Five years ago, Season Smith-Wesley did not know a thing about making jewelry. Even after she took a beginner earring and necklace class at Michaels, Smith-Wesley admitted, "I still didn’t know what it was." Yet she practiced. "I got better and better."
Now King Street passersby can find Smith-Wesley sitting behind the desk of her new shop AdAl, with dozens of her own exotic handmade necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets on display.
Smith-Wesley thinks of her son, Addy, when she creates jewelry. When Addy was two years old Smith-Wesley and her husband noticed slight changes in his development. Addy began "slowly losing the worlds he had gained like, daddy, bye bye, and thank you," she said. Addy was diagnosed with autism when he was four.
So Smith-Wesley started creating jewelry to ease her mind. And when the economy turned bad in 2008, she gave her creations to family and friends as Christmas gifts. Best friend, Isha Yilla, remembers when she received one of those gifts.
Yilla was having a tough year. "Everything was going wrong," she said. Yet, her eyes lit up when she opened Smith-Wesley’s gift, a beautiful necklace and earring set. "It matched my tone and my spirit," Yilla said. "I don’t think she knew how much it meant to me."
Yilla’s reaction inspired Smith-Wesley to branch her designs outside of the family circle. She opened AdAl Jewelry Designs in Woodbridge in 2009. This year she moved the shop to Old Town and opened on June 26.
"Old Town is very historical, so you can’t just put any business there," Russell Niblett said. Niblett is the manager at M & M Fine Arts and Antique shop, next door to AdAl.
Niblett said the owner of the two buildings was impressed with Smith-Wesley’s designs and thought she’d be a great addition to King Stret. "There’s no other shop like hers," Niblett said.
Smith-Wesley’s jewelry is inventive. "I would grab things you wouldn’t event think you could make jewelry out of," she said. One time she took pieces of fabric meant for a designer outfit and stitched it into glass leaves for an earthy cerulean blue necklace.
Smith-Wesley’s outgoing personality is reflected in her bold designs. "You kind of especially have to have that personality of ‘I want to stand out,’" Smith-Wesley said. Individuals can find bridal pieces or customize jewelry to switch up colors. She also sells hand bags and scarves. Many of her designs are African inspired.
Smith-Wesley was born and raised in Liberia until she moved to the U.S. when she was seven. Her parents worked three jobs to live a middle class life in a country with extreme poverty and extreme wealth.
"My jewelry has to have a cause behind it," Smith-Wesley said. Her family wants to give back to the Liberian community. Smith-Wesley and her sister, Eva Sahr, are moving their event planning business to Liberia.
Their family will also provide resources for Mission of Hope for Disable, a home for individuals with disabilities in Liberia. Smith-Wesley said people with disabilities in Liberia are often dismissed. Children may receive only a spoonful of rice per day.
Smith-Wesley uses her jewelry to raise awareness about various disabilities by sponsoring Autism Awareness events and research. "It’s not about just being rich, I have to have something to give back to."
She also hopes and prays that Addy will one day get his voice back. "This is why every day we’re pushing and kicking and going to educate, it’s up to me to educate."