Michelle and Natalie Packard

Michelle and Natalie Packard

Coachella Inspired Festival Feather Necklace
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Contest 2018 featuring Crystal
Grand Prize Winner Employee's Choice Award

Michelle and Natalie Packard

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Contest 2010 featuring Pearls, Organic Beads or Kato Polyclay™

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin near Chicago

Describe your artistic style.
We design together and our style and taste really varies, which is great for the customer. Natalie likes to use bolder, bigger stones and lots of color. While Michelle likes the more dainty and delicate side of jewelry-making. When we mix it up together we get a really cool signature look that you know when you look at the final product it's one of our pieces. We each really have our own artistic style, which we encourage each budding jewelry designer to find. The pieces also take on mood, which we feel is really important for an artistic style. We might use greys like labradorite and ocean jasper which is what Michelle did when she was a finalist in the 2007 Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Contest. That was a great mood piece and the colors just blended so well.

What inspires you as designer-artists?
We are both inspired as designer artists to think differently when the jewelry creation process takes place. It is a thrill for us to make something no one else has thought of creating. Our jewelry is intricately thought out from color patterns, non-traditional elements and extraordinary architectural design. We attempt to formulate pieces using elements not used in traditional jewelry. Feathers, stamped leather, wood and suede have served as a few of our muses. Currently, we specialize in one of a kind commissioned edgy pieces for men's jewelry and a niche market of women's music festival jewelry.

What medium do you work with mostly?
Currently, we are enthralled with crystals--everything from the glint, sheen, color, sparkle and shimmer. We see a trend moving from minimalistic jewelry to expressive jewelry. We love using smaller crystal in flamboyant beaded embroidery jewelry and dripping jeweled designs along with our expansive use of chain, leather, feathers and unique mediums to express the idea of beautiful men's and women's pieces.

Why did you become enchanted with this style of jewelry-making?
Crystal was an effortless choice that we add to our work developing extreme techniques for its use. It's a welcome challenge to style in a unique way. We became fascinated by adding crystal to our work in the arena of one of a kind festival jewelry pieces. Beaded embroidery has always been a passion of ours and the perfect use of crystal. The feathers and other special touches are inherent to our ability to deliver unusual pieces of work and think outside all jewelry-making techniques to create something absolutely unforgettable.

Where and how do you sell your jewelry?
We are launching our own line House of Egidio in 2019. Our focus is edgy men's jewelry and expansive festival jewelry. We will be offering and working on commissioned one of a kind pieces. www.houseofegidio.com

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Coachella Inspired Festival Feather Necklace

What inspired this design?
We see the accessory and jewelry market moving towards music festivals. This is an arena where people want to stand out, be noticed and wear a one of a kind look. Music festivals are an emerging expression of fashion and jewelry which is a key market to our look. We are currently launching our new jewelry line House of Egidio for the purpose of a commissioned look that will really make one stand out. It is our impression music and jewelry has always mixed. They go hand in hand. We are focusing on bold, edgy and distinctive men's jewelry. We also have plans for upscale women's music festival jewelry. We named our line “House of Egidio” after our grandfather who was a brilliant tailor and a positive influence in both our lives to this day.

How did it come together? For example, did you plan it out or did it define itself once you began working?
We definitely knew we wanted to create a memorable festival jewelry piece with crystal including feathers. The large medallion was our focal point and we worked to get the color palette just right for the feathers. The hair bone pipe added a tribal effect and the clasp was architecturally designed and developed to uniquely showcase the crystal. To further accent our design abilities, we added the rugged but rich effect of the gold quartz and added the beaded crystal capping to kick it up a notch and show our attention to detail. We feel the piece showcases the crystal and our commitment to go the extra bead and mike into the design.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
Michelle began beading by picking up a book that included a bead kit with projects at an airport because she was intrigued, and never forgot the many happy hours spent creating those first pieces of jewelry. Both of us are self taught. So, Michelle really began back in the mid '90s. But it wasn't until she discovered Fire Mountain Gems in 2005 that we really thought of making it into a business.

Who introduced you to beading?
Michelle always thanks that beading book and kit back in that airport, as it really changed her life. Michelle has always been a craft person. So, she decided to take up jewelry-making herself. It was very easy for her. Natalie, on the other hand, can eye a potential piece and know what kind of findings and gemstones or beads to use but isn't as talented at making the pieces. Michelle has a fine eye for detail. We guess for some people it comes easy and some people learn techniques by books, magazines, photos or classes. So, don't be discouraged if you don't get it on the first try yourself. Turn to other resources to learn.

Do you have artistic backgrounds?
Michelle has always been a self taught kind of gal and always been interested in fashion. For both Natalie and Michelle, their mom, Hilda, has been a great inspiration for fashion. She always knows how to shop and shop well. That helped a lot with the business aspect. When we first started out we bought a lot of beads from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' sales, mainly because we didn't have much money. You will be amazed at what you can do with gems you buy on sale or regular price. We really found that it's all about creativity. Thanks, Mom!

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
Michelle discovered Fire Mountain Gems and Beads in a beading magazine and then the possibilities became endless. Thanks Fire Mountain Gems--we wish we would have found you sooner. The free catalogs are great as well as the online website and customer service.

What other hobbies do you have?
We both really enjoy anything fashion related. Natalie loves photography and writing. She has taken all the photos for our entries in the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads beading contests herself. She most liked the recent photos of their necklace that is a 2010 Fire Mountain Gems and Beads contest finalist. She also took the photos for the 2007 and 2009 pieces that finaled. Michelle loves music. She finds inspiration in music and much happiness. But she mostly loves crafts, any kind of craft really. Our family is always thinking, "Oh no," when she discovers a new craft. Her latest, bobbin lace to learn to make vintage lace cuffs and collars. She always finds a way to try that new craft and either incorporate it in her jewelry-making process or let it inspire her jewelry-making designs. We both love to make our mom happy when she goes shopping (for free of course) through our collection of jewelry we design. That's our mom's hobby, we think.

Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
The only beading group we belong to is our sister beading group. We both love to work together as sisters. We can sit and chat as we work. So, we encourage others to find a partnership too. It's been hours and hours of fun for us.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your lives?
Creativity and inspiration is such a gift, and it's free to anyone. To be able to create a piece of jewelry is really a blessing and something we cherish. We feel it is a gift, whether making something, sketching or designing, it's fun. It is a lot of work but if you really love it--it doesn't feel like work. For us, it's always a hobby first and a part-time career second. The funny thing is we never have time to make anything for ourselves, so we guess it's a career.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourselves and your jewelry?
We recommend craft fairs and especially farmer's markets to sell your jewelry. You really have to be committed to go this route. Farmer's markets are great though, because most are held every week, even though you might have to get up at 5am to set up for 8 am but you get to meet a lot of great people and it's a great way to learn about how to sell your product. That's how we built our client base. Yes, we enter beading contests, especially Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. We are working on a website for the future.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
We made a necklace and donated it to NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) for their Wisconsin conference. The lady who won the piece was so thrilled, she commissioned us to create a matching pair of earrings.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
If you have beads... take the plunge. Don't hesitate. Take what you know in color and design and create what is pleasing and appeals to you. A real artist always has a look and feel to their work that is inherent to them. Whether you like working with tiny beads, or love suede mixed with chain. Try it. Read some books, fiddle around, start at the beginning with just one bead and we guarantee you'll find an ending you love. In short, be true to yourself, hone your craft, tone your work, make it unique and you will always be a shining success.

View all of Michelle and Natalie's designs in the Gallery of Designs.