116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Most people who are passionate about their craft pour themselves into each piece they make. But for jewelry maker Jeaniejo Bailey, every piece involves pouring a part of someone else into it, too.
Two years ago, the Cedar Rapids woman started to make her own resin crafts, adding to her repertoire of skills that included screen printing, sublimation, heat transfer vinyl shirts, glass etching and sewing.
Now, Bailey has quit her full-time job to run Jaw Dropping Innovations from home, where breast milk jewelry dominates her sales alongside jewelry made from cremains and flowers set in resin.
The business started two years ago when she wanted to find a way to memorialize her late dog, Pupper. After searching Etsy, she found that pieces using ashes weren’t cheap.
The business, starting with jewelry and resin pieces that use cremated remains, was created to help others memorialize loved ones in an affordable way.
To learn more about Jeaniejo Bailey’s custom jewelry and products made from breast milk, cremains and more, visit Jaw Dropping Innovations online at shopjdi.com or email her at email@example.com.
Pricing starts at about $40.
But the venture into breast milk jewelry started with the faith of a friend who wanted a different kind of piece and donated some of her milk for Bailey to experiment with. Thanks to a growing trend of women wanting to commemorate their breast feeding journey and a little advertising of her services in niche Facebook groups, the business has taken off.
“I think (the demand is) because knowing how kids grow up so fast and that (young) phase goes by so fast, it’s to remind yourself where (you were) 15 years from now,” Bailey said. “I get to wear this ring knowing I kept you alive with this.”
After a stint of often tiring full-time breastfeeding, her clients buy the jewelry to look back with pride at the labor of love they sacrificed for their children.
“Looking at it, you can remember all those moments of how great you felt after you accomplished it, because in those moments it’s hard to feel great about anything,” Bailey said.
In the process of perfecting her craft, she spent thousands of hours dehydrating milk over her stove at low temperatures around the clock to reach the perfect consistently for jewelry. Now, she uses an electric dehydrator that cooks lactation down into a flaky, powdery substance within three days.
After the milk is dehydrated, it’s blended into a fine powder and mixed with mica powders or glitter according to the client’s color request. Many moms request the color of their child’s birthstone, or request a different color for each of their children.
Unless requested otherwise, she corrects the color of the powder to remove the yellowish tint from extra colostrum.
Once it has been sifted, it’s mixed with a high-quality resin and poured into a silicone mold. Some clients request rings in sterling silver or charms to put on necklaces; others request larger figurines, like bears.
Breast milk used for jewelry does not need to be kept refrigerated in order to be preserved for crafting. Clients can ship their milk from anywhere without climate control.
Jeaniejo Bailey learned this lesson after throwing the last of her own away when a power outage thawed the freezer she kept it in. She encourages those wanting breast milk jewelry in the future to keep milk as long as they want — no matter how many times it has been frozen or thawed.
For a little extra, she can use more expensive metals like 14-carat gold. For many, the affordable price point, starting around $40, makes Bailey’s products attractive.
After a few purposeful taps to get the bubbles out and some alcohol sprayed on top, molds dry within 48 hours. Jewelry or figurines are picked up or shipped out of state, with her growing online client base, along with any leftover milk or ashes.
“It’s a nice way to memorialize the hard work that goes into breastfeeding,” said Markia Pryor, a Hiawatha client. “It’s beautiful jewelry. It was made with my body and is a really cool way to memorialize the dedication that goes into breastfeeding.”
She wanted the jewelry after rearing her now 5-year-old, but didn’t pursue it until she had her second son.
For women who experienced stillbirths or infant losses, Bailey can make pieces that use both cremains and breast milk.
But she takes pride not just in the products, but the reactions they produce. Clients say her reactions to their reactions seeing the jewelry meant as much as the jewelry itself.
“I want to do this more than a hobby because this brings me so much joy,” Bailey said. “I love watching people’s faces light up when I hand them a piece of jewelry that my hands created.”
For breast milk jewelry, it’s something clients helped create. For jewelry with ashes, it’s a piece of loves ones preserved forever.
Betty Sapone ordered a necklace with her brother’s ashes after he passed suddenly at 54. When the necklace hits the light just right, the black sparkles — his favorite color — shine beautifully.
The beauty of the jewelry is more than the aesthetics, which can be simple — it’s a symbolism of what lies inside.
“When my brother passed, I felt lost. When I got this necklace, it’s like he’s here with me,” Sapone said. “He was my protector. Now, he will always be my protector because I have jewelry to have on me while I’m doing things.”
She said the jewelry has played an important part of the process of grieving and processing the loss. Other clients said the pieces play an important part in remembering the joy of their journeys.
“She’s gotten so advanced with this jewelry. It’s amazing what she’s doing with it,” Sapone said.
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