Jewelry as self-expression: Making earrings with character

Danielle Boyce never imagined that the earrings she made for fun would one day form the basis for an online business.

But when she wore them to her internship at the lifestyle blog Studio DIY, her boss loved the handmade pieces so much that she suggested Boyce put them up for sale. Two years later, Boyce’s love for jewelry and knack for entrepreneurship is evident in Muchacha, her slowly developing statement earring business.

Boyce’s earrings have been featured on Studio DIY’s blog, and have their own Instagram page and website. But Boyce, a sophomore in the USC  Iovine and Young Academy, had only shown her earrings to her family and friends before starting the enterprise.

Accidental entrepreneur · Danielle Boyce, a sophomore in the Iovine and Young Academy, began selling her earrings online at the suggestion of her peers. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

“[W]hen someone I really respect creatively … said that I should sell them, I was like ‘OK, I’m actually going to do this,’” she said.

Muchacha began when Boyce “haphazardly” made seven earrings, designed some graphics on Apple word processor Pages and set up a shop on e-commerce service, Etsy. At the time, Boyce mostly relied on her high school graduation money to sustain the business, but as it grew and made more revenue, she invested in higher quality parts for her products.

So far, Boyce has had 11 product launches, with another due later this week. Each launch features seven earrings patterned with different colors and variations. Making the earrings requires an assembly-line process, Boyce noted, though it’s difficult to quantify how long the process takes because each earring is made differently. The “pom-pom earrings” can be made in 10 minutes while “resin earrings” need to cure overnight because they require liquid synthetic resin to harden in a mold.

“I make a ton of them, so … it seems like it consumes every waking hour of my life,” Boyce said.

When Boyce was naming each earring, she originally came up with quirky names like “baby danglers” and “glitter dazzlers.” However, she recently started giving names that embodied the qualities she saw in each set of earrings. On the day of the interview, she spent 30 minutes looking at her earrings and deciding on an appropriate name before calling them “well-rounded hoops.”

Muchacha’s studs and hoops are always 14-karat gold-plated and lead-free, which presumably makes them more comfortable to wear. Boyce was once unable to wear earrings for a week after one pair hurt her ears and hopes to help others avoid similar issues.

Boyce, who was raised in a predominantly white community with parents of different races, also tries to infuse her business with Mexican culture. Muchacha means “young woman” in Spanish, a decision Boyce made to  explore her Mexican culture through her craft.

Coming together · Boyce gives her creations distinctive names, which she hopes will highlight the character she sees in each individual pair of earrings. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

“I think Mexican culture is very vibrant and beautiful, and I really want to honor that in the work that I do,” Boyce said.

With her newer sets, Boyce started to imbue feelings and emotions into the earrings so that people could try to embody those qualities while wearing them. She is always driven to make new pieces when customers or friends tell her that they felt more confident wearing her statement earrings. She hopes that her earrings are expressive and reflective of the people who wear them.

“It’s this notion of the way you dress affecting the way you act and the way you perceive yourself,” Boyce said. “And so when you put on statement earrings, you think, ‘I can pull these off. I can pull off these weird, crazy, giant accessories.’”