Rachelle McGlinchey’s oldest son, James, was 15 months old when she went back to work full-time, working as an office manager. It was a difficult time for her – as it is with most moms who go back to work when their kids are very young.
As a gesture to her more emotional side, she went out shopping for something she could take with her, that she could keep on her and feel like it was something of her son. The best she could find was a necklace with the letter ‘J’ on the pendant.
“I wanted something personal that represented my son, but couldn’t really find anything,” she told The Pear Tree.
And the best part was, she could wear the pendants while working from home, because she started the company – Hands on Keepsakes – herself, in partnership with her friend Sarah Read.
It’s a unique line of jewellery in Canada – although it’s been popular in England for a few years, Rachelle said. Miniaturized versions of baby’s very own hand or footprint are applied to a silver or bronze pendant, along with their name.
“I wear mine all the time, and I’m very proud to wear it,” Rachelle said. “It’s very nice to have a piece of them wherever you go.”
The process of getting the print shrunk and cast into the metal is top secret. The two learned the technique from a woman in Edmonton.
Once an order has been placed, whether necklace, key ring, charm bracelet or Christmas tree ornament, Sarah and Rachelle send off a kit with non-toxic, reactive wipes (no ink) and reactive paper. The parent swipes the hand or foot of the baby (or child or loved-one – there’s no age limit because the size is always reduced to fit the pendant) and then presses the appendage onto the paper. That gets sent back to Sarah and Rachelle, and they work their magic.
The bronze, which is more appropriate for key rings because it’s harder, is fired in a kiln. The 99 per cent silver pendants, which have more lustre and shine but scratch much more easily, go under a small blowtorch and are then hand polished.
The result is an original print that has the personal fine lines and details of the hand or foot’s owner, and therefore a little bit of their distinctiveness captured in metal.
In addition to the obvious choices of hand and footprints, they’ve received orders for fingerprints, paw prints, a kiss, and a horse’s hoof. They’ve also transferred simple drawings by children to silver or bronze.
“Grandmas are getting it done for their daughters, daughters are getting it done for the grandmas,” Sarah said.
Sarah sands a pre-fired bronze pendant, above, left, while Rachelle wraps a necklace, above, right.
The two “mompreneurs,” as they call themselves – Sarah also has two kids, six-year-old Jemma and three-year-old Annie – launched their business a year ago, and have yet to tire of receiving envelopes with people’s baby prints tucked inside.
Each works in her own, home studio, creating pieces for the people they’ve connected with. While one might pass work on to the other if one is flooded with orders and the other not, for the most part they prefer to follow through on individual orders from start to finish, because of the connection they feel with their customers.
“It’s a nice escape, spending the time to make a special piece of jewellery for someone,” said Sarah.
They credit motherhood for inspiring them to try something new – something that’s a creative outlet, and that gives them the freedom to stay home with their kids. And, it’s given them a new sense of sentimentality.
“It’s very exciting to get the mail and open it up to find a print inside. It’s very personal. People are sending us a piece of their children,” Rachelle said.