By Bethany Fitts
Alumna Taylor Wilkinson (BA 01) is on her way to becoming a big name in the world of jewelry design, with stars like Miranda Lambert purchasing her designs.
Wilkinson graduated from Ole Miss in 2001, but her ties to the university go back several generations.
“Both of my parents grew up here. My grandfather played for Ole Miss. My grandmother was the first Homecoming Queen,” she said. “So, I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a part of the Ole Miss community.”
While attending the university, Wilkinson was a member of Chi Omega Fraternity and participated in the campus’ social life. However, she devoted a majority of her time to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism, which she said was a full-time commitment.
“I thought forever that journalism was exactly what I wanted to do.”
In fact, during her time at Ole Miss, Wilkinson participated in a New York-based internship for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” where she was able to shadow producers the day after Oprah launched O, The Oprah Magazine.
After completing the internship, Wilkinson finished her degree and moved to Birmingham where she first began to seriously think about starting her own jewelry brand. However, her interest in jewelry began at a young age.
“I got it from my mother,” she laughed. “She has loved jewelry her whole life. So personal style for me was always black and really wild, fun jewelry. That’s what made me feel good.”
Wilkinson said that her background in journalism at Ole Miss taught her how to better communicate with a person, which has helped her tremendously.
“I have met all different types of people through this process,” she said. “I have met really wonderful people, and I have encountered not-so-nice people. You have to put the fear of being in front of people behind you, and as this goes on, I realize that this is the type of businessperson I have to be. I have to be able to [say], ‘This is my brand. This is what it’s about.’”
Wilkinson faced many obstacles when starting out, and one of the hardest challenges was finding the balance between designer and mother.
“It’s a lot of time away from my children,” she said. “You know, I was a stay-at-home-mom for 12 years before I decided to launch this business. But I’m very lucky to have a husband and children who have never said to me, ‘This is a mistake.’”
Wilkinson’s children, along with other people in her life, have been a driving force behind her designs. For example, the “Venus” ring was inspired by an encouraging conversation with her daughter, and her grandmother inspired the “Wisdom” earrings.
“My grandmother is the strongest person,” she said. “She made me think of an oak tree, and then the earring design started to look like branches.”
Wilkinson described her jewelry as bold and geometrical.
“You know how, even if your house is not really clean, if it’s straight it still creates visual peace,” she said.
It is this visual peace that her designs strive for.
Wilkinson said young artists should not worry about planning or trying to follow someone else’s process, because the challenging phases help a designer to grow the most.
“I hesitate to give anybody advice creatively, because everyone is so different,” she said. “But, I think, whatever your formula is, whatever your gut says, go with that.”
Wilkinson said it is important to have a good support system when launching a business or starting a new endeavor. She advises young entrepreneurs to take their time and research.
Wilkinson will have a trunk show at Cicada on Oct. 27-28, 2017. Her designs can also be purchased online at taylorwilkinsondesigns.com.