|Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
Describe your artistic style.
Classic, with a love of the natural colors of semi-precious gemstones. I like to use sterling silver wire to enhance the shape of the stone and its natural color pattern. Most of my designs are versatile, and may be worn as easily with a business suit, classic evening dress or jeans.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
Mother Nature--and the natural colors she bestowed upon this earth. The sky, the desert, the ocean and mountains, butterflies and birds--and the vivid colors of the flowers and trees that change with each season.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Natural semi-precious gemstones, and sterling silver wires and beads. I've also been working with African bronze, which has added a new dimension to my designs.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
What inspired this design?
A favorite photo of my parents shows them standing at the side of a river in New Jersey, where the water is rushing over the abstract rock formations. The shape of the stone and the swirling twisted sterling silver, combined with the cool color of chrysocolla reminds me of that photo.
How did it come together? For example, did you plan it out or did it define itself once you began working?
It really defined itself as I was working with the silver. When I work with silver wire, I don't draw the design first. I just start wrapping and twisting, following the shape of the stone, as well as its natural color and texture.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I'm actually a writer and communications/marketing consultant. But when my mother passed away in September 2002, just two years following my father's death, I found it very hard to write. A book I was writing languished. Articles and editorials I planned on writing didn't get beyond the first two paragraphs. And I wasn't interested in taking on new client projects. Despite a satisfying career and personal home-life, I felt as though my soul had been torn from me. My mother was an artist, and among her many framed and unframed paper toles (paper sculptures) I found tucked away in our suburban New Jersey home, were several boxes of vintage beads that Mom had been saving for one of her projects. As I began looking through the beads, I kept thinking about my mother's artwork, how she placed each tiny piece of paper onto her paper tole canvas to create a lifelike picture. I gently touched her needlework, hoping to feel the softness of her hands as she worked so carefully on every stitch. I decided to look for ways to work with the beads--and just looking through the craft magazines seemed to soothe me, helped me deal with my grief.
In 2003, my soul mate (Jerry) encouraged me to show my beaded products to an art gallery and gift shop, to get the owner's opinion. Would she consider carrying a couple of pens in her shop? As a marketer, I was used to making cold calls, so I set up an appointment--put a sample case together, and off I went. Imagine my delight when a week later, a popular art gallery and boutique on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue, was displaying my products. So there I was, at the age of 58, suddenly starting an entirely new business, and using the artisan name, Miriam Bat-Rachel: Miriam, my Hebrew name. Bat, which is Hebrew for "daughter of," and Rachel, my mother's Hebrew name. The company name is also derived from personal experience. "Moonbeams" is from "Rosh Hodesh," a Hebrew symbol of renewal, celebrated at each new moon. It is a powerful opportunity to consider our lives, our commitments, and our goals. "Lilacs" were my mother's birth flower and treasured scent, and "Roses" were a favorite flower--and one of the first flowering bushes she and my father planted in front of their first home, where they lived for more than 50 years.
I really thought creating beaded accessories, like pens and letter openers, and then jewelry, would be a hobby--something I would eventually set aside as I went back to my editorial business full-time. I did return to Marion Gold Communications, but beading and jewelry design remains a significant, enriching, and permanent part of my personal and professional life.
Who introduced you to beading?
My mother and grandmothers. Both my grandmothers were artistic, using fabric and a variety of trimmings to create wonderful clothing and accessories.
Do you have an artistic background?
When I was a young child, my mother used to draw beautiful pictures for me, and I would mimic her work. In her later years, she created wonderful paper sculptures (Paper Toles)--selling some and giving others away as gifts to family. My dad was an amateur photographer, whose work was so inspiring. In his memory, I take all the photographs of my jewelry that appear on my website.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
A vendor told me about Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. The first catalog I received was a real creative inspiration.
What other hobbies do you have?
Reading and writing, and taking long, long walks.
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
Jewelry-making enhances my life emotionally, and intellectually. Intellectually, as I learn more and more about the variety of natural stones, and market my products both on my website and to the retail community. Emotionally, because Moonbeams, Lilacs and Roses is a tribute to my parents. I know how much my mother would love the jewelry, especially my amethyst and charoite pieces (her favorite color was purple); and my father collected ballpoint pens, so he would really get a kick out of the beaded pens I craft.
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I sell my products online and in several retail shops in Scottsdale, Arizona and Chicago, Illinois. (My websites are http://www.moonbeamsdesignerjewelry.com and http://www.moonbeamsproducts.com.) I also write articles about my journey into beading, which have been published in several business, women's and healthcare magazines.
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
My products have been used in charity fundraisers for women's advocacy organizations, and most recently I've donated a necklace set to be auctioned at a fundraiser for the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Let your imagination grow with you--and experiment with different colors and designs. If you decide to market your products commercially, carefully target your audience. You won't appeal to everyone's taste, so look for shops whose customers match your products.
Pricing is always an issue, so be sure not to underprice or overprice your products. Creativity and design time should be part of the pricing process, along with the cost of materials. And remember, if you sell through your own website, that is not the same as "suggested retail value," which needs to be higher. When you sell through a store, you are working through a middleman, who also wants to make a profit.