The bond between two sisters is a sacred, revered thing. Sisters share secrets; they share clothes; they share fights; they share hopes and dreams; but rarely do sisters share a business. Sisters Jacquelyn Buckner and Elizabeth White took a leap of faith – together, of course – to follow their passion for design and creation to develop Twine & Twig, a line of handmade jewelry fashioned from products found around the world.
Not only do Jacquelyn and Elizabeth look alike, they sound alike and think alike too. And as the two-heads-are-better-than-one maxim goes, these two put their brunette heads together to produce a line of one-of-a-kind necklaces and bracelets that has become coveted all across the South, and across the U.S. too, for that matter. What started out as a solution to a problematic necklace turned into something much, much bigger. And better.
“It has blown all of our expectations out of the water,” Jacquelyn says. “When Elizabeth and I first started [Twine & Twig], our goal was to have three trunk shows a year to sell our necklaces.”
Like so many other great ideas, this one was years in the making, but neither Elizabeth nor Jacquelyn realized it at the time. As purveyors of all things unique and creative, the sisters frequented local flea markets to seek interesting items. They often bought African trade beads on these trips. For years they wore the trade beads as necklaces, which were strung on scratchy, uncomfortable straw. While they loved the organic look of the beads, neither Elizabeth nor Jacquelyn liked the way the necklaces felt around their necks. Jacquelyn often thought that someone should restring the beads on suede so that the necklaces would be more comfortable to wear, but never thought that she would be the one to do it.
OUT OF SORROW COMES SUCCESS
They say the things that are meant to be just happen naturally, and the conception of Twine & Twig is no exception. Shortly before creating Twine & Twig, her daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fraught with fear and desperation, Jacquelyn felt helpless, but as good sisters do, Elizabeth supported her. Elizabeth went with Jacquelyn to doctors’ appointments, standing by her side, giving Jacquelyn the strength she needed to care for her daughter. Thankfully, Jacquelyn’s daughter’s tumor was benign and was surgically removed.
As a sign of her gratitude, Jacquelyn had a necklace made out of scrap African trade beads and gave it to Elizabeth, but something wasn’t quite right about the necklace. Strung on metal, the necklace lacked the authentic look and feel it had when the beads were strung on the straw. So Elizabeth and Jacquelyn restrung the necklace on some twine to see how that looked. They liked it, and they created a few more. And then Jacquelyn remembered her idea of using suede. She used a soft strap of suede for the necklace, and the sisters both loved it. Twine & Twig was born.
With a renewed sense of purpose and drive, Jacquelyn and Elizabeth started creating the necklaces. Drawing inspiration from the organic colors of nature, the sisters strung necklace after necklace using a unique combination of African trade beads, antler sheds, cowrie shells, and more.
“We are inspired by nature, for sure. We like the rustic, natural feel; we dress that way too. It feels effortless, just thrown together, natural,” Jacquelyn notes. “We are really into mixing neutrals, textures and natural elements.”
They are also very specific about the colors they use on their signature suede straps. “One time I was trying to explain the color that the suede should be to my father-in-law, and I told him to go look at the under-side of a mushroom. That’s the color we want!” Jacquelyn laughs.
Twine & Twig was also largely influenced by the sisters’ fond memories of summer vacations on Figure Eight Island, NC. Elizabeth and Jacquelyn loved collecting shells with their grandfather on the sandy southern shores of Figure Eight. Their grandfather’s collection was extensive enough that he later donated it to a local museum.
“We want [the necklaces] to have a natural feel. Nothing we work with is man-made. The antlers we use are naturally-shed deer and elk antlers. We source some of our beads from the Philippines,” Jacquelyn notes. “After a big typhoon hit a few years ago, we increased our orders to help support the economy there.”
As for their favorite African trade beads, Elizabeth and Jacquelyn meet with Barasa, a native Nigerian who sells them the beads. “We like to support small. We know Barasa’s family and where he’s from. When you start a small business, you realize how much you want to support other small businesses. You pay it forward,” Elizabeth says.
NO ONE SAID IT WOULD BE EASY
Twine & Twig’s immediate popularity was not without its hard work, of course. “In the beginning, we were working around the clock. We’d be up until 2 or 3 in the morning finishing the necklaces. And then start again the next day,” Jacquelyn says.
But as it so often does, their hard work paid off. Twine & Twig products are currently sold in over 100 retail stores across the U.S. The jewelry is mostly sold in exclusive boutiques, however, the sisters were delighted when Neiman Marcus, Southern Season, and Everything But Water, all national stores, reached out to them to carry their products also.
“We are really proud of our vendor relationships. Only one or two vendors have not ordered from us a second time. Even though we are small, we really try to keep our vendors happy and maintain solid professional relationships,” says Elizabeth.
Even though starting their business was no small task, it was more than worth it. “It’s worth taking the risk if it’s something you believe in, but you have to be 100 percent dedicated, all day long,” Elizabeth says. “Love what you are doing, because if you don’t, then you’ll give it up.”
And as for how things are working with your sister, “It depends on who you’re talking to,” laughs Elizabeth. “And on what day,” Jacquelyn adds, laughing also. “But all in all, it’s so much better working with someone you are related to. People you aren’t related to sugar coat things. We set each other straight. It’s really great.”