her husband, Patrick, found out they were expecting their first son, Noah, and she left the workforce to become a full-time mother. Once she got accustomed to motherhood, she began making jewelry again. Friends bought her creations, then one local store started carrying her pieces. In the meantime, she and Patrick had two more sons, Pierce, now 7, and Emerson, 5.
After all of her kids were out of toddlerhood, Phelan decided to crank things up a notch and turn her hobby into a real business.
Her biggest break came about two years ago, when she got invited to gift the celebrities at the Grammy’s.
“I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I’m either going to go big and do it really well this year and see, or just not do it.’ That kind of gave me the edge to take it to the next step,” she says.
Inspired by the past, Phelan says she likes to design pieces that have a history. She often combines vintage elements like Art Deco-style dress clips, buckles and beads with organic pieces like stone and buffalo bone. All of the pieces are handmade by Phelan, sometimes with a little help from her husband, and many are one-of-a-kind. The result is a collection of bold, statement-making pieces like none ever seen.
Currently, Phelan’s jewelry can be purchased online and at various boutiques and department stores in Arkansas, California, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Canada.
Her jewelry has appeared on the cover of Pregnancy and Newborn magazine, and also on the pages of Redbook, InStyle, OK!, Nylon, People, Cosmopolitan and many others.
Story credit from Little Rock Soiree.