Jewelry-making has been a learning process for Maria Zawaski of Steady Brook, but as she is quick to point out, she loves learning.
Her Newfoundland-inspired earrings, necklaces, pendants and other items are available online through Etsy and on her Facebook page, while she is already creating new designs for the fall reopening of Wonderful Fine Market.
A native of Ukraine, Zawaski and her husband, Ron Zawaski, a Manitoba native of Ukrainian descent, came to the Corner Brook area by way of Fort McMurray in 2010.
When leaving Fort McMurray, they considered retiring to Newfoundland or Belize, but Maria found Belize too hot and with a few too many snakes for her liking.
“I had only been to Newfoundland once, very quickly, on my honeymoon, but I liked it," she said.
Years before the Zawaskis met, coworkers from Newfoundland had convinced her husband to visit and while there, he bought an older house in Steady Brook.
Home renovations and establishing a garden initially kept her busy, but she decided to offer some Ukrainian souvenirs and traditional jewelry for sale at a local market.
“I didn’t have many sales, but I did have a lot of conversations. I noticed people kept asking if I had made any of the things I was selling, and I hadn’t," said Maria.
Over the next two winters she thought often of her experience at the market and the questions she was asked.
“I also began to notice Newfoundlanders love to craft from wood or yarn or whatever. I didn’t see any of that in Fort McMurray," said Maria.
She, too, had been a crafter in her teens in Ukraine.
"Crafting has brought a lot of fun into my life. I’d rather craft than cook or clean the house, and I’m afraid I may have neglected my garden." — Maria Zawaski.
“I learned to knit, embroider and crochet. By the time I was 19 I was making sweaters for people, but as I got older I gave up crafting for other things that seemed more important.”
She also began to realize there were people who crafted outside their leisure time.
“It sounds funny, but I had never thought of crafting as a business.”
All the while, she was noticing an upsurge of interest in textile jewelry on the internet.
She brought a few designs to local markets and craft fairs, where they attracted attention.
Calling her crafting Woods&Beads&Knits Designs, Maria continues to experiment with traditional, geometric and other designs, having added glass, beads, gemstones, shells and wood to her jewelry supplies.
“I love going from the idea stage through to completion. Crafting has brought a lot of fun into my life. I’d rather craft than cook or clean the house, and I’m afraid I may have neglected my garden," said Maria.
As her production increased, she joined the Etsy online marketplace.
She recalls the first joy of seeing a market customer wearing the earrings she had sold her the week before.
Zawaski, whose favourite colours are blue and turquoise, was surprised to learn her Newfoundland customers delight in grey tones in their earrings, necklaces and pendants.
“All the beautiful shades of grey from the sea, to the sky, to salt and pepper yarn, it must be the colour of The Rock," she said.