Stainless Steel Elegance

My first project as a member of the Prima Bead Blog Team was to create a piece of jewelry using Prima Bead’s newest product, Stainless Steel Elegance.  And of course, they sent me lots of other goodies to inspire me, but I honestly really wanted to keep this one simple. Most of the jewelry I design is created using sterling silver and 14K Gold Fill. So the challenge of working with such a different metal was pretty exciting!

I have a couple goals as a PBBT member, and that is to focus on using Prima Bead’s products, supplies and tools. There will be times that I will veer from that, but I really want to be able to showcase their product and be able to detail my experience with it.

My first impression was that I like the weight and feel of the Stainless Steel Elegance. The metal, if you’ve never used Stainless Steel before, is smooth & cool & has a slightly industrial look to it. My intro package included the following SSE items:

Stainless Steel Elegance

Stainless Steel Elegance

As a die-hard fidgeter, I love the feel and movement of charm bracelets, so I decided to go that route for this design. First I considered fabricating a bracelet using the split rings they sent, but I LOVED the look and feel of the rolo chain and decided to work with that instead. But all they included in my package was an 18 inch necklace, so it looked like some modifications were going to be needed….

SSE Round Link Chain, (formerly) 18 inches

SSE Round Link Chain, (formerly) 18 inches

After I cut the length of chain and secured it to the clasp & closure, I was pleased to see that I had enough left over for a pair of dangly earrings – Woo Hoo! 

I used the Crystazzi Purple Passion bicone mix and the Black Satin Oval package. I thought these lent an urban, sophisticated feel to the SSE chain, but were still feminine and sparkly; two things that appeal to me.

The headpins provided were just fine for the Black Satin Oval beads, but I wanted to do something to give the little 4mm bicones some oomph. So I snipped the ends of the headpin and used my round nose pliers to create a nice loop, which I then hammered lightly to catch the light.

Purple Passion 4mm bicone mix on modified SSE headpins

Purple Passion 4mm bicone mix on modified SSE headpins

After securing three Black Satin Oval bead to one strand and two to the other, I then added three Purple Passion bicones to frame each oval bead. I think the modified headpins were a good choice – they added a bit of a length to the bicones and continue with the goal of showcasing what can be done with the SSE product line. And, ta-da, here is the finished piece:

Purple Passion & Stainless Steel Elegance Charm Bracelet & Earrings

Purple Passion & Stainless Steel Elegance Charm Bracelet & Earrings

Overall, the effect was what I was trying to achieve, although I had a couple things I had to work around. First, the headpins were heavy enough that they did not fit through the loops in the chain, so I found that creating my loops a little bigger allowed me to slip them over the chain, rather than through it. This actually was sort of a nice surprise, because the charms now slide freely along the length of the chain rather than remaining stationed at a particular link. This is a fun and different effect that I think I quite like. I believe that the headpins are probably a 22 gauge (or possibly even 20 gauge) wire, which is quite a bit larger than I typically use. My suggestion to Prima Bead would be to mark their packaging to reflect the diameter of the headpin, which would help to ensure that crafters purchase exactly the size they need. 

PP & SSE Charm Bracelet & Earrings, Alternate View

PP & SSE Charm Bracelet & Earrings, Alternate View

Never having work with SS before, I definitely have to say there is a learning curve that goes along with it. It was somehow both stiffer and more malleable than sterling, and took some getting used to. I think it would be the perfect metal for designers working with mixed metals (wouldn’t it look fabulous with copper?!), or for anyone creating Steampunk style jewelry. I think the look is definitely urban and a little edgy.

I am curious to hear about your experiences (not to mention, TIPS!) working with Stainless Steel. What did you think of it? How do you think it’s best used in jewelry design?

Bring On The Challenge!

Sometimes as a designer (jewelry or otherwise), we need to have a little fire lit under us to re-inspire, reawaken and rejuvenate our creative juices. I haven’t been doing this long enough to have had a real lull in my creativity, but as a busy mom of an even busier three year old… Well, I’ll be honest. Sometimes I stick to the “tried & true” when creating new pieces. I have certain materials and colors that I like and that I know my customers like, so why veer from that path? Sometimes I simply don’t have the time.

