Business Profile – Green Handle Designs
by Mary Martineau
Gina grew up in northeast Columbus, where she attended Northland High School before going to OSU. She has lived in the Short North since she was 19, originally in the Leafydale building on Dennison Avenue until a developer unveiled a plan to turn the building into condominiums. Gina was given the option to buy a condo in the proposed development or move; she opted to move. (In retrospect, it was a brilliant decision; the building is still empty years later.) She found her current apartment just by walking around the neighborhood, and it seems to have been an effective method. She’s been in the same home for four years.
Gina began making jewelry at age six. Today, she is the proprietress and artisan of Green Handle Designs, her handmade-jewelry business. “Green Handle” refers to scissors created for left-handed folks. When she was a kid, Gina had trouble cutting with regular scissors, and no one could figure out why her paper always turned out with raggedy edges—until green-handled scissors for lefties were introduced. With her emerald-hued shears and her status as the only left-hander in class, she became the envy of her schoolmates. Gina embraced her distinctiveness, and when she founded her jewelry business in 2003, she dubbed it “Green Handle Designs” to invoke that distinctiveness.
After college, Gina took a job with Highlights for Children and worked there until the company cut staff in 2003. Despite the setback, the company compensated her with a decent severance package. It paid the bills, but it didn’t leave her with much in the way of spending money. When a group of friends invited her on a camping trip, she needed to come up with some extra cash to go along. She set up a newly purchased folding table at the Gallery Hop in May 2003 and for the first time offered her handmade jewelry to the public. She’s been a staple at Gallery Hops ever since and has added to her sales opportunities at other events. During the Gallery Hop these days, you can find her set up in front of Wine on High (formerly Vino 100). She also sells at the Pearl Market, North Market’s Artisan Sundays, The Grandview Hop, ComFest, Craftin’ Outlaws, Grandview’s Lazy Daze of Summer Festival, Old Worthington Market Day, Independents’ Day and the Eco-Chic Craftacular.
Gina is now a full-time jewelry maker working the occasional part-time job. Her original designs use precious and semi-precious stones, glass beads and Swarovski crystal. Bracelets are her favorite items to craft, but she suspects that her customers are more drawn toward earrings. She typically has about 200 pairs on hand. Gina sells her jewelry directly to her customers, and that’s the way she likes it. She considered opening an online store, but she loathes the thought of having to decide which of her creations to put online and which to take with her to shows. She considers each of them to be “a little like my children,” and she “wouldn’t know how to decide.”
Gina added a line of duct tape accessories to her business in 2008. She makes wallets, purses, clutches and roses from the useful stuff. Her duct tape roses adorn barrettes, brooches, magnets and rings. She finds the roses to be popular with the teen and tween demographics, partly because they’re inexpensive. Actually, much of the Green Handle Designs line is economically priced, which makes for good sales at events. Gina’s goal is to find a way into a local gallery or shop where she can display higher-end pieces that are a tougher sell at street shows. She has made appearances at the Marcia Evans Gallery, High Road Gallery and Mac Worthington Galerie, but she’s still in search of a home for her pricier “children.”
Gina appreciates the walkability of Harrison West and the Short North. She’s a car-free woman who can often be found hauling her wares to Gallery Hop and the North Market on her back. Otherwise she relies mostly on COTA. When necessary, she gets by with a little help from her friends. “For ComFest and events where I need a tent I can usually bribe one of my friends to help me out by trading for jewelry . . . unless it’s a guy, and then I resort to beer!”
Fun fact: Gina is also a poet who writes original verses and likes to hang out with other poets. She frequently can be found at open-mic nights, particularly Kafe Kerouac’s Poetry Night, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.