Shades of Autumn in Swarovski
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2012 featuring Swarovski crystal
||Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
I am one of the few native Floridians and live in Tampa, Florida.
Describe your artistic style.
I would describe my artistic style as Boho eclectic. I love retro styles and colors from the '60s and '70s and try to incorporate them into my designs.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I absolutely love jewelry and am inspired by color. I love to incorporate mixed media in my designs. My grandmother always loved bold colors and my mother was very good at making things with her hands. She always worked full-time and still was able to crochet some amazing pieces. Then after retiring, she took classes and became a floral designer.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Since I have been making jewelry for about 20 years, the answer to this question has changed many times. My designs have evolved along with my experience and education of different materials. I started out with genuine stones and would only work with gold-filled findings. This was very limiting as the trendy findings were never made in gold-filled. Then I found sterling silver findings and Swarovski crystals. I have used Czech glass a lot as well. At this time, I really like the effects I can get by incorporating resin beads which are very lightweight along with glass and/or crystals. Sometimes I include wood beads also for the same reason. Making a long necklace out of all glass or natural stones can be heavy to carry around. I try to make my designs very wearable and not just nice to look at.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
What inspired this design?
I chose fall colors not only because I made it in the fall but also because here in Florida we don't have the four seasons, which makes the fall colors interesting and exciting to me. I also wanted to incorporate Swarovski pearls and crystals together and this seemed to be a perfect chance to do just that.
How did it come together?
Most of my designs just come together as I work on them. However, with this one, I wanted a specific plan so I started with what was in my mind, then I drew out the design, but as with many of my designs, it evolved. The finished product is much like the drawing, but not exactly.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I started making wire-wrapped beaded bracelets in 1992 or '93. A bead shop opened near my home and I strolled in one day to see what it was all about and signed up for a class. The class cost $50 and included three tools, round-nose pliers, needle-nose pliers and cutters; and enough supplies to make 3 bracelets. Little did I know it would become a way of life for me. I believe being creative is a learning process. I try something and if it doesn't work, I tweak it and try again. Eventually, it becomes a finished product that I am proud of.
Who introduced you to beading?
The neighborhood bead shop near my home.
Do you have an artistic background?
I believe I got my artistic style from my mother who made beautiful crocheted pieces and floral arrangements. My grandmother loved bold colorful things and made many of the accessories around her home.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
Since I really love jewelry, especially rings, I have a jeweler who makes my 14Kt rings. I design them and he makes the wax mold and then the finished product. If I get tired of one, he melts it down and we start over. One time I bought an aquamarine stone (my birthstone) to put in a ring. I made a replica of what I wanted out of wire and crystals which my jeweler turned into a beautiful aquamarine and diamond ring. Through the years, we always talk about jewelry and beads and he actually told me about Fire Mountain. I have been hooked ever since.
What other hobbies do you have?
I enjoy power-walking when I can fit it in to my schedule.
Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
I am not in any beading groups but do subscribe to a few different bead magazines. It's a good way to see new trends and styles.
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
I have a full-time career and am going to school part-time. Jewelry-making is a big part of my life because it is my therapy. I can be stressed, tired, feeling grumpy, and can go into my beading room and start looking at my beads, holding them, arranging them, organizing them, after as little as 30 minutes, I feel amazingly calm.
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
Through the years I have always had a hobby, and hobbies cost money. When I discovered beading, I found that I could have a hobby and recoup some or all of the expense of the hobby by selling the finished pieces. People tell me I could get more money for my pieces, however, I choose to keep my prices low so I can sell more which enables me to buy more supplies and make more things. I don't see much sense in making something, putting a hefty price on it and keeping it for a year or more. That would defeat the purpose of using this as therapy. I mostly sell to people I work with and those I see regularly. I always use quality supplies and make them to last since most of my sales are to repeat customers. I started out doing craft shows, but got burned out because of the weather. My best show was a two day show, the first weekend of December. I did it for 5 years. The weather in Florida is never the same. It can be very cold, very hot, rainy or windy, and I experienced all of those during that period. I have been doing an annual open house in my home for 4 years now which is very profitable. I decorate the house for the holidays and invite everyone I know and ask them to bring a friend. It lasts for 3-4 hours and it not only is great for sales, but I catch up with friends who I don't get to see often. Also I think it is good to package your jewelry items well. My customers always get their items in cute fabric bags. The Fire Mountain contest is the first I have ever entered. I am planning to get a website this year.
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I have done several silent auction fundraisers. They are so much fun. I would make special pieces, name them and then go to the fundraiser and watch people put bids on my items. I would always include a business card in the gift bag which has worked well for repeat business.
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Follow your dreams. Take a class or two. Then when you have a base, it's easy to just evolve as the styles change. Beading is not an expensive hobby to start out. You can take things apart and start over again with little waste. There is no better place than the Fire Mountain website to spend some time looking at designs, contest winners and thousands and thousands of products and instructions. I would say that craft shows are a good way to start selling because it broadens your customer base and when you sell it builds confidence. When you get serious, I would say it's good to get your sales tax license because then you can go to wholesale shows and once you do that, retail stores will be a thing of the past. I only use local stores for emergency items. I go to wholesale shows three times a year and buy from Fire Mountain in bulk because with Fire Mountain the more you buy the less each item costs and if you don't mind waiting a week or so, shipping is only $5.00 no matter how large the order. You can't beat that.