Creativity during COVID-19

Sophomore Georgia Kathryn Duncan discusses her quarantine hobby


Courtesy of Georgia Kathryn Duncan

Georgia Kathryn Duncan poses with her tools.

Virginia Noone, Photography Editor

When the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shut down the world, millions were left isolated in their homes. Before this, our overly regimented lives were scheduled down to the minute, crammed with school, sports and extracurriculars. Free time was a luxury left far behind in our toddler days. 

Suddenly, our lives turned upside down, and we were left with too much time with our families, our screens and ourselves. The desperate search for hobbies began. We baked bread, made pasta from scratch, went on walks, played guitar hero — anything to keep our days filled and our minds sane. 

Georgia Kathryn Duncan, a sophomore from Blacksburg, Va., decided to use her time in a creative way. She began to handcraft jewelry and sell the pieces from the basement of her family home.

 The “Beads by Georgia” Etsy page began in Sept. 2019, but Duncan was able to devote more time to her business once the pandemic hit. Similar to most schools, her high school went completely online, and her grades were frozen to relieve students of academic pressure. She then filled her time, previously occupied by school, with jewelry making. 

“It was scary back then, but now I look back and can see it was a good period for rest,” Duncan said.

Many small businesses faced challenges through the pandemic, and Duncan’s business was no exception. Virginia banned all non-essential travel, which meant Duncan could not travel to the post office to mail her orders.

“I had to close down my shop for a little bit and figure out ways to revamp my business while still following COVID protocols,” she said. “That month-long period when I had to close Beads by Georgia was when I decided to shift gears and make spoon rings instead.” 

Duncan crafted rings from old spoons that were lying around her house from when her mom had collected them as  a teenager. She takes these antique spoons, cuts them, sands them and bends them to form a ring that can be worn on a finger.

One of Duncan’s spoon rings, as seen on her Etsy shop. (Courtesy of Etsy)

“It gives new life to something that may have previously been thrown away,” Duncan said. “Without COVID, I wouldn’t have had the time to look at my business model and evaluate what wasn’t working creatively.” 

Like many, Duncan used her hobby as an outlet to improve her mental health during a tumultuous time. She quarantined with her parents and brother, which she says proved to be difficult despite her immense love for them.

 “I love my family more than anything, but it was hard to find a balance between supporting each other and finding time for myself,” Duncan said.

As someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Duncan says having large pockets of free time was a challenge for her as she struggled to organize her days. School had always given her a routine and a sense of stability, so the loss of that structure was problematic.

 She believes being able to go into her jewelry workshop and create unique pieces helped her feel normal despite the outside world being anything but normal. It was her coping mechanism for surviving the pandemic mentally.

“I was involved with a lot of things in high school, but jewelry making was something that I was able to do for myself,” Duncan said. “I created it on my own, so I felt like my own boss for the first time in my life. 

Beyond the business aspects of her hobby, making spoon rings helped Duncan connect with her mother like never before. She says that she remembered seeing all of her mother’s spoons while she was growing up, and being able to repurpose them felt like a way to grow closer to her.

 “My mom had a spoon that was given to her when she was born with her name and her date of birth on it,” Duncan said. “For Christmas that year, I made it into a ring for her that she now wears all the time.” 

Her mom now frequently sends her pictures of her wearing the ring as a way to show she misses her daughter.

One of Duncan’s rings, as seen on her Etsy shop. (Courtesy of Etsy)

Three years later, Duncan’s business has taken a backseat to her rigorous academic schedule and extracurriculars. Although, she says, she has a greater appreciation for the free time she does manage to carve out. As for her spoon rings, she is forced to wait until breaks to continue making them. 

“I don’t think my neighbors in my dorm would appreciate me using a hammer to make spoon rings at odd hours,” Duncan said. “It’s disappointing, but I can’t make my art here.”

At times when she realizes she needs to rest and unwind, she misses her workshop the most. During the pandemic, making rings and eventually delivering them served as an emotional sanctuary from the uncertainty beyond her basement. 

“When customers would send me pictures of them with their spoon rings, it made me so happy to see how something I made could make someone feel more confident and make their day in a very dreary time,” Duncan said. 

Duncan continues to make and sell jewelry online and plans to expand her business. She’s unsure of the exact future of the business, but she believes jewelry making will be a lifelong hobby for her to enjoy.