“I was holding a sign that said, ‘I need $400 for insurance, license fees and raw materials so I can quit begging and sell my art again,’ and people gave me money,” he said. “I saved as much of it as I could, and I did with it what I said I was going to do.”
However, he needed a permit from the city, as well as liability insurance, which would cost him hundreds of dollars per year. He didn’t have the money, he said, and the city wasn’t willing to bend on the rules, and so he spent months continuing to panhandle.
The good news, people helped him to accumulate the money he needed. After securing a one-year liability insurance policy for $250, Gwyddion finally applied for a sidewalk occupancy permit at city hall on June 3.
The city issued a one-year permit effective the next day, and Storm now sells his jewelry legally. The permit cost him $20.
Gwyddion now can be found most days perched atop an upside-down bucket along Liberty Street, with his jewelry laid out atop a cardboard box in front of him.
He sells handmade wire-wrapped pendants and bracelets, using copper and silver wire and semi-precious stones of various shapes, sizes and colors.
The pendants come with a piece of adjustable hemp twine, so they’re one-size-fits-all necklaces ready to wear.
Storm also accepts special orders. If there’s a particular stone someone likes, he’ll wrap it in either copper or silver wire on the spot.
As of today, Gwyddion is no longer homeless. He’s living in an Avalon Housing apartment in Ann Arbor, the first place he’s had to call his own in many years.
Storm, who was considered chronically homeless, qualified for U.S. Housing and Urban Development assistance. With the help of HUD, community leaders in Washtenaw County are working to end veteran homelessness by December 2015 and chronic homelessness by December 2016.
Gwyddion, who is originally from Ohio, still remembers the day his social worker called him and said there was an apartment for him.
“I’m like, ‘Cool, what’s that going to cost me?’ She says, ‘Nothing for right now.’ As far as I know, Housing and Urban Development is paying for it,” he said.
But now that he’s earning a living from his business, which he calls Gwyddion Storm’s Handmade Hippie Jewelry, a percentage of his income will go toward rent.
Even though he’s encountering typical handmade artist’s problems such as breaking even due to buying more rocks and wires, but he’s determined to continue with it.
“I’ve got a roof over my head and a legal means of income, so I’m an American now,” he quipped, grinning.
So how about you? How has handmade business changed your life, let us know in the comments below?