Well, thank you Prima Bead! Very soon they will be sending me my first package of “new & improved” goodies (“materials” for those of you who aren’t as obsessed with jewelry design as I am). I get to play with these fun new materials (Oh, the color! Oh, the texture!) and write a bit about my experience with these. This is gonna be a great challenge for me and a way to keep me from doing the same ol’ same ol’.

Prima Bead has a great selection of some of my favorite materials, and a ton of other great items, including this… (What a gorgeous, Spring-green color!)
PD Green Glass Beads
And this… (Deep, blue-hued “Mirror Beads”!)
PB Mirror Beads
And this… (Wouldn’t this gemstone slice look beautiful with some peridot or moonstone?!)
PB Gemstone Slice

Ok, Prima Bead, included in my wish list is some of your FABULOUS Rose Gold plated components! I am newly obsessed with this very on trend metal, and hope to get my hands on some real soon. (hint, hint)

PB Rose Gold Bead

Take a peek at the Prima Bead site when you have a chance – I would be curious to hear what you find there that gets your creative juices flowing!

Celebrity Gift Lounge Preparations

First, let me answer the question, “What is a celebrity Gift Lounge?” for those of you who may not be too familiar with the topic.

In a nutshell, Celebrity Gift Lounges are set up prior to an event – like the Golden Globes – in order to introduce celebrities to new and/or exciting products & services. As celebrities wander through these gift lounges, exhibitors take the opportunity to demonstrate or show the products they represent, in the hope that the celebrity will be intrigued or impressed enough to agree to having their picture taken (ideally while wearing, holding or using the product) by a professional photographer. The Artisan Group has been participating in this, and other, celebrity events and awards shows for several years.

Grant Bowler's lovely girlfriend wearing my Vine Collection necklace.

Grant Bowler’s lovely girlfriend wearing my Vine Collection necklace.

The exhibitor will typically then use that photo to publicize their product’s appeal to that particular celebrity. This usually needs to be done in a “grass roots” sort of fashion, with the exhibitor promoting the image on their website, social media outlets and blogs. Typically, due to contractual requirements, exhibitors are not permitted to use the images in paid advertising so that there is not an inaccurate implication that the celebrity endorses or is being paid to endorse, the product.

With that said, at the end of 2012 I had been officially accepted as one of many artists to have their work represented at the 2013 Golden Globes Gift Lounge. Now the work begins! I had about two months to prepare and submit a design for 100 pieces of jewelry to be included in the swag bags being distributed by TAG to celebrities visiting the Gift Lounge. Yikes!

My basic design needed to be:

• Something created “exclusively” for the Event
• Something that would be simple enough to duplicate 100 times, while still giving me enough time to meet my usual customer needs
• Something that wouldn’t break the bank – after all, I wasn’t going to be paid for these
• Something that would be “wearable” and appealing to my usual customer, who, like me, is fairly conservative in their attire & accessories

For better or worse, I decided to try something that had been inspiring & intriguing me for some time. A tutorial for the necklace below (by wonderfully talented designer Mai Sato-Flores), which I first saw in Wire Jewelry magazine in 2010 had stuck in my head, and I decided this was the perfect time to give it a go.

Garnet & Gold Necklace by Mai Sato-Flores

Garnet & Gold Necklace by Mai Sato-Flores

Once I had my design fine-tuned, then came the VERY tiresome process of creating 100 items. I had about two months to do this, in order to mail them off in time for the Event. This meant a lot of late nights and trying to exist on five to six hours of sleep each night. Especially since the event was taking place in January, and I was trying to keep up with normal holiday orders. Eeek! What had I been thinking?!

Since I had so many pieces to create (100 pair of earrings!), I decided to create them in an “assembly line” fashion – first came the “vines,” then the charm, then the handforged earwires.

One "sample" pair of earrings, and lots of partial "vines" just waiting for charms & earwires!

One “sample” pair of earrings, and lots of partial “vines” just waiting for charms & earwires!

