Expanding Horizons

Every year about this time, I used to go into the “last minute Christmas-time crunch.”  But it’s still September, you say!  The new fall TV shows haven’t even started airing yet.  There’s no pro or college football – a true kick off (so to speak) for the fall season yet.  But for those in the retail industry, the Christmas shopping season creeps ever closer, the “start date” for filling shelves getting farther and farther away from Christmas Morning each year.  For those in the handmade jewelry business?  Most years the Easter eggs are barely put away before snowflakes and noel wreaths start showing up in jewelry supply catalogs!    For those who sell at fall festivals, it’s even worse – often starting next year’s items before this year is even finished!

For the most part, I no longer participate in the “craft show circuit.”  Not because I think I’m better than others but because I now have both another job as a romance author and because I have brick and mortar retail stores that I have to keep supplied year ’round.  I have a handful of holiday shows that I do, but even most of those have fallen away in the last few years.  There just aren’t enough hours in a day.  And that’s not a bad thing.  That said, I still do feel the “holiday push” just like any other hand-crafted jewelry designer.  In the past, I would simply make up many items in bulk, but as time has progressed, I’ve become a bit more skilled at my craft.  Not to mention a whole lot pickier about what I want going out with my name and my brand on it.

And that, sometimes, is the difference between a $10 sale and a $30 one.  At least it is for me.  Quality over quantity and all of that.  And as the holidays approach, this year, that’s become an even bigger factor for me when deciding to stock in my store displays, my craft show booth, and my Etsy store.  Do I go with pieces that have more design elements or do I just rush through things to have a greater quantity of product?  Surprisingly, both the artist and the businesswoman in me agree for once.  I picked quality over quantity.  And as I’m preparing my items this year, I find that it’s an easier decision to live with than I had initially thought it would be.

So while my holiday displays in stores this year might not be stuffed full of basic necklaces, bracelets and earrings, they will be filled with slightly higher-end, miniature works of art that feature a better attention to design and detail than the ones I created in the past.

That’s why, as of late, I’ve been a lot pickier about the beads I use in my designs, as well as findings and other design elements.  While I never used “plastic” beads, I did often use plain glass beads where a semi-precious stone might have done a better (or at the very least, more sophisticated) job.  Or, too often, I stuck with one type of bead, be it glass or stone, instead of mixing and matching.  But once I became more sure of myself and my design skills, I found that I could expand both the elements I used and how I used them.  I learned how to effectively add wire and make “off balance” pieces that worked in harmony with findings like over-sized clasps and hand-patinated metals.

  Night Watch (hammered and stamped copper, tinted resin, patinated metals, brass, Swarovski crystals, Rose Quartz, Australian Jasper, Amethyst, Czech glass, and mixed metal findings)

I’ve also learned to expand my color palate, using colors that I previously found difficult to work with in ways that I hadn’t considered.

  Golden Sun (Czech glass, Cherry Quartz, Red Banded Agate, Cat’s Eye, glass beads, brass spacers, Czech Picasso beads, Hematite, Amethyst, patinated metals, mixed metal findings)

I’ve also challenged myself to use new tools and techniques that I previously shied away from, thinking them “too scary” to even tackle.  Now?  I grab the bail making pliers or the pearl knotter and hope for the best!   It’s how you grow as both an artist and a businesswoman.  Because believe it or not, the two really are intertwined.

Dew Drops  (Artistic Wire, Natural Button Pearls, 14K gold earwires)

If you’re designing pieces that aren’t selling, you might be a talented artist but you might also be an abysmal businesswoman.  For a long time, I was a little of both and not enough of either.  These days, there are so many hand-crafted jewelry artisans that it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd.  That’s why it’s so important to push yourself – from techniques to tools to components.  And yes, even to design elements, even if it means working in a style that you’re uncomfortable with – like me and the whole boho genre.  It’s just not my thing.  That said, I think that after much trial and error, I have the basics down pretty well.

Boho Chic (Hand-patinated brass, Rose Quartz, Adventurine, Fire Agate, Red Agate, Czech glass, wood, seed beads, copper, brass and other mixed metals)

It’s especially difficult for me, as I’m more of a Steampunk kind of girl.  But with a lot of trial and just as much patience, it can happen.

