Zoe Tracey ’16, alumna and current assistant swim coach, founded Zoe Ray Designs by crafting earrings out of her basement as a quarantine project.
She now sells them at the Hillsdale County Farmers Market, on her instagram page, @zoeraydesigns, and on her website, zoeraydesigns.com. During the Farmers Market’s off-season, she sells her designs at Ad Astra’s market on Saturday mornings.
“I usually just sit in my craft room and start making them,” Tracey said. “I pick colors and flowers I like and put them together.”
Every week Tracey adds new styles and colors, but if a customer can’t find the color they are looking for, she offers to make them a customized pair of earrings. Tracey said she loves using her creativity to make new designs.
“I honestly don’t make the same pair more than once unless requested/bought online, or if they’re top sellers at markets,” she said. “I love just letting myself get into a creative flow and create whatever I think of.”
Tracey said she grew up crafting because her mom is a seamstress.
“She used to make my swim suits, Halloween costumes, certain outfits, reupholster furniture, lots of different jewelry, and clay beads,” Tracey said. “She has done just about every craft or DIY project you can imagine.”
Tracey said her mom’s motto, “Busy hands are happy hands,” inspires her business.
“We always had to be doing something growing up, and honestly,” she said, “making jewelry or sewing was more fun than chores.”
Tracey’s favorite jewelry making medium is resin, she said.
“Epoxy resin is a liquid that you mix with a hardener and it cures into a solid that’s clear and durable,” she said. “I love it because it’s so versatile and light so you can make statement earrings that aren’t heavy and pull on your ears.”
She said that she pours the resin into silicone molds, then adds different dyes, dried flowers, and gold and silver flakes.
“Not only does she have plenty of styles, but the earrings are also reasonably priced,” sophomore Lindsey Cool said. “I love seeing other girls around campus wearing Zoe’s earrings too!”
Every week Tracey adds new styles and colors, and even offers to make a customized pair of earrings for anyone.
Since spring 2020, she has branched into making small trays and hair clips. Aaron Tracey, Zoe’s husband, said she loves what she does and has had great success.
“Each week, the boards have been completely sold,” he said. “She sells a lot of earrings for $10 or less.”
Fiona Shea, assistant director of the student and young alumni programs, said that she and her co-workers at the alumni office each own about 15 pairs of earrings from Zoe Tracey designs.
Shea has purchased Tracey’s earrings since the start of Zoe Ray Designs.
“I love that they’re trendy, but she has her own unique spin,” Shea said. “I love that she has this entrepreneurial spirit, she’s having a lot of success and I think that’s really something to admire.”
Tracey is making custom earrings for Shea’s bridesmaids to wear in her upcoming wedding, she said.
“I love that she’s local,” she said. “It’s a nice way to support a small local entrepreneurial business and get a really awesome product. I love everything about them.”