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Ironton resident uses jewelry to help artist#039;s heart shine through

Eight years ago, in an Ohio University public speaking class, a teacher was astounded by the intricate jewelry designs of her student Kim Schwab. Like a psychic, she stared into Kim's crystal and saw the future.

The teacher believed that Schwab was not intended for a life of public speaking, but one of crafting pieces of jewelry to make the world just a bit more beautiful. After she completed the public speaking course, Schwab never attended another class.

"I needed to do something for me," Schwab said. "I am artistic and creative and I need an outlet."

That outlet, for Schwab, is Kim's Crystals, a small business that she runs out of her basement. That may not sound like much, but visitors to the shop know that to go behind the unassuming storm door on the side of her home at 2419 S. 10th St. in Ironton is to enter a shimmering world of dazzling crystals and ornate creations.

A crystalline affair

After falling in love with crystals after watching "Pollyanna" as a child, Schwab was led to begin using them to create small pieces of jewelry 14 years ago. It began as a side project of sorts with some friends, but after the advice of her public speaking teacher, it evolved into a full-time business.

Her Ironton shop is open by appointment only, making every visit to Kim's Crystals an almost decadent private showing, a wonderland of crystal arranged solely for the customer. Interested parties may call (740) 532-8702 to set up their own personal show.

Before Kim's Crystals ever had a location however, it was just a stand at local craft shows. Though she still sells her jewelry at the fairs, her business now has its permanent home underneath hers, in what Schwab describes as "The Pole-iest Basement in the World."

One would be hard-pressed to notice the many support poles in her intricately decorated shop. Through bartering her items at local craft shows, she has gathered an eclectic assortment of decorations, from an airbrushed close-up of rocker Iggy Pop's eyeball, to a pencil drawing of a Scarface-era Al Pacino.

The shop's most prominent visual feature is not the art that she has collected through the years, but rather her own pieces of jewelry, glistening baubles in a dizzying spectrum of colors for almost every occasion.

One-of-a-kind

Occasions are a big part of Schwab's business. Aside from selling her work to those who just want to add some sparkle to their ensemble, much of her business is in custom-designing jewelry for prom and homecoming dresses.

By observing the beading work in a gown, she is able to construct a piece with the appropriate beads and crystals to match it perfectly. For her daughter's recent prom, she went so far as to make custom beading for her shoes.

Pam Williams, owner of Dance Partners, said she sends her prom gown customers Schwab's way to get a unique look for their jewelry.

"It's a different thing completely, just fantastic," Williams said. "One girl from Ironton had this one-of-a-kind Tiffany dress, a showcase ballroom dress, and Kim made the jewelry that was worthy to be worn with that dress."

When prom season has passed, Schwab segues into wedding mode. Brides don't just get their jewelry from her; she also crafts crystal and silver nosegays to replace traditional bridal bouquets.

Technicolor dreams

Though she often asks for a month or more advance notice for many of her custom pieces, her business wasn't always so booming. Five years ago, Schwab was robbed of all her merchandise after a craft show, costing her thousands. But even a blow of that magnitude was unable to stop the determined Irontonian.

"It was rough, I did a lot of crying," Schwab said. "That happened on Friday the 13th of August. But I kept doing my shows every weekend, and in four-and-a-half months time, and by Christmas I had everything back up and running. I wasn't going to let that get me down."

That perseverance may be at the heart of Schwab's 14 year success story. She has an artist's heart, one that compels her to give form to her vision, despite hardships.

Though she's unclear as to why she is so inspired by crystals, Schwab said she is positive of where she finds the inspiration that gives those crystals shape, form, and purpose.

"I dream in color."