These days jewelry design is helping Michelle Rubiano get through some very dark days. She thought she saw the light at the end of the tunnel after being diagnosed with breast cancer and dealt with all the side effects from chemotherapy. But, recently, she was diagnosed with brain cancer, one additional challenge for her to face.
Through it all, jewelry designing has been her saving grace. That and a sense of humor.
“I am totally and completely at peace when I design. It’s almost as if I go to a higher level,” says the entrepreneur, who resides in Laguna Beach. “It makes me happy. I’ve created some of my best pieces after coming home from treatment and spending hours from chemo in the bathroom. When I design, I get wrapped up with what I’m creating and it takes my mind off it.” It also gives her a sense of purpose.
“I got into it purely by accident by making my own jewelry,” Michelle says. Friends would fall in love with her accessories and asked where she purchased her unusual pieces.
Eight years ago, she decided to go into business after being a stay-at-home mom. She found a niche, quite by accident, in the motorcycle arena.
She is friends with many of The Hamsters, an upscale motorcycle group of 300 strong, plus significant others. “We ride to Sturgis, South Dakota, and on the way, stop in Scotsdale, Park City, Taos, Aspen, Durango, and Jackson Hole. I love going to the antique shops looking for vintage pieces. I love the Art Nouveau and Edwardian designs. To find things in other areas, was finding my treasures.” (The group rides for charity for Children’s‘ Hospital in Rapid City.)
“These well-heeled ladies know their jewelry, and they would pick pieces in various places and buy the same thing, like cutter cutters. I have always done my own thing. So I started making my own, to fit in, in a sense, in the motorcycle world, but also to stand out.”
With a variety of Swarovski crystals and a hot glue gun, she’s good to go. One of her influences is jewelry designer Victoria Wieck. Although she won’t say whom, she has a variety of well-known clients whom she’s met on the rides and also through her ex husband, a director/producer in the Latin community.
“Designing brings me back to me; it doesn’t matter what is going on in my life.”
She also works with charcoals and designs clothing. She started with denim and suede with the motorcycle group.
Michelle owes her sense of style to a good friend, Gretchen Fine, who taught her by example. “Wear something you like and highlight it with a piece of jewelry so that it becomes a statement piece. Gretchen is a glam gal and old Hollywood. She always looks sensational!”
Right now, Michelle’s jewelry is sold by word of mouth and Etsy, but when she heals, she’d like to open a boutique.
“I don’t mind letting go of something I’ve put my heart and soul into. If I can make someone else happy, it’s a joy for me.”
Sue Facter owns a news agency specializing in the luxury brand. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Women’s Day Australia, Greer’s OC, on broadcasts, and the web.