Alumni Find Entrepreneurial Opportunities at Squirrel City Jewelers
If you take a stroll down Acorn Alley, you will find a charming shop called Squirrel City Jewelers owned by Kent State alumnus Michael Faehnel. Michael earned his B.F.A. in Jewelry/Metals/Enameling and Glass from the School of Art and decided to stay local after he graduated in 2004. He said he loves the “balance of playful curiosity, civic and ethical responsibility, and passion for creating an atmosphere that is both joyful and meaningful” which is abundantly present in the city of Kent.
Michael contrives a joyful ambience at Squirrel City Jewelers by selling handmade jewelry crafted by local artists as well as his own treasures. He began on a tight budget and used the skills he learned from his undergraduate degree to help him build a prosperous business. He said, “There are a lot of fundamental skills that are developed in the B.F.A. program beyond just your technical education, especially on the business side. Plus, the open exploration of ways to achieve your goals and the resources available are a key component of being prepared for entrepreneurship.”
What makes Squirrel City Jewelers such a jovial endeavor is the passionate personalities of its artists. Jewelry often carries a special meaning to the owner which makes the relationship between the artist and the wearer extremely profound. “Heirloom engagement rings, lockets that make the owner cry, a fantastic pair of fun earrings that brings you joy just to know you're wearing them...I could list items all night that embody the adventurous spirit of jewelry.” Speaking of adventure, the creation process of jewelry is pretty spectacular— from sawing to sandblasting to soldering. Michael loves experimenting with different techniques and tools in order to keep pushing his boundaries. He said, “Sometimes you're making some weird and interesting thing just to make the weird and interesting thing. It's not the stuff I end up creating that stokes the fires of the playful adventurous spirit I admire in life...it's the people you make them with. That's what I want you to find here. And sometimes the weird cool thing you can't live without.” The importance of community surely remains at the heart of Squirrel City Jewelers.
Selling her handmade work at Squirrel City Jewelers has helped Michelle Pajak-Reynolds, B.F.A. 2001, to connect with local clients. These clients have become her friends and show interest in how she creates her collections. “They also appreciate the stories about my gemstone mining adventures and features on the red carpet at the Primetime Emmy Awards and the runways of New York Fashion Week,” she said. Michelle still applies the skills she learned from Kent’s B.F.A. program today: “Telling a visual story across several designs and discussing it with customers are skills I use every day when creating and exhibiting my jewelry collections.” In addition to selling jewelry at Squirrel City Jewelers, Michelle’s work can also be found at Heights Arts Gallery and online at Artful Home and her website.
You can visit Squirrel City Jewelers online or in person to experience its whimsical character for yourself. “So far, I'm very proud of how we are growing. Squirrel City takes a lot of people not everyone gets to meet and know to exist that way it does. I'm extremely grateful for the energy and love that is put into this place by everyone, and we're having fun doing it,” said Michael.
Images: (top) Ring made by Michael Faehnel and the storefront of Squirrel City Jewelers in Kent, Ohio; (within text) Michael in front of the storefront windows, jewelry in the case created by Michael Faehnel; Model wearing jewelry created by Michelle Pajak-Reynolds; Fingerprint ring created by Jak Figler; Pins created by Danny Likar for Scribbles Coffee Co.