Once all the necessary pieces were completed, I packed them up in 100 little boxes with 100 “About the Artist” bio cards and sent them on their merry way to Hollywood! I am quite proud of the fact that, short of pulling the wire or mining the gemstones, I created these pieces 100%.

Vine Collection Earring - Garnet & 14K Rose Gold Filled wire

Vine Collection Earring – Garnet & 14K Rose Gold Filled wire

It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it! The sense of accomplishment – just knowing I could create a design, duplicate it 100 times and package them all up efficiently – was worth the whole process!! I certainly learned a thing or two about both the design process & marketing my involvement in the Gift Lounge. It has been a wonderful experience and has been a boon to my little business, and I have TAG to thank for it!

Have you ever considered participating in a large event (either celebrity related, or just local customers)? How did you prepare for it? Did you have any “big” lessons learned that will help you for your next large event or show? I’d love to hear about it!

Celebrity Gifting

For better or worse, we are a celebrity-centric culture. In the US, celebrities are akin to Britain’s Royal Family. There is no disputing that the lives, actions and interests of television and movie stars (not to mention Reality TV personalities) shape trends in fashion, home décor and many other aspects of our daily lives.

As a small business and jewelry designer, there is no better coup than to have a celebrity filmed or photographed wearing a design that has been handcrafted by you. But how does one even get their work into the hands of celebrities, let alone photographed while worn (or held or used) by a celebrity?

Over the next few weeks I will try to detail how I managed to become involved in the world of Celebrity Gifting, and just what it has meant (increased media attention) and not meant (it’s not a “miracle” cure for slow sales) to my own small business.

My journey to Hollywood began when I stumbled across an exceptional group of artists professionally run and organized by Valerie Propst Guerrero. Founded by Valerie, The Artisan Group’s mission is to introduce Hollywood to the best-of-the-best in handcrafted products.

After doing a little research, TAG looked almost too good to be true! A juried group of artists participating in a collaborative, enthusiastic environment where creativity, feedback and encouragement flow freely?! Sign me up!

First, I had to decide whether my work would meet their criteria for accepting new artists – this is a juried group of artists, after all. I read through the jury criteria; high-quality handcrafted products, exceptional product photography, unique products, and on and on… My head was swimming! Would I ever meet the standards set by TAG? Yikes! As with many artists, I doubted whether my work product was good enough. I reminded myself that I have been selling my jewelry for the past seven years and that I successfully operate a retail shop where my jewelry has consistently been one of the top two performers.

So, I had to give it a try. Luckily, for me and my ego, I was accepted without a hitch.

Interestingly, I have seen similar doubts and sentiments expressed by the hundreds of talented artists who currently make up TAG’s population. Is my work good enough? Are my ideas creative and unique enough? Do I have what it takes to be successful in my art? The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the answer is a resounding “Yes!” in so many of these cases. But as artists we wonder and worry about when our lucky streak will end; when the loyal customer base we’ve carefully cultivated over the years will suddenly come to their senses and realize that we are not artists, but are in fact just hobbyists with limited talents. Or maybe it’s just me.

In August, 2012, I was lucky enough to become one of several hundred TAG artists who have been blessed with the opportunity to gift celebrities with our artwork. For me, the real journey began when I secured a spot in the Golden Globes Gift Lounge swag bags. I committed to creating one hundred pair of earrings for the swag bags, which would be given out to a variety of celebrities and industry leaders on January 13, 2013. Hollywood, get ready, here comes got sparkles!

Do you feel like celebrity trends have an impact on your choices in fashion or home or elsewhere in your life? Is this a positive influence, or do you feel like you need to “keep up?”

Next week I will chat a bit about the process of designing and completing one hundred pair of earrings, and the media exposure that this opportunity provided me.

For more information regarding The Artisan Group’s mission, and possible inclusion as an artist, please visit their site

Rock Me, Amadeus

I believe we all have an equal amount of genius inside of us; some folks have all of their genius in one area, while most of us have a bit of genius in many areas.

My grandfather, for one, was an amazing mathematician. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1940 and worked as a civilian chemist at Mare Island Naval Base until his retirement in the late 70’s. The man had a mind like a steel trap, and could discuss mathematical equations and hypotheses with a passion unequaled in anyone I have ever met.

