Kimberley "Flor" Keehn grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and spent her summers by the pool, making jewelry for her girlfriends. Using all types of string, lanyard, beads and found objects, she sat beside the pool as they played and created wearable memories all summer long. This urge to create beauty never left her.
In 1995, after graduating from college with a degree in pre-Colombian American cultures, Flor traveled to Mexico to continue her studies. She traveled to Palenque in order to study with renowned archeologists. Though archeology took over her days, her evenings were still her own. Inspired by the daily finds in the jungle Flor soon began spending evenings creating her own adornments. Not long after her arrival she joined a group of artisans selling their crafts in the evening street markets. The visitors came and the visitors bought. Soon, Flor was struggling to keep enough jewelry on her table. Slowly, she realized that she had more love for the designs and creations of the present, then for digging through those of the past. For the next eight years, Flor would travel the globe in search of inspiration.
In 2003 Flor returned to Mexico, this time to a little pacific town just north of Puerto Vallarta. When Flor arrived, the town was not what you see today. It was not yet “known,” it hadn’t been featured in the New York Times; It was an undiscovered gem. A visit to a place intended to last a few days turned into a permanent home for Flor and her then three-year-old son Obsidian.
In the evenings, just like in so many other Mexican towns, the artisans would gather and display their wares to the passing visitors, strolling though the cool night air. As she did in Palenque, Flor soon joined them and her jewelry became an immediate success.
It was always her designs that her apart. Flor had not only exceptional pieces, but more importantly, stones that no one else had. In 2003, she sold pieces made from carved rainbow obsidian, a local Mexican stone, but one that no other artisan was working with at the time. Her designs were clean, simple, wearable and unique. Visitors to her stand would not only buy, but return with their friends and pass the word around to others. Their praise of her jewelry was well deserved and increased her success. In February of 2004 she leased a small shop. For the next five months Flor put every resource she had into renovating the space and building up her inventory. In June of 2004 she opened the doors of Sayulita Sol Jewelry and people streamed inside. They haven’t stopped since. Just one year later, she leased the shop next to her, doubling the size of the shop. She will never say that the transition from the freedom of street to the legitimacy of the store was an easy one. But it was worth it.
Today, Flor has a beautiful store filled with jewelry in sterling silver, 14K gold, gold-fill and gems that match every color of the rainbow. She designs mostly everything she sells. Flor hand selects all of the materials that are used in her jewelry, as she always has. Every February she travels to Tucson, Arizona to of the world’s largest international gem shows. Here, she meets with sellers from all over the world and chooses the stones for her store from an enormous variety. She has to pick the type of gemstone, the shape of it, its quality, its size, its cut. And she has to know, from a design standpoint, if she is going to be able to sell each stone, and if so in what kind of a piece or setting. It is a bit like predicting the future, but Flor seems to be able to do just that,
There is no trick to making jewelry. There is technique and practice and commitment, but no trick. Anyone who puts the time and effort in can make jewelry just as well as the next person. The trick is knowing what people want. Sayulita Sol Jewelry does so well for the same reason that Flor’s street-side table excelled: Because people keep coming back. Not only does she have style and taste, but she also has the foresight — in jewelry an important talent— to predict the coming trends. Her store is always new, fresh and timely. Each piece is one-of-a-kind—and they go fast. Her knowledge and experience don’t hurt either. She knows just what stones go with which completions, which necklace silhouette will match which neckline, and she can also tell you about the stone itself and how it was created. In addition, her business sense keeps her on her feet. She has something for everyone. Her price range is widely varied, and by designer standards, extremely affordable.
It’s no secret that Sayulita has a niche economy, heavily dependant upon tourism dollars from the United States. With the US economy in a time of change, Flor is facing yet another batch of tough questions. She has to decide how much to buy, how many gemstones and how much precious metal. She needs to have enough to sell, but not too much, since the number of buyers are still an uncertainty. Flor has to pay the business’ expenses, continue supporting Sayulita via donations to a variety of organizations, and support herself and her son. This is called business savvy and Flor has it. On the street, things might have been more simple, but they wouldn’t have been as rewarding.
This article was written by Hannah Garrison in 2008. If you'd like to learn more about her and her blog click here hwgarrison.com