Broken Bone Jewelry creator Leigh Ann Bardman sets up shop regularly at craft fairs around San Luis Obispo.

Leigh Ann Bardman’s college apartment is at the intersection of a natural wonderland and an eccentric vintage store. 

Underneath the dim lighting, dozens of houseplants wind through the living room from floor to ceiling. Bardman and her roommate keep the overhead lights off, leaving the room illuminated by the soft yellow glow of unique antique lamps. 

While friends come to sit and chat on the forest-green couch or the cow-print upholstered dining table seats, the creative process begins elsewhere for Bardman. 

“Honestly, most of my jewelry-making happens on the floor,” Bardman said. 

Since being gifted her grandmother’s jewelry-making supplies for Christmas in 2020, Bardman’s business, Broken Bone Jewelry, has taken off. What began as gifts for friends has turned her into a regular seller at local craft events.  

Much like her home decor, Bardman’s jewelry has a distinct style. Based on classic looks, Bardman adds a flair, whether it be a heart-shaped pendant or self-collected sea glass.

“It’s the perfect range from delicate to loud,” Faith LeGrande said. “They just have such a way with piecing together each part to complement any outfit.”

LeGrande is the organizer of Art and Soul SLO, a local nonprofit that holds events to benefit LGBTQ+ owned small businesses. For the past year, Bardman has been a vendor at their monthly craft fairs, selling jewelry and socializing with customers. 

“So much of the small-business world is making connections, with vendors and customers,” Bardman said. “I feel like I wasn’t really connected to the SLO community before this and now I get to interact with so many new people.” 

Community involvement has led to some notable interactions for Bardman. 

“One time I was talking to a customer, and she asked me if I’d be interested in teaching a class on it,” she said. “I didn’t even realize until after that I had been talking to the mayor.” 

LeGrande recalls Bardman’s first time attending an Art and Soul SLO event. From the start, she was eager to help with the event set-up and get to know the other vendors. 

“It’s just natural for Leigh Ann to offer their help, even when they have things to do,” LeGrande said. “She has a kind, warm and welcoming presence.”

Although she creates with ease, Bardman assures much trial and error goes into her designs.

“I have a bin just filled with prototypes, but I love the process,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in figuring out the mechanics of how things work.”

Bardman’s self-described “never-ending curiosity” is reflected in her studies. With a psychology major and biology and child development minors, she plans to pursue neuroscience after college. 

Most recently, Bardman participated in a study on microbial diversity in cows and horses. Working in the field is her favorite aspect of conducting research. 

However, being a woman in a male-dominated field presents its challenges and has pushed Bardman to be direct in these environments. 

“It’s definitely forced me to assert my knowledge,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like I have to prove what I know to my STEM peers. It’s challenging to make sure I’m heard at times.”

Looking ahead, Bardman plans to continue balancing her studies and small business. 

“I think I’ve found my niche and passion now in making jewelry,” she said. “At the start, I feel like my style was a little all over the place, but now I’ve figured it out to a science.”

Broken Bone Jewelery’s booth can be found at the Art and Soul SLO gathering, held the first Saturday of every month at Bliss Cafe. Bardman will also be attending the HerCampus Cal Poly craft sale on Saturday.