But God forbid he actually had to carry on a social conversation with one of his three daughters or one of his many grandchildren. It was sheer agony on everyone’s part, except his, of course, because his “genius” was not in the ability to decipher and adapt to the myriad subtleties and subtext of casual social conversation. As a result, if you were lucky enough to get snared into one of his dissertations about some mathematical genius from the last century, you were in it for the long haul. I admit I actually considered feigning sleep or a seizure on more than one occasion just to remove myself from the discussion…

Which brings us (assuming you’re still with me here) to my set of genius-ness, or lack thereof.

As a jewelry designer, I try to create new pieces and new designs periodically, both when the mood strikes and when I am feeling like it’s time to mix things up a bit. Tonight was one of those nights. I have a fabulous design in mind. Perhaps not something that will alter humankind as we know it, but still, pretty cool.  Apparently, my genius has other plans.

For the past several days, I have been intermittently trapped at my bench working with my small torch attempting some fairly basic work with connections. Tragically, I have been alternating between melt-downs (literally!) and solder flow issues. Aaargh!!!

I know what I want to do, yet the tools as my disposal are either unable or unwilling to allow me to reach my goal.  This reminds me of a quote from the 1980-something movie “Amadeus”, in which one of the characters (Amadeus’s nemesis, Salieri), says,

“All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing… and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn’t want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?”

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m being a bit dramatic.  But damn, it’s frustrating!  How do I take what I want to accomplish and, with the little talent or genius I have, convince my tools and materials to cooperate with the desire within me to produce a particular piece?

How do you deal with it when your genius decides to take an unannounced leave of absence?  Do you work through it, forcing your genius out of hiding?  If so, how?!  Share your secrets! Or do you decide that everyone deserves a little break now and then, and just hope that somehow your genius will become intrigued with your attempts to create or solve some piece of your puzzle and come out of hiding to help you achieve your goals?  Or, like me, do you hope that your genius will recognize your current state of ineptitude and take pity long enough to step up to the plate and get the job done?

For now, my answer is to put it all aside and admit temporary defeat. Tomorrow may, I hope, provide my genius with a renewed vigor and sense of cooperation, and allow my vision to become a reality.  But, until my genius decides to show up again, I am off to distract myself with a bit of fluff – Abe Lincoln, Vampire Killer – in the hopes that the frustrated author in me will not surface…

Let’s Talk…

I am new to the world of blogging, although certainly not talking.  For a rather verbose and profuse talker, the concept of a blog is a bit overwhelming and perplexing.  It’s really rather like a first date after being out of circulation for a while.  I mean, will you like me?  Will I like you?  Do we have anything in common, any shared interests? Honestly, will we really have anything to talk about at all?

You can read about who I am in my “About” section, so I won’t bore you with all of the details here. As someone who is fairly goal oriented and more than a little Type A, let me say that my purpose for even starting this is really to connect.  I want to share my ideas in general, but specifically about jewelry making (or any arts & crafts making efforts, really), and how to market and network and ultimately sell our craft. 

When I say “share,” I truly mean that.  For me, I don’t really want to simply use this venue as a soapbox or a platform for spewing forth lots of junk about what I do or who I am.  Frankly, that would likely be a bit boring for us all.  Instead, I would love to actually see this evolve into a conversation of sorts – a mutual sharing of ideas, inspirations, suggestions. 

I imagine initially it will be “all about me.”  Pretty much it has to be at this point, because no one is following me yet.  (And let’s hope, contrary to a really bad blind date, that ultimately someone follows this blog!) 

So, I hope to share pictures, ideas, tips (I have a background as an instructor and believe myself to be a “teacher” by nature) and our work.  Please post your thoughts, artwork, craft and inspirations here for all of us to share.  Let’s make this a collaborative effort – if nothing else, to take a little of the heat off of me.  And in return, I will do my best to attempt to be somewhat interesting and avoid all the little emoticons & exclamation points that those who really know me know that I tend to use!  (insert smiley face here)

‘Til we meet again, happy creating!