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Teal Annie

By Katie Sloan
In Center Block
Aug 28th, 2017

Article by April Clark Honaker and Photography by Kelly Moore Clark

Stephanie Dugard loves turning the old into something fresh and new. And while making one-of-a-kind jewelry has been her passion, she’s also making natural makeup and organic dry shampoo.

Style is a reflection of who we are. According to artist and maker Stephanie Dugard, “Having a personal style is mixing and making your own look.” It doesn’t have to be trendy, but at the same time, you should be able to mix in trendy pieces if you want.

Stephanie described her own style as natural, earthy, vintage and handmade. Concert tees and hippie skirts are some of her favorite things, and whenever possible, she likes to know the person making the things in her closet.

Because Stephanie grew up watching the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley, she said, “I’ve always looked to them for inspiration.” She likes the way they mix vintage and bohemian and said, “When beachy blonde waves and dark roots were a trend, they pulled it off well and still pretty much have the same hair style as 10 years ago.” For Stephanie, style is about confidence and owning who you are. She feels the Olsen twins exude those things.

Another woman whose style Stephanie admires is Iris Apfel. At 93, Apfel is a retired business woman, interior designer and fashion icon. She drew attention when she started wearing non-Western, artisanal pieces to the high-society parties of her clients. Her confidence allows her to pull off eclectic, exotic styles that most people would never dream of, but she’s become a role model for those who dare to be different, and her status has garnered her a fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a documentary and book about her life and style.

“I mean, who doesn’t love her!?” Stephanie said. “She wears what she wants and rocks it! I love just looking at photos of her in her outlandish outfits and accessories. She has created her own look and style with her unique staple eyewear and bold pieces. I think it’s so important to wear what makes you feel good and expresses who you are.”

A brilliantly colored muumuu isn’t necessarily on trend, but Stephanie said that sometimes the long billowy folds of fabric are just what she needs to make herself feel good. “Your style and whatever you wear should make you feel your best and feel beautiful,” she said. “You wear it for you because it makes you feel beautiful.”

Stephanie grew up near Alexandria, Louisiana, in a home where creativity was encouraged. She recalls making sand art and jewelry as a kid but said she didn’t start pursuing her own thing until college. Stephanie majored in family and child studies but was always making and sewing things. “If I wanted something, I’d make it,” she said.

About 10 years ago, Stephanie had the idea to start Teal Annie, which according to her Etsy shop, grew out of her “love of turning the old into something fresh and new.” She chose the name Teal Annie because she loved the color teal, and her middle name is Anne. She also thought of Little Orphan Annie and the idea of giving something a new life. Her husband, Jake, really encouraged her idea and helped her enormously with the marketing side of her business. “When I met Jake,” she said, “I shared my dream with him, and he’s always been a big support.” As a graphic designer, Jake’s skills complemented Stephanie’s, and they were able to get Teal Annie up and running.

They created a website, Etsy shop and Instagram account for her. In the beginning, Stephanie was also able to sell her jewelry through Songbird, a local boutique owned by Morgan Moore. The success online, through Songbird, and at local makers fairs was encouraging. Since starting Teal Annie, Stephanie has continued to make things. She still enjoys refashioning existing items, but she’s also making original items, such as one-of-a-kind jewelry and natural makeup, including an organic dry shampoo, powder foundation and beetroot-hibiscus blush.

Around the same time that she was launching Teal Annie, Stephanie was also working as an assistant and stylist for Kelly Moore Clark, who was promoting her new company Kelly | Moore Bags. For four years, Stephanie used her creativity and fashion sense to style photoshoots that showed off Kelly’s bags. She chose the models, outfits, location, hair and makeup. She said styling the shoots was her favorite part of this job, and it helped her grow into her own personal style.

After she had her first child, a daughter named River, Stephanie decided to scale back her work schedule and focus more on being a mom. At the same time, making things is so inherent to who she is that giving it up wasn’t an option. “I’ve learned how to balance being a maker of things, a wife and a mother,” she said. “It’s been a challenge learning how to navigate establishing a home studio space and specific times when to work, and now expecting child number two, I know there will be more change to come. It’s something I never want to give up or let go of.”

