Natural pearls are some of the world’s most unique gemstones. When an irritant makes its way inside a mollusk, the oyster or mussel secrete a substance to coat the foreign object and protect itself. Over time, the layers of secretion build to form a gem. The process begins with injury, involves years of work and results in a rare discovery—a formation synonymous with the growth and evolution of a woman who has endured suffering, survived trauma, and is more exquisite and resilient today than she has ever been: jewelry artist and owner of Milk Velvet Pearls, Sarah Faulkner.
JT: What is your Founder’s Story and how does Milk Velvet Pearls represent you as a woman and mother?
SF: In 2012, I realized I had emerged from the deepest pain of my life stronger, more hopeful and filled with joy. From total brokenness and by complete surrender, I had experienced a complete and radical transformation explainable only by the power of prayer. I tried and failed (repeatedly) to write a book. Invariably, the recounting of the events would emotionally overwhelm me, and I’d get sick. For years I could hardly talk about what happened without choking-ugly-crying.
Fortunately, the day my young daughter held my great-grandmother’s pearls, asked all kinds of questions about how they were formed, and declared “Mama, pearls are like people. Bad things make them prettier on the inside,” I had an epiphany. For my life as for the oyster, beauty had been born from the struggle.
I opened my shop on Mother’s Day of 2014–. Through Milk Velvet Pearls, I learned that many of us are bearing hardships and grief, and I have heard so many stories of victory.
I know enough now to say that the hardest times of my life aren’t over (and never will be) and that I can still choose to have joy. My family has walked through opioid addiction and recovery with our son. I’ve suffered (and recovered from) a life-threatening brain aneurysm rupture, a subarachnoid hemorrhage stroke, and the repair of a second aneurysm.
God ministered to me. He brought healing. Peace. Strength. Joy. He’s reached me through my children, He showed me that His grace is sufficient and keeps adding layers to this life I call “a pearl”.
JT: As a one-woman show— production, photography, IT, marketing, sales, customer service, shipping, accounting, and designer— where do you draw your creativity to deliver such unique and special designs?
SF: I grew up in rural Vermont in the 70’s and was only child until I was almost 9. I spent a lot of time in the woods, alone, making imaginary play spaces and little gifts for family and neighbors.
I think other designers sketch out their ideas ahead of time. I like to see and hold the pearls and let them speak to me. I find that different shapes and undertones lend themselves to different designs and metal colors. And because pearls are the only gem born of a living creature, one pearl that works for one design often won’t work for another.
JT: Who is the Milk Velvet Pearls woman? What is the best way to shop your collections and see your pieces in-person?
SF: Milk Velvet Pearls is for the woman who has survived to live victoriously, and for every woman who has ever felt broken and alone. Because I create custom pieces, invest so much emotion into my work, and value the one-on-one relationships I’ve built with my customers – I’m now only selling retail via my website www.milkvelvetpearls.com.
JT: What advice would you give to a mother with children that are younger than Jonah (age 24) and Maddy (age 16) that you wish someone would have shared with you along the way?
SF: The best advice I can give is the advice I got (but rejected) for so many years: TRUST GOD.
As a young mother, I had lofty ideas about what I could control and how things would work out. My mission was to be “the best mother” and to break generational patterns. I was exhausted all the time.
Fortunately, I found a better way.
Now, as an older, wiser mother having survived some incredibly difficult teenage and young adult years – the best advice I have is to SURRENDER. Motherhood is hard. Kids can break our hearts. The good news though is that God’s way is better than ours. When I learned to trust Him, amazing things happened.
JT: How have you overcome fear and uncertainty, and how has that helped you as a business owner?
SF: I devour business books, mindset coaching, podcasts, and ideas from other female entrepreneurs. But the practice that has helped me most is journaling every morning. There’s something about the solitude that feeds and strengthens my soul. I focus on things I am grateful for, the dreams I want to come true in my life, and who I am in Christ. The process keeps teaching me that:
- All great things come from pain. If we think about it, all great art, music, science, relationships have come from someone else’s discomfort. Lean into yours. Use it.
- Nobody wants fake perfect. People respond to truth, and authentic effort. The parts of my story, and the business ideas that I have been most afraid of, have been the ones that people have responded to most.
- Stress and fear are not from God. He instructs us over and over again in the Bible. Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. Be grateful. Be of good cheer. If I am stressed, I’ve learned that it means I’m trying to do things on my own without God. So, I stop. Surrender. And ask for help. It works every time.
JT: What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa Bay?
SF: I could spend all day on this question! We love long walks along the water, dining out, visiting art museums, hanging out at the new pier in St. Pete, catching a game, and going to the beach!
photo credit: Carography Studios (@carographystudios)
Originally Published in October 2021