Fire Mountain Gems and Beads 2009 Beading Contest
Bronze Medal Prize Winner
Category: Pearls, Natural or Created
||Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
Dickinson, North Dakota
Describe your artistic style.
I tend to create the bold and unusual because it is what I personally prefer but since I sell retail I do not limit my designs. So I create a variety of styles; romantic, ethnic, glamorous, simple. The styles are endless and I enjoy creating all of them.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
A lot of my inspiration comes from within me. My ideas seem to pour out of me in an endless amount. A lot of my designs come to me when I'm sleeping in the form a little dream pictures. I also love to see all the antique royal jewelry in the museums when I travel in Europe. Other inspirations come from everything around me. A snowflake, a scrap of fabric, a petunia planted next to a variegated green plant. Emotions also inspire me. When I am sad I create something wild and colorful to cheer me up.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Everything I touch I enjoy working with. The stones of beads seem to dictate the design. I love the freshwater pearls because each one is different and I find the shapes and ridges intriguing. It's fun to think they came out of the water and are so happy to take on dyes that give us such variety and pleasure.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
What inspired this design?
When I received my order of stick pearls I was so excited. Each one was so different and such a beautiful color. They reminded me of "tiny treasures." I felt they were too beautiful to just string into a necklace, they deserved to be framed and shown off. I had my doubts that it would work embroidering them because they weren't a cabochon.
How did it come together?
Once the little stick pearls were captured by the #15 seed beads the design demanded some accent pearls and square beads to finish it off. A simple strand of pearls was lost on this design. I knew it needed 5 strands, but it was impossible to thread all the wire through the embroidered rounds. That night I dreamt the solution of the tubes to the back of the embroidered design. This allowed me to use multiple strands of pearl and gave the design flexibility to hang properly.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I run a bed and breakfast and I was complaining to my employee and friend, Theresa, that I had bought a new outfit and could not find jewelry to match. We live in a rural area with not too many places to shop. She said she'd bring me a catalog and teach me how to make my own. When I saw the variety you had I went crazy! I was immediately addicted and couldn't stop. I decided to take the front area and enclosed porch of my BandB and change it from a gift shop to strictly jewelry.
Who introduced you to beading?
My employee and friend, Theresa Larson.
Do you have an artistic background?
I have always been involved in art in some shape or form over the years. I oil and water color paint, stain glass, wheel throw, and hand-build pottery, scrapbook, interior decorator, and many crafts. The last couple years I only do jewelry to keep my inventory up, so I don't have time for other art.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
My friend who taught me to bead loaned me her catalog and I ordered my own the same day. It didn't take long to discover it is the only site to order items from. I have very little time and don't enjoy surfing the web. I find everything I need from FMG. The back of every bead magazine you are there, and the designs on your ads are more than awesome!
What other hobbies do you have?
Besides the ones mentioned above my passion is foreign travel, gourmet cooking, landscape design, and learning new foreign languages or just practicing the ones I know.
Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
I live in an extremely rural area so no societies or groups exist. If there was, I'm sure I'd join!
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
It plays a major part in my life. As I run a BandB I make jewelry while babysitting the washer and dryer, (5 hours a day) also when waiting for late night guests to check in or waiting for guests to check out. I'm fortunate to have a job that I can easily spend 4 to 5 hours a day making jewelry. We also have major cold weather here with many winter blizzards which makes it impossible to travel. Making jewelry keeps me from going crazy in the winter. I also do several shows. My daughter runs a business that puts on craft shows. She insists that I go to at least 2 a year because she needs jewelry vendors that have the more unusual. The shows my daughter puts on, the vendors MUST make everything they sell. A funny story: the last show I was in my daughter got 3 complaints from other jewelry vendors telling her it was "not possible" that I could have made all that stuff. My daughter said "That's my mom and she can make 30 to 40 necklaces a day and if you don't believe me go to her BandB, and while you're sleeping she's working.
