By Elizabeth Chang
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Sylver Logan Sharp was already making it as a recording artist when she started crafting earrings and necklaces. In fact, it is her singing that has allowed her line of costume jewelry to take off, by exposing her creations to major artists such as Elton John.
Sylver grew up in Washington and Charleston, S.C., and attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. She worked for the airlines before starting a performing career, first singing in local wedding bands and then scoring a major gig when the disco group Chic (of "Le Freak" and "Good Times" fame) reformed in the early 1990s and started touring, often overseas, where it is popular.
The slender, energetic singer, who flaunts a mane of flaming red hair, got her signature name from a friend who noticed that she always wore silver when everyone else was into black and gold. Sylver took up jewelry-making, a family hobby started by an aunt, in the '90s. She, her mom and her aunt would wear their pieces, and people would be "literally stopping us in the malls and in the restaurants going, 'That is really nice,' " she says.
But Sylver, 40, didn't think of the jewelry as much more than a hobby until a few dark months in 2001. First, in August, Sylver's then-home in LeDroit Park flooded. Then came the attacks of September 11, making overseas gigs scarce. On top of that, Sylver's mother was ill with fibromyalgia. Sylver decided she should have another source of income, so she began making more jewelry and selling it at craft fairs and church functions. As travel picked up after the attacks, she brought the jewelry on tour and sold to fellow performers, such as gospel singer Yolanda Adams, Roberta Flack and Donna Summer, as well as to soap opera stars and costume designers.
"I'm famous for my backstage dressing room jewelry parties," she says. "I bring my bag down, everyone's like, You've got your stuff? As weird as that sounds, that is how it is sold at least 75 to 80 percent of the time." (She also sells out of her home showroom, at jewlery parties and through a Web site she launched last month.) On one memorable occasion, after performing with Chic at Elton John's White Tie and Tiara Ball, John bought everything she had with her, 25 pieces, for $3,500. "I was just floating on air," she recalls. "There was no note I couldn't hit; there was nothing I couldn't do."
In 2002, Sylver sold more than $20,000 worth of jewelry. In 2007, it was $40,000. She estimates that she has made a profit of $35,000 to $40,000 over the past two years. Her glitzy pieces are composed of crystals, gemstones, glass beads and, of course, silver. Among her designs are the Quartz Ladybugg necklace ($65), a striped piece of quartz on a black leather cord, and the Ice My Chain necklace ($165), a generously sized Swarovski crystal on a large-link silver chain. Most pieces are modestly priced, although a few cost more than $500.
Sylver spends about two weeks a month touring and most of the rest of her time working on her solo career (lately she's had a few performing dates in the Washington region) and making jewelry, which runs neck-and-neck with singing in her affections. "I can't pack a piece of wardrobe without packing Sylverwear."
Have you augmented a successful career with a hobby that has taken off? E-mail Elizabeth Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org.