Kirsten McIlvenna has a formula for joy in her life. It goes like this: sharing stories + helping others = joy.
She uses this formula in her everyday life working in communications for a Bay County nonprofit. She also turned a metalworking hobby into a successful, inspiring and charitable business she runs from her historic home in Bay City.
McIlvenna began metalworking just out of college back in 2012. She took some classes and workshops while living in Kalamazoo, and held jewelry making close as a hobby. As she committed more time and resources to her growing hobby, she named it Delirious Blue in 2013.
The name Delirious Blue comes from the poem "High Flight" by astronaut John Gillespie Magee Jr. The excerpt is “Up, up the long delirious burning blue; I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle, flew;”... The poem is about his experience of looking down on Earth from space. McIlvenna loved this perspective and tied it to the idea of us all being connected on this “delirious burning blue” planet.
At this point, jewelry making was still a hobby and any of the money she made went back into the business. McIlvenna made a wide range of pieces, and there was an eco- friendly focus behind her work. For each sale she made, she would plant a tree or donate to an organization to have a tree planted.
McIlvenna usually finds her story subjects through nominations or friends of friends.
As things progressed and her hobby expanded, she started to ponder more on the why of her work. She loved making jewelry, but she also was passionate about other things in life — namely helping others, sharing stories, and the environment. How could she mesh all these things together with her jewelry business? That’s when Delirious Blue shifted to a women- and charity-focused business. McIlvenna decided that she would base each of her jewelry pieces and collections on a real woman’s story and personal journey. She would work with each woman to choose a charity to donate some of the proceeds to, and the subject would get to choose a piece to keep for herself.
McIlvenna usually finds her story subjects through nominations or friends of friends. She has put calls out on Facebook boards asking people if they would like to share their story or know someone who would.
The process begins with an interview, which is the most important part. McIlvenna lets the subject share her story freely and spends some time sitting with the information. She then assigns one word to the story. This word usually encompasses the journey or the meaning of the story. Then she begins working on the pieces and lets them come to life from the story. McIlvenna spends a lot of time with the pieces and writes a blog post about each person she works with.
Here’s an example of a recent collection: Amanda.
McIlvenna writes that Amanda is a kind, friendly, accepting woman who has been on a weight loss journey over the past year. After complications with a pregnancy and struggles with post-partum depression, Amanda just didn’t feel good. She knew she had to get in shape, and she was serious about it. In the blog, Amanda says “It’s not about having a diet. I mean like today I had 6 donuts,” she laughed. “It’s about knowing the balance. It has to fit with your lifestyle.”
Amanda’s story highlights struggles many women face, but McIlvenna aids in connecting a name and face to her story and giving her a beautiful line of jewelry to love and cherish. Read Amanda's story here.
“Everyone’s journey is very different,” McIlvenna says. “There is a common thread through each of us, though.”
We’ve all been somewhere, and we all have a story to share that could help someone else along their journey. Delirious Blue Jewelry is giving a voice to those who were not being heard, McIlvenna says.
Learn more about McIlvenna and her work on her website, Delirious Blue Jewelry.