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I used to have a web site that acted more as a "gallery" but they could click on a design that lead to Etsy where they could purchase the item. I personally believe the site is flooded and is difficult to stand out but at .20 cents an item to list, who cares, it's extremely inexpensive. I also have full color glossy business cards and our BandB business card also has my jewelry site listed. I felt it was worth the money to have it all professionally photographed and the site done professionally also. This is the first contest I have entered. Because of my BandB I can't go out to sell much but have locals shop and all the guests usually spend more on jewelry than what their room costs. I always wear my jewelry, no matter what I'm doing including gardening and taking out the garbage! I always tell my customers that first thing in the morning I have my coffee and pick out a necklace I feel like wearing, AND THEN figure out what to wear! Most people do it the other way around. I tell them it's hard to find GREAT pieces of jewelry you love, but easy to find clothes to match! On the back of each price tag I write what the stones are in the design. Most people are very interested. I have video cameras in my shop so they can browse without me looking over their shoulder but I do pop in and out with a new piece I "just made" that is sooooo exciting! When a customer seems a bit shy, I'll just say something like "oh, I just made this design the other day and pictured it with that type of top in that color, can I just see if it's what I thought it would look like?" They never say no! I put the necklace on the lady and clap my hands, proclaiming it perfect and proceed to take it off her. They ALWAYS say, "Can I see it?" I apologize, say sure and hand them a mirror. 95% of the time they will buy the piece or ask me my opinion on what else would go good. I also tell them if they have an outfit at home and can't find a piece they can take a photo, e-mail me the photo, and I will create several design special for them. All women love the "custom" idea. I also only make one of each design and if I make 2, one is for me!
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
All of them. I NEVER say no. I usually make sure what I donate is some of my best and consider it advertising. Our town has a lot of auctions. Some of them are the local schools, University Christmas Auction, Boy Scouts, Ronald Mc Donald, Pet project, music groups, people that have medical needs and the community puts on a supper and auction. Most of the time I donate 2 sets, one casual and one dressy. The university's Christmas dinner and auction is only open to the elite in town and the tickets are very expensive. So for that group, it's pure crystal. Ladies will call me in advance to say what color they'd like to see me donate that would match a special "gown." The designs are so popular they have created a "bidding war" which the ladies tell me is the most exciting thing that happens all evening! Only in small town North Dakota!
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
A web site is a must because it's the way things are done these days. Don't count on it making you millions. Professionally created business cards are a must, if they look homemade, you don't look serious. Before putting a booth in a craft show, check it out. Many only allow a certain amount of jewelry vendors. If the ones they have looked like your stuff, don't count on great sales. If you are more unusual, your chances of being accepted as a "new" vendor are better. Try to get a corner booth, it's better exposure. NEVER SIT DOWN. Dress in something BRIGHT so if they look for you in the crowd of customers they can spot you. Talk to everyone you can, even if they are slowly passing by. Many people assume jewelry artists are "snooty." They really aren't, they'd just rather bead because they're trapped in a 8x10 booth! Always take jump rings and tools to make designs larger or smaller. Starbucks is your best friend, bring a lot and don't sit down. Remember you are there to sell, sell, sell. If I did not run the BandB, and I could go out and about to promote I think it could be endless. I would do a "party" business where if it was a bridal shower, birthday, retirement, whatever, the guests would not bring gifts but buy the guest of honor "jewelry." The artist could create a little booklet to decide the guest of honor's taste and colors. Also, little gift cards with the amount the guest wishes to spend. No wrapping or hassles for the guests! The artist brings a variety of pieces that would suit the guest of honor's choice. Write a contract so they know no other gifts are allowed. Also make it clear the guest can buy designs too. Even throw in a 5% commission for the nice lady hosting the party. Tweens and teens are a big market too! Be sure you do your research so you don't show up with a lot of old lady stuff! Tell the hostess you can get party favor jewelry from FMG at a very reasonable price and triple your take. An aspiring artist could also do parties for ladies that have a LOT of jewelry and have special interests that don't want gifts but could have a silent auction where the artist puts her price on the piece and the guests bid from there. Anything above the artist price goes to the charity. The guests are happy, they go home with a beautiful piece, and the lady of the day is happy she doesn't get stuck with a lot a junk she doesn't want and her favorite charity benefits! If the aspiring artist has scrapbook skills, she can make outrageous creative cards, invitations, etc. and again make more money. If the aspiring artist is going to a show and needs a unique display, contact your local college art department and put on a contest. All artists love a challenge. If booth spaces are out of your budget consider sharing with another person that makes pottery or homemade soaps, etc. Also consider sharing hotel expenses. It's easy to get discouraged if your area is flooded with jewelry artists. Find ways to stand out in the crowd, lighting on your display, unusual designs, a "gallery area," books on gems and healing powers. Sometimes local banks or businesses will do a display featuring a local artist. If it's a shop you want, consider a co-op with different artists. Look at everything as a possible display but the "best" deserve their own free-standing display. The best advice is to believe in yourself.