Hi Ho Holyoke!⠀
Chatting up the neighbors again, learning about Jillian, proprietor of Bijou on Judith, and about her fabulous creations! Jillian is giving us the nitty-gritty about her deep family roots. Holyoke is such a richly historic town and it’s the people that grew families and businesses here that tell my favorite stories! What a wonderfully inspiring history she is weaving and sewing into the fabric of her own family, as well as our own industrious little town of Holyoke! In the time of social distancing and PPE our neighbor and self-proclaimed crafty mom, Jillian Labonte came up with an incredibly novel idea! Not only are her creations essential and practical, but delightfully unique as well. Let’s look in on this family-oriented Holyoker, maker of the pandemic inspired “mask lace” and “ear savers” mask accessories, who is also the originator of Bijou on Judith!
If you are interested in any of Jillian’s jewelry and accessories, head over to her Instagram account, and for more info, click the link in her bio or direct message her on Instagram.
Follow on Instagram: @bijouonjudith
If you or someone you know would like to do an interview please direct message us, we would love to hear from you! DM to collaborate on Instagram @bestofholyoke or Tag us #bestofholyoke
👤: Tell us about yourself? ⠀
🗣: Recently I have become more of a stay at home mom to my children, Lilly (6), Cora (4), and Lincoln (2). Prior to covid, I was juggling my work at Iya Sushi with parenting, but now with the restrictions of dining, I am home more and able to spend more time with my family. I love working with the public, presenting something to them that makes them enjoy their time or put a smile on their face. Since being home, my husband and I have picked up more on renovating our home and teaching our children some of our childhood passions. Sebastian, my husband has been teaching the sport of skateboarding to our oldest and I have picked up my old hobby of crafting. Using my hands and imagination to create something is something I want to pass on to my children. Art for me is a stress reliever, and in these times there is nothing we need more.
👤: We would love to hear about your business?⠀
🗣: My business, Bijou on Judith, is something that developed during covid. My four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis in February, so wearing a mask is very important to us. I was looking up fun ways to keep their masks on and maybe a fun project to get them involved. I started by making little ear savers with my kids’ names on them. People began to ask me to make some for their kids, when that happened I thought about starting something small to sell these to other families. Once that caught on I started thinking, I should make something for adults, something to keep from losing your mask when out running errands, something to keep it safely on you, but still had some sense of fashion and design, and Bijou was born. I make hand beaded mask lanyards or Masklaces, and sell them with or without a cotton mask. Each design is unique and many of my orders are custom. I have made many to match someone’s uniform, added a name, and even for special occasions like weddings and first communions. Masks are now part of our new normal, why not make them fun to wear? Bijou is more of a social media-based business. I do sell on Esty, but most of my sales come from Instagram.
👤: There has got to be an interesting story behind the name of your business, care to share?
🗣: The name Bijou, means jewelry and Judith is the street my home is on in Holyoke. The name was developed after some brainstorming with my brother. We wanted something short, direct, fun to say, and also aesthetically pleasing when written.
👤: Any particular pieces you’re more focused on than others?
🗣: I hope to add bracelets soon and other beaded items to my store, but right now the demand for a masklace is taking priority. I let my imagination stay open, if something else comes to my mind I’m sure you will see it on my page in the future.
👤: When dreaming up concepts for your pieces, how did you settle on what you have ended up making?
🗣: I love making custom pieces and collaborating with a customer. I also love making fun kids masklaces with bright colorful beads. Little kids love little trinket items and I love seeing them smile when they receive them. This is a scary time for children, so anything to relieve the worry and stress is my pleasure.
👤: Any plans on making anything else besides your adorable jewelry oriented items?
🗣: I have always been a super creative person in one way or another, so when sitting down to design a piece I kind of just go with it. I pick colors and beads I love and begin to work. I will ask my kids to help pick out things someone their age would like and go from there.
👤: What does being “rooted” in Holyoke mean to you?
🗣: I grew up over the bridge in South Hadley, but my roots are strong in Holyoke. Both my mother and father grew up in the city, where all their grandparents immigrated to. As a child, I spent much of my time at my grandparents’ homes, or places my parents frequented as a child, Nick’s Nest, the reservoirs, Heritage Park, and many more. My husband and I purchased our first home in 2013 in Holyoke where my husband, originally from Granby, took a job for the city and he himself saw the beauty of Holyoke. In 2016 my grandmother passed and the home my father grew up in was for sale, we purchased it and now reside in a family home with heart, soul, and the memories of my childhood. Holyoke’s sense of community is like no other. When people say Holyoke Strong they mean it. This community is made up of generations of families. You can’t go anywhere without someone asking what your last name is and then making a connection to someone in your family, and that’s what makes Holyoke feel like home.
👤: How did you decide on making and selling these items and how/where can we find your jewelry?⠀
🗣: I decided on selling my Masklaces and ear savers after I saw there were a market and demand. Using social media to spread the word was something that started super small and is starting to catch on.
You can find my Masklaces and other items on my IG page @bijouonjudith and my Etsy page BijouOnJudith. I encourage people to direct message me on IG to collaborate and work together to make something unique for you or a loved one. I have already been receiving inquiries about holiday gifts for teachers, nannies, hairdressers, and many more. Feel free to message me to collab!