Stephanie and Jake have a piece of art in their home that reads, “Live a quiet life and work with your hands.” The words sum up the Bible verse I Thessalonians 4:11, and the message is meaningful to both of them. It’s a regular reminder of who they strive to be. “We are fulfilled with making things with our hands and making things with a story for someone else to have,” she said.

Passing the same message and way of life along to their children is also important to Stephanie.

“I want my children to be makers and creatives, so I always want to have opportunities for self expression and to make art in our home and for them to see Mom and Dad making things,” she said. “I want them to know how to make things, and I want to teach them how to make things. It’s what we do as a family.”

As an introvert, Stephanie finds making things and being at home therapeutic. She also shared that she feels most inspired when she gets to connect with nature. For Stephanie, a perfect day would include yoga in the morning, a walk along a creek and a relaxing outing to vintage shops. Afterward, she would have time and space to draw, write and explore creative ideas. Then she would get excited to make those ideas a reality.

Creating days like these is sometimes hard when you’re a busy mom, but that makes them more special. Stephanie said the season of life she’s in has always influenced her work.   At the same time, she said, “We love the arts community and growth of opportunity in Ruston. It’s pushed us to grow.” Despite all the change, she said, “I feel like all of my passions are coming together.” Stephanie is an earthy, wRenaissance woman with many overlapping talents and interests. One of those interests is doula work.

As someone who has always looked for ways to support and empower women, Stephanie felt an immediate connection to midwifery and doula work when she decided to have a home birth with River. Because she also lost her dad eight days before River was born, she understood the value of a doula’s postpartum support in a special way and has done much of the hands-on work of becoming a certified doula herself. All that remains is a 6-week certification course, which she plans to complete soon.

In keeping with her interest in being a doula, Stephanie also became a certified yoga instructor a year ago and has been teaching prenatal yoga once a week at Blue Sky Yoga in Ruston. She also incorporates Young Living Essential oils into her yoga and doula work. All of these activities inspire Stephanie’s jewelry and make her feel more creative. They’ve helped cultivate kinships with other women and have allowed them to teach and encourage one another.

One particular jewelry design that has grown out of her experiences with yoga and doula work is a beaded “strong mama” necklace with a diamond-shaped pendant made of rose quartz. She said the beads make it similar to a rosary, and the yonic shape makes it symbolic of birth, labor and female power. It’s meant to encourage women, especially first-time moms. “Even throughout pregnancy and postpartum,” she said. “it’s important to express your personal style and wear things that make you feel confident and beautiful.”

Women she knows are often her customers, but Stephanie is happy to sell locally. As a maker, she had an early goal to see someone she didn’t know wearing something she created, and that’s happened, which also brings her joy. In general, Stephanie designs jewelry for someone like herself, someone who appreciates handmade things. “I like to make things I would wear that reflect my style and personality,” she said, but doing custom work is also fun.

Stephanie recalled a time when one of her customers asked her to make several pieces for his wife. The only stipulation was that the pieces needed to include a specific stone. On another occasion, one of Stephanie’s friends brought her several pieces of quartz crystals that her daughter had dug up in their backyard. After making some special pieces for them from the quartz, Stephanie’s friend let her keep the rest to make jewelry for others—jewelry with a special story and a local connection.

For Stephanie, the whole creative process from design to finish is a rewarding outlet, but she said, “I like when someone actually buys it. I like people to have something one-of-a-kind with a story.” If a stone came from a particular place, she likes to share that. If a piece has a special significance, she likes to share that, too. In fact, she said she feels most alive when she’s wearing her favorite outfit, standing in her booth at the Ruston Makers Fair, sharing a story about something she made. “I just want people to love it every time they wear it,” she said, “for it to be their favorite piece of jewelry.” It’s also fun for her to see women of different ages wearing and enjoying her pieces. “Positive feedback motivates me to keep making it,” she said.

For any artist, criticism also comes with the territory. Some people will not like what you make, or they may not think you’re a true artist if you don’t make every element by hand. In the beginning, criticism was hard for Stephanie, but she’s grown in confidence. “I’ve also learned that there is no specific mold or definition for what it means to be an ‘artist,’” she said. “I think if you express your ideas and create something with those ideas, you are an artist.” Stephanie has also learned to be gentle with herself and accept the limits of what she can accomplish when balancing her creative passions with motherhood and family. At the same time, she looks forward to exploring new things and said, “I will never stop making. It’s part of who I am.”