Tesla’s Gift (Antique locket, lazer printed inserts, placed on antique brass chain)

And now that I’ve expanded my jewelry making horizons?  It’s difficult to go back.  So I’ve had to learn to adapt and grow my business as my skill level changes – which means things like dropping craft shows that I might have gone to in the past.  That’s not always an easy thing, especially when people “expect” to see you there – but never buy anything.  Rather, they just make small talk.  But it makes good business sense.  You go where the business is – and sometimes, it’s in the small stores and coffee shops instead of large craft shows where you’re treated like so much interchangable cattle.  Often times, on a smaller scale, the buyer develops a greater connection to the piece and to you, the artist.  And while it may not be true for everyone, that kind of connection brings me great satisfaction as an artist as well.

La Posada Evenings (Copper and turquoise)

Briar Rose (Artistic Wire and freshwater potato pearls)

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The love is in the details…

That’s actually true of many things in life – not just jewelry design.  As some of you have observed, I haven’t been updating my website as frequently as I should have – and there’s a reason for that.  Sometimes, personal lives are more important than business.  And to paraphrase The Man In Black from “The Princess Bride,” anyone who says differently is selling something.  There are times when family is more important than making a dollar, even for those who are self-employed.  This was one of those times.  Now, however, the “bad stuff” has passed and it’s time to move forward once again.

So back to the jewelry – and let the love flow!

Right now, there’s a lot going on in the jewelry world – and that’s putting it mildly.  There are people creating everything from lavish, ornate statement pieces to those creating simply, stylish, and elegant designs that can be worn anywhere.  Where do I fall?  In the middle of course.  I love the simple, chic elegance of a basic earring featuring either colored resin or basic beads.  If I want to mix it up, the layers of clear ICE resin mixed with pale pink German glitter glass keeps the design simple yet adds a layer of depth – both in the piece and to any outfit.  Or maybe it’s the simplicity of a small ring that adds just a pop of color to any outfit.  Or a matching hair accessory.

Still, there are little details in each of those pieces that make them stand out, whether it’s the darker rose-hued speckles in a pale pink ring or the layers of resin that give a feeling of depth to the glitter glass, each piece still has a little something special that makes it unique.

Looking for a bigger statement?  The details are in those, too, whether it’s a set of hair combs with hand-stitched crystal bicones or an elegant necklace featuring Indian Lampwork glass with intricate designs.

 

Maybe earrings are more your thing?  The new trend in patina is layering – just like everywhere else in fashion.  A unique base color with an added pop of contrast is hot now and will be in the fall.  Just another detail to make you fall in love – especially with hand-crafted pieces.

So if you’re looking for something new to add to your wardrobe for the late summer and into the early fall season, check out one of your local street fairs or craft shops that sell handmade jewelry.  Any factory in China can mass produce a cheap, $5 statement necklace, but an artist knows that the love is in the details!

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Experimentation is Springing Up Everywhere!

Okay, that was a terrible title, wasn’t it?  Yeah, it kind of was.  However it best describes what’s been going on here at the Easily Distracted studio.  I’m in full-on experimentation mode and have yet to meet a jewelry medium I didn’t like.  Bead stitching?  Yep, I’ve been working on that even though my sewing skills are abysmal!

  Forever bracelets  A Passionate Heart necklaces

Top two: Hugs & Kisses bracelets, bottom: The Empress bracelet

Metal stamping?  That too!  It’s not as easy as it looks, it requires a firm strike of the hammer on the embosser to make the impression (be sure not to overdo it and strike twice) and it doesn’t take long to learn that Sharpie marker works just as well at highlighting the letters as Guilder’s Paste does.  Also, given that Sharpies come in a wide rainbow of colors, it makes the finished pieces far more affordable and just as creative!

The “In Bloom” pendant featuring copper, Myuki seed beads, and a hand-patinated charm.

So why experiment?  Because even for the most dedicated of us, doing the same thing day after day gets to be a little repetitive.  Even the great artists like Vincent Van Gogh evolved and changed as they grew as an artist.  His early works, like The Potato Eaters, were full of dull, drab earth tones unlike so many of his later works such as, The Night Cafe, which featured bright vivid colors including brilliant yellows and rich, deep reds.  Had he not changed and grown as an artist, then the world would never have known the deep, velvety blues and purples of The Starry Night.

I’m not saying I’m Van Gogh.  Far from it.  But I am an artist.  Anyone who creates – no matter what they create or how they do it – is.  And as an artist, I like to challenge myself.  If all I did was string beads onto wire day after day, my career as a jewelry designer would be short indeed.

So when I see a bundle of wire, I think why not learn wire working?