LUMBERTON — Choosing an outfit in the morning is the easy part for Marcie and Kelly Springs. Accessories are a little tougher, since they have more than 500 pieces to choose from.
Their mother, Sally Pennington, makes necklaces, earrings and bracelets, and gives her daughters free reign over the collection.
“I never buy jewelry anymore — I just wear hers,” said Marcie, a 21-year-old student at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C. “My friends always compliment me on it. … When I go out, people are always asking me about my earrings and my necklaces.”
Pennington sells her creations at the Carolina Country Peddlers Mall in Lumberton and, most recently, reached a sales agreement with SunKissed Boutique in Hampstead.
“My biggest fans are Kelly and Marcie,” Pennington said. “They are constantly going through and pulling out. And they give me ideas, too, because they’ll tell you. Both of them are in college, but they’ll flat tell you, ‘Mom, gold’s coming back in. The chains.’ … They come and they pick out what they want and go home with it.”
Even with those loyal customers, there still is enough to go around. At Pennington’s booth in the Peddler’s Mall, a wall of earrings overlooks a table full of jewelry. A glass showcase displays even more pieces.
“This is from my dad’s sporting goods store in 1919,” she said, pointing to the showcase. “I haven’t even had the heart to take off his piece of paper that told him the prices.”
On the back of the display case, a yellowing piece of paper lists prices for sweatshirts and T-shirts, remnants of her late father J.W. Sellers’ store, Sellers Sporting Goods. Her father’s business helped Pennington realize her passion for accessories.
“I grew up in the old Lumberton, you know, when downtown, that was it,” she said. “That was where you shopped in the 60s and 70s. We had four major jewelers that were down there. … If you had a dad that was a merchant, you grew up downtown playing, going in and out of every store that there was. I was in and out of the jewelry stores a lot. … I loved to watch (the jewelers) because they would have their glasses on and be working on the jewelry and I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’”
Pennington said she started “playing with” jewelry when she was about 5 years old, eventually turning it into a hobby and a stable business.
Pennington was a teacher for 23 years, most recently at Rowland Norment Elementary School, before retiring last year. She now spends about 30 hours a week tutoring at the school, but still finds plenty of time for her passion.
“If I’m not tutoring, like it’s summer, I’ll start at 6 a.m. and go right on through till midnight,” she said. “You get started and you don’t want to stop. Once you start on one piece, you start thinking, ‘Well, I know what I’m going to do with this.’ and then you think of another one and you just keep going.”
Pennington keeps all her tools, including pliers, a magnifying glass, a clip-on light, beading wire, and a myriad of glass, acrylic, sterling silver and gold beads and chains, in a leather case. At night, she spreads her work over an ottoman in the living room so she can spend time with her husband while also enjoying her hobby.
“My husband Scott is the one that really got me back into it,” she said. “I had stopped for a while to teach, and that takes up so much time, I had to kind of let this go.”
Pennington also sells her work at a golf pro shop in Arizona. Her creations, which also include painted clay pots, typically sell for $10 to $30.
“Jewelry has changed so that pieces are more dramatic these days,” said Lisa Barker Mady, an old friend of Pennington’s. “I found that getting that look is expensive, but with Sally’s … I can get things to match different colors and it’s affordable.”
“It’s the ideas of what to make that are difficult to come up with,” Pennington said. “I go to bed and I’m thinking about them and I wake up and I’m thinking about them. It’s kind of like how you hear about authors that can’t sleep at night, they are up typing all the time. I’m up thinking of stuff that I want to make and I have to get up and draw it out or I won’t remember.”
Mady said that dedication pays off for her customers.
“It’s eye-catching,” said Mady. “I never wear a piece where I don’t have people stop and ask me where I got it.”
Her tables at the Peddlers Mall display a sea of color, but Pennington said it wasn’t always that way.
“My biggest problem has been and always will be that I love blue,” she said. “When I started out, … everything I was making was blue. … Finally, Scott said, ‘You know, you might want to get into something else,’ So I got into using the black and white and it expanded into a whole lot of other stuff.”
Her jewelry has started to pop up in classrooms, taking her full circle.
“At the school in Florence I used to teach at, they like for me to come every season and put out all the new stuff and they bring their daughters,” she said. ” … And around here, the teachers at Rowland Norment, they wear them. It’s spread around in Lumberton. I’ve been real tickled about it.”
— Features Editor Amanda Munger can be reached by calling (910) 272-6144 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.