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Throughout her life, Kim Pandina has enjoyed working with her hands and being outdoors. She incorporates both into her jewelry business, Panda Wear, in which she specializes in custom wire and stone pieces.
Pandina started her business in 1998 after friends admired jewelry she had made for herself.
"I thought, 'Maybe I'm onto something here,'" she says.
The inspiration for her jewelry comes from nature, Pandina says. She is drawn to the natural curve of a tree branch, for instance.
Her passion was influenced largely by her late father, John, who would take his daughter on nature hikes throughout the Finger Lakes, help with outdoor projects and spend family time at the cottage he built in the Thousand Islands.
"I was a tomboy, always working with my hands on something in the garage," Pandina says.
She has had some instruction but is mainly self-taught and has honed her talent over the years. Pandina thrives on the physicality of a job. In addition to making jewelry, she enjoys crocheting, baking and canning fruits and vegetables.
She runs Panda Wear on a part-time basis from her Rochester-area home and is the sole employee. She declines to disclose sales figures but says the business is profitable.
Pandina sells her work online and at various arts festivals. Her jewelry also is sold locally at the Bird House and Jerry Williams Creative Arts & Framing.
Popular items include earrings and rings with prices from $10 to $500. A piece can take anywhere from two hours to 15 hours to make, depending on its intricacy and size.
Pandina is hands-on in her construction and uses a technique called cold connection, which does not require heat, such as soldering, to join components. The stones in her pieces often are specimens she has collected. Pandina cuts them for her work with a diamond saw. She also sells the rocks or pieces.
She takes in custom orders as well, working with each client on a specific design.
When not running Panda Wear, Pandina works in accounting.
"I get to use both sides of my brain," she says.
In addition to selling her jewelry, Pandina offers private instruction for small groups, teaching techniques such as bead stringing and wire wrapping.
Customer satisfaction is important to Pandina. She strives to make items that are not second-thought accessories, but rather heirlooms and keepsakes.
"I want you to love what you get," she says.
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