Local jewelry designers create beautiful and unique pieces while also running successful businesses that focus on handmade goods. Chris McKinley, owner of Nest Arts and creator of Kinley Jewelry, began making jewelry after she lost her dream job. She thought she could sell her creations to friends and ended up loving the process of designing and making jewelry. She began selling her designs at the local boutique Dayshift, eventually purchasing the store and turning it into Nest Arts and Gifts.

“I am constantly evolving and making new things,” said McKinley.

She creates custom designs for events such as weddings and other special occasions in addition to her jewelry lines. She is inspired by nature, flowers, moons and circles.

“I try to work with natural stones whenever possible. Sometimes the stone ends up dictating what the piece of jewelry ends up looking like. I am attracted to stones that have an iridescent quality,” said McKinley.

Local artisan Nina Kovar, owner of Visions in Makanda, also showcases and sells her creations in her shop under the name Niko Jewelry. Kovar has been making jewelry since childhood, where she grew up in an artistic family. She studied at Pratt Fine Arts in Seattle, eventually settling in Southern Illinois where she bought Visions in 2009. Kovar uses curvy and sensuous lines reminiscent of the female form as inspiration for her pieces.

“I want them to be sexy and flowy, but with an edge,” said Kovar, “I am inspired by the feminine form both in humans and in nature, such as in flowers.”

McKinley creates a line of holiday jewelry that is inexpensive and works great as gifts. “They are really good to give to your office mates or people that you want to give a little something, like teachers or acquaintances, around the holidays.” Kovar does not create items specifically for the holiday season, but has many special pieces that would be great as gifts.

McKinley believes there is value in supporting local businesses. “Buying local stimulates our local economy. The money stays here and goes towards families, schools, and local taxes as opposed to the headquarters of a big corporation. Right now we need people to buy local more than ever. It is nice to support your neighbors and community, and it is nice if people can do what they love and actually make money at it. It makes people happier,” said McKinley.

Kinley Jewelry is sold at Nest Arts, Alto Vineyards, Town Square Market, Visions in Makanda and Dandelion Vintage in Champaign. Niko Jewelry is currently sold at Visions in Makanda.

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