Former graphic designer created new career as jewelry designer


By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing Writer

Nancy Marland

Swampscott – Nancy Marland had a 30-year career as a self-employed graphic designer, but at age 55 she decided that for the next phase of her life she was ready for something different.

“I wanted to move away from the computer and work with my hands,” said the 60-year-old Swampscott resident. “Knowing change was inevitable I was exploring possible avenues to take my creativity. I had worked with ceramics for a number of years, eventually leading to working with silver metal clay, which led to designing jewelry.”

Four and a half years later, Nancy Marland Jewelry is an established and profitable business that she’s looking forward to continuing to work at and build for many years to come. 

“The career I was leaving had seen better days,” she recalled. “Changes in technology during the last decade have placed graphic design capabilities into the hands of virtually everyone, making it increasingly hard for me to make a living. Plus, I just desperately needed a change.”

Today, instead of staring at page layouts on a computer monitor all day, she is shaping sterling silver and polymer clay into unique forms of jewelry she calls “wearable art”. 

“Jewelry is so personal,” said Marland. “It’s about how people want to adorn and express themselves. Designing jewelry uses my whole brain, between designing the art element and engineering it so that it falls correctly and is comfortable to wear.”

Marland grew up in Old Saybrook, Conn., on Long Island Sound, where her family frequently sailed, and has lived in the seaside town of Swampscott on the North Shore for 25 years. So it’s not surprising that the ocean shows up as a theme in her jewelry. She has an entire collection called Water. 

“I find inspiration from many sources in nature, but particularly water — to explore,
abstract, and distill the beauty inherent in its variety of organic, rhythmic shapes and forms,” she explained. “The ocean is calming, contemplative, and connecting. It is the foundation of life, connecting us to ourselves, to each other, and to our environment.”

Through a combination of craft shows throughout New England and as far south as Florida, wholesale accounts with craft stores, and online sales through her website, Marland distributes and sells her jewelry in a variety of ways. 

“It takes a good balance of all three to really be sustainable,” she noted.

Nancy Marland in her studio

And it’s not just her many satisfied customers who admire her work; she has also won awards for her jewelry at arts festivals in both Connecticut and Florida.

But her encore career has its challenges as well. 

“It’s not enough to be an artist,” she emphasized. “I had to learn to be an entrepreneur as well. Learning the ropes took time and patience but the business foundation has been built and I can further deepen and explore my love of the art and design.” 

And when a good portion of your business is mobile as opposed to being in a fixed location, it means that Marland spends a good deal of time behind the wheel, and putting together her booth at her various destinations. 

“As much as I love meeting customers and getting to see how things actually look on a variety of people, my least favorite part of the job is schlepping, setting up and breaking down tents and displays at craft shows,” she admitted. “Though once I’m there and set up, I’m happy.”

Marland also stressed that her past education, career, and other interests have all contributed to her ability to transition into her new profession. She cited in particular her degree in fine arts as a painting and sculpture major, her decades as a professional graphic designer, and a lifetime of exploring a variety of visual arts disciplines, including fine woodworking, ceramics, quilting, and landscape painting. Her creative spirit finds an outlet in music as well. 

“I love to sing,” she said. “I spent 20 years singing mezzo soprano in a six-member jazz a cappella ensemble called The Wicked Pitches. Today I sing in a pop band called The Navigators.”

What advice does she have for people who want to change careers after age 50? 

“Push aside self-doubt and amplify your confidence,” she affirmed. “If you have a passion for something, do it. As older people, we have gained a lot of knowledge and experience though the years and I found it was time to put all that to good use.”

She added in conclusion, “Jewelry is such a crowded field, it was especially important for me to push aside my doubts and create jewelry that’s unique and to boost my confidence. And be prepared to work hard! Though if you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work.”

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