Nineteen years ago, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and accompanying seizures cost Marianna Monentes her driver’s license and landed her in the hospital. After a few years of dealing with medical issues, she found a new path in Second Life where she learned to make virtual jewelry.
In 2012, she started out with Blender, a free, open-source 3D graphics toolset.
Monentes opened her Second Life store in 2013, originally under the name Vogati and later under her own last name. The store saw some commercial success and was even nominated for an Avi Choice award in late 2014.
“By 2015, I purchased advanced computer-aided design software, which took two years to learn,” Monentes told Hypergrid Business.
It was around this time that she began to be frustrated with the limitations of Second Life, and was actively exploring OpenSim.
The main obstacle was the cost of uploads. “Some jewelry was 300 Lindens to upload,” said Monentes, which would be a little over $1 in real-world currency, a cost that could quickly add up over many individual pieces.
Another obstacle was that all her jewelry had to be converted in size before uploading to Second Life. That wasn’t the case in OpenSim.
“OpenSim is such that whatever size I created my jewelry it uploads the exact size that I make it, which saves me extra time and steps in my workflow,” said Monentes.
She was also spending more time in OpenSim grids, including volunteering at Great Canadian Grid.
“I loved the freedom of living in OpenSim and being able to travel to all the grids to see my friends,” she said.
She was also heartened by the support received from OpenSim users.
“Fred Beckhusen helped me achieve more realistic metals inworld,” she said. Beckhusen is the founder of Outworldz, which offers a collection of free, legally-licensed OpenSim content as well as the popular DreamGrid installer for OpenSim, which allows anyone to create and run their own OpenSim grid, for free.
He wasn’t the only OpenSim resident who helped her.
“Reyn Softly supported my desires and was the artist behind my cool ads and gifs and created my in-world Kitely store too,” she said, also thanking Great Canadian Grid owner and founder Roddie Macchi “for understanding when I needed to go further in my jewelry creating.”
“The advice given to me by Reemer Waco that I held close all these years was, ‘If you learn to make something yourself, make it well and you will be your only competition,'” added Monentes, referring to another OpenSim resident. “I cherished this advice, and strive to learn something new each day.”
So Monentes shut down her Second Life store and moved to OpenSim.
Her new store, Monentes Jewelry on the Kitely Market, opened its virtual doors a year ago. Kitely Market is the only multi-grid OpenSim online marketplace. Users can have their purchases automatically delivered to more than 350 different OpenSim grids.
Ilan Tochner, Kitely’s CEO, provided Monentes with “sound advice when deciding what direction I was going in. He kept me focused on my goal,” she said.
Customers can also visit her store in-world, at the Sierra Sonnet region on Kitely. The hypergrid address is grid.kitely.com:8002:Sierra Sonnet.
“Knowing that I can place my product in one location and have it sent to multiple grids seems like a logical choice for a store location,” said Monentes. “Another huge plus is that Kitely Market is set up so that the merchandiser can obtain accurate sales records for taxes. It makes it much easier for filing.”
Monentes found a connection with her clients through custom jewelry.
“The most cherished requests I have had are a journal locket, a request for a ring like a customer’s grandmother had, and wedding rings that I have created exclusively for the bride and groom,” said Monentes. “I have had so many wonderful personal requests it makes it all worthwhile for me,”
When several customers who purchased her virtual jewelry over the past year shared their wishes for a real-life version, Monentes set a goal to make it happen.
From the virtual world to the real world
Today, her customers can buy the same jewelry in real life, through the new Monentes Jewelry online store.
But this transition was not without challenges.
“The biggest hurdle I have is that my disability makes creating the jewelry in my own studio difficult, so I have to have it all manufactured for me,” said Monentes.
She found a reliable manufacturer with 50 years of experience that uses 100 percent recycled SCS certified metal and conflict free diamonds.
Another limitation of the real-life transition was that not all virtual objects translated well into a physical version.
“Some pieces can’t be created in real life because the walls of the piece might be too thin, so it is all trial and error as to what virtual jewelry can be real,” said Monentes.
In the future, she hopes to be able to not just design the pieces, but also to make them by hand, she said. With new technology, that might soon be possible.
“The dream would be to one day have a studio at home,” she said. “I love lost wax casting and the new 3D printers available for quality printing like Solidscape.”