Timber Heard is no stranger to challenges, internal or external, but she doesn’t let them stop her from putting her mind, heart and soul into her craft. The 31-year-old owner and designer of Talitha Kumi Jewelry & Handbags plans to become a handbag seamstress and set up her own workshop, a studio, in Oxford.
The mark takes its name from a passage in the Bible, Mark 5:41, where Jesus raises a little girl from the dead by saying to her, “Arise.”
And she did.
Heard lives with schizoaffective disorder and is a strong advocate for mental health and hopes to inspire others to ‘stand up’ because at one point she had to stand up and move on.
Born in Texas and adopted and raised in Mississippi, Heard learned to sew by hand from her adoptive mother, a skill that was also taught to the mother’s other children, and she carried this skill throughout her life. .
“But I alone have learned to bead,” said Heard. As an anthropologist and self-proclaimed nerd, Heard has personally studied the importance of beadwork in Native American cultures and is keen to learn different skills from around the world.
Heard draws artistic influences from Nigerian culture, especially Igbo, and their bespoke designs that she experimented with through Nigerian friends as well as French design houses.
While staying with her adoptive family, a young Heard watched E! News and captured fashion segments that held her attention for hours and hours. The various fashions and designers have inspired Heard and planted a seed for the future.
” I will see [models] on the catwalk and I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be a model, but I could design this,’ ”she said.
Later in life, when Heard was raised in foster care and started living in group homes, she relied on her sewing skills in her youth to avoid trouble and even make a little profit.
“We weren’t allowed to go to games and we weren’t allowed to do cheerleaders or anything like that,” she said. “I started to sew because there was nothing else to do but fight and talk.”
When the group home regularly visited Walmart, Heard took the opportunity to buy more materials to make his handbags. She started selling her handbags locally for $ 20 and was receiving reviews describing her products as being so professionally and skillfully made that it was as if they came from a sewing machine.
Heard said her disorder allows her to use a great amount of focus to produce the level of detail and artistry for which she is known and anyone she trains will need to match her level.
Soon after graduating from high school and earning her associate’s degree, Heard moved to Oxford to study at the University of Mississippi, where she experienced intermittent homelessness for three years.
“It was the dead of winter and I was lying on a bench on the school campus,” Heard said. “The stars were beautiful and I just said, ‘God are you real?'”
Homelessness coupled with the lack of adequate mental health services created a dark period in Heard’s life. She has struggled with depression and suicide since the age of 10, and things got worse in college, causing Heard to make multiple attempts on her life.
After her last attempt, Heard realized that God was keeping her, so she sought her goal. Soon after, she made some necessary changes and reassessments in her life and then decided to live out the skills that she has cultivated her entire life.
With the help of local entrepreneur and mentor Tammy Herod, Heard applied for The Big Bad Business Lab and was one of six to win the grant that would help him start his business. She also thanks Herod, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council Executive Director Wayne Andrews and local entrepreneur Lee Ingram for helping launch his business.
Heard realized that God responds in His own way and that it just takes time for the blessings to come true.
Now Heard designs handbags and jewelry and creates personalized orders for customers through her website, which she updates regularly with new or restocked items. Heard said she was blessed to be where she is now in life and in her business.
“Jesus did what he said he was going to do with my life and I want to help others get up too,” Heard said.
Heard advises anyone walking through their darkness or struggling with sanity or suicide to keep the faith and hold on.
“Don’t give up,” she said. “This is what the enemy wants you to do and if you give up, God cannot keep His hand on you. If you don’t do anything else today, just stay alive.
For more information on Timber Heard and Talitha Kumi jewelry and handbags, visit www.talitahkumijewels.com.