Stylin': Handmade jewelry line offers a mix of contrasts

CorrespondentJuly 9, 2014 

Liz Esser of Raleigh created Haden Designs to sell her ever-evolving line of handmade jewelry.


Living in the diamond district in New York City, Liz Esser had a hard time resisting the temptation of her surroundings. But hers wasn’t an addiction to acquiring and wearing sparkly things; she was more interested in the abundance of materials available to make her own.

“I was a fine arts major in college with concentrations in metals and ceramics,” she says. “So, being in this location was amazing, yet dangerous. I would go and get whatever I wanted to in order to make a necklace or earrings.”

Esser began making her own jewelry, which caught the attention of friends and even passersby, inspiring her to start a little side business.

“When I had people off the street ask me where I got what I was wearing, I decided I would make and sell what I would wear,” she says. “I was always making new pieces to wear with whatever outfit I decided on for the morning – it wasn’t uncommon that I would be finishing a piece on the subway on my way to work.”

When she and her husband relocated to Raleigh, Esser decided to dedicate more time to the business and gave it a proper name: Haden Designs. Esser creates chunky jewelry for women featuring everything from semi-precious stones to found objects and even necklaces with tiny chalkboard pendants.

“I like when a piece looks balanced, well…balanced to me,” she says. “Balanced in my eye is when you don’t have too much of one thing – you need the right mix of contrast. Oxidized and repurposed chain with a highly polished stone or natural rough look of leather with shiny gold filled chain.

“I stay away from only using one type of material because I can’t achieve that balanced look, and found materials are a great way to add contrast to more traditional types of jewelry-making materials. This also creates a line of product which is one-of-a-kind or limited-run production. It’s an ever-evolving line because of the materials I choose to use.”

Currently, Esser’s jewelry can be found at the Visual Art Exchange and NOFO at the Pig, both in Raleigh, as well as online at The stay-at-home mom hopes to expand availability and the line itself in the future, but for now, she’s enjoying her home-work life balance.

“My business – through all the ups and downs, successes and lulls – has followed the pattern of my life,” she says. “I decided when I was going to be a stay-at-home mom that the family was priority number one. When I’m in a lull period of my business, I just have to remind myself it’s OK, life needs me elsewhere. I would like to grow the company … and I can see that happening in the future.”

Sidewalk sale

Cameron Village merchants take it outside this weekend for the shopping center’s annual sidewalk sale, Friday through Sunday. Stores and restaurants will have deals and discounts during the event, which runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit

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