Thank you so very much to the many friends and visitors of Songbird Artistry who voted for us as the Best Woman-Owned Business in Pittsburgh! We were able to survive the pandemic because of our customers, and we appreciate all of you so much. By voting for us for this award, you have honored us by affirming our store’s place in the community.
The story of Songbird Artistry began when I was a single mother raising my two daughters, Jenn Orefice and Jacklyn Orefice Juliar. We founded the shop in 2016, but it all truly started back in the early 2000s, when Jenn was in elementary school and began creating bracelets out of Looney Toons toothbrushes. She would frequently ask me for more toothbrushes, which I assumed meant that I was a perfect mom who had trained her kids to practice rigorous dental hygiene, until I discovered that Jenn had actually been softening the toothbrushes in boiling
water, pulling out the bristles, and forming them into bracelets, which she sold on the playground at school... at which point I wondered if Jenn was even old enough to be boiling water without supervision! Jenn was always finding new things to create and new ways to sell her pieces. Sean Collier of Pittsburgh Magazine dubbed Jenn’s toothbrush bracelet business as her “playground
My other daughter, Jacklyn, has always had a knack for decoration, event-planning, and “creating spaces out of memories.” I lost my father at 23 and had kept a box of his belongings, which a young Jacklyn happened upon while doing some organizing in our house. I came home to find that Jacklyn had organized a beautiful shelf of all of my dad’s things and made it a space that honored him.
From “Playground Enterprise” to Family Business
On a trip to Boston when she was 15, Jenn got a jewelry kit that included 5000 beads. In a day’s time, she had used almost all of the beads to create stretchy bracelets and other pieces of jewelry. Upon looking at the jewelry, my friends (our Boston hosts) suggested that Jenn should sell her pieces, as she displayed such skill and passion for the craft. This prompted Jenn to create her brand Jenn’s Jems and to start doing shows where she could sell her work. She started in church and temple basements making little-to-no money, but continued showing up, learning new skills, and honing her craft. Eventually she developed a following for her work and a reach that prompted people to seek her out to fix or re-design their pieces of jewelry. In addition to working on her own collection, Jenn also taught me how to craft my own pieces. When it was time for Jenn to leave for college in Edinboro, PA, I continued making work and developing my practice, especially in the art of mosaics. By the time Jenn reached grad school and continued having success with Jenn’s Jems, she realized that she was much happier making her art than pursuing her previous goal of becoming a psychologist, so she moved home to Pittsburgh to do just that. Jenn and I were given the opportunity to sell our work at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market until its closing in February 2016, an event which coincided with the loss of my husband Larry, with whom I had collaborated on my mosaic works.
Now at a crossroads, Jenn and I, along with Jacklyn, considered our options and decided to open Songbird Artistry in May 2016, as an homage to Larry and a place where artists could show their work and connect with the community. Jenn and I continue to make our artwork, and Jacklyn curates the extensive vintage section of the shop. And now there’s even a new generation of songbirds: Jacklyn’s baby Leora!
A Place for Community
As kids, Jenn and Jacklyn endured the pain of bullying at school. In response to this, we wanted Songbird Artistry to be a space where no matter who walked through the door, they immediately felt welcomed and safe to just exist as they are. In an effort to make the shop feel like a home to all who visit and to create a community that invites and nourishes all people, we offer classes for both adults and children, have art-filled after-school programs, and host community crafting nights. Those who have visited the store or taken classes with us have become our family over these years, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you!