Tucked into the corner of a former carriage house turned wood-shop at the edge of Williamsburg is my studio, where I create Crusoe Jewelry. When the creative spark to launch Crusoe Jewelry hit me, I turned to my boyfriend, a woodworker and furniture designer, for guidance on everything from design to production. Not only did I seek his advice, but I also suggested that a storage space in the corner of his wood shop could become the perfect jewelry studio. Always excited by a challenging project, he swiftly turned the storage space into the Crusoe Jewelry Studio.
After roughly sketching out the concept, most designs are created first by a hand-carved wax model. Using a variety of tools, everything from files to razor blades to sandpaper, the jewelry begins to take shape. Often the original design evolves into something different, almost as if the design is emerging directly from the wax. Because wax carving can be a more mobile operation, if it’s a nice day out, I will move out of my jewelry studio and park myself right in front of the open garage door to work on the waxes.
After the wax model is complete, I take it to a local casting company in Manhattan’s famed jewelry district on 47th Street. From the wax model, a master model and rubber mold is created. That rubber mold is then used to continually cast the design based on demand. What I get back from the caster is a very rough version of the jewelry design to be. That piece needs to be sanded, polished, and textured, as well as finished by adding earring backs, chains or a thin band to become a ring. As you can see, sometimes I sketch directly on the bench itself when I’m trying to work out a design like how to carve out the monkey fist knot that provided the inspiration for the Newport collection.
To create a finished, wearable piece of jewelry, often I will have to adhere earring backs, ring shanks or necklace chains to the design through a process called soldering. Soldering connects two pieces of metal by melting a metal alloy under intense heat at the connect point. It is an extremely meticulous process that requires dedicated concentration. It is my least favorite part of the process, but is a very necessary evil.
After soldering, several more rounds of polishing and finishing are required to create the finished piece. Often I will set up multiples of the same piece, devising an almost factory like process for myself to cut down on the excess time of multiple steps.
When a new design is complete, I have to try it on myself and take a picture for future reference. The fit and look of a design is essential for a successful creation. While a design may seem ideal in my head or on paper, it can be completely changed when wrought in metal. The heft and weight of jewelry needs to be taken into considering for comfort and wearability.
After a piece of jewelry is complete and is ready to be sold, the arduous task of creating spec sheets and pricing has to be done. Pricing your own creations is one of the most challenging aspects of a small business. The pricing has to be competitive with similar products and in line with the perceived value of each design, while covering your production costs and not undervalue your creative pursuits. It’s a delicate balance that I am constantly aiming to achieve.
What I love most about my studio is having a space where I find inspiration, design, and create that is entirely my own. At the studio, I have the benefit of working close to the love of my life, yet each within our own space. It is a constantly changing workspace. One day the jewelry bench will be covered with wax models, while the next it is covered with finished samples ready to be shipped to one of my wholesale accounts. Sometimes I am there all day, sometimes I will just pop in for a couple of hours in the evening. It is a sanctuary of ingenuity that I can escape to whenever I desire and it is entirely my own.
Maya Ahluwalia – Crusoe Jewelry
Maya Ahluwalia is the designer behind Crusoe Jewelry, a fashion jewelry line inspired by nautical motifs, but interpreted into stylish designs. Crusoe Jewelry is created for the fashion-forward consumer with an appreciation for quality with an artisanal approach. Each design is hand-crafted in her Brooklyn-based studio.
In addition to creating Crusoe Jewelry, Maya is a marketing consultant with expertise in jewelry, fashion and luxury. Clients include Michael Aram Jewelry, Shawn Ames Fine Jewelry, Wells House Bed & Breakfast, and the LOU Lookbook App.Share on Facebook
Whether or not is feels like spring outside where you are today I want it to feel like spring on your computer! I am so happy to introduce you to Stranded Treasures designed by artist Sharlene Maher. I think her colorful work will definitely brighten your day! I have absolutely fallen in love with the beauty of her designs!
Sharlene started sculpting flowers from clay 12 years ago and is now making a living from what she once considered just an enjoyable pastime. She has taken her passion that was inspired by memories of flowers and scents from living in New Jersey, San Francisco and Florida full-time and is loving discovering new ways to grow and share her work with the world.
She does not use any molds to create her flowers – can you believe that?! She loves to focus on the art of sculpting and mixing colors to bring her visions to life. Her attention to detail comes to life in each photo of her jewelry and also in all of the options she offers. Customers can have the flowers in different sizes, on rings, on lockets, as clip-on earrings (perfect for my mom!) and she even has a scented variation!
A big reason she has such a diverse selection is due to balancing her creative nature with listening to her customers. As her business has grown she has learned a lot about her customers and that they are similar to that of a florist – people shopping for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, romantic gestures and more. She has now created a site full of gorgeous designs that she loves creating because she know her customers will love them too.
I encourage you to spend some time on Stranded Treasures today. Allow yourself to be whisked away as if in a meadow of every flower you have ever seen. Did I mention there will be butterflies there too? Be sure to follow Sharlene on her Facebook page too. I hope you enjoyed starting spring with these gorgeous creations and be sure so share this post with a friend who might enjoy a little bouquet today!
This post was kindly sponsored by Stranded Treasures. All views and ideas here are my own.Share on Facebook
Bio: Amy Frank is the designer and creator behind Mindfully Made Studios. Amy’s unique, thoughtful Blessing Bands©, yoga mat carriers and other inspirational accessories can be found at www.mindfullymadestudios.com and also in 40+ stores nation-wide. She lives in Central PA with a patient husband, 4 crazy kids and an even crazier yellow lab. : )
1. Tell us about your handmade business and how it began.
I’ve been sewing and selling work for some time, but Mindfully Made Studios was born shortly after I had our youngest daughter. With 4 kids under 5-years-old, I was overwhelmed. I wanted something to remind me of how lucky – how blessed – I was. So I made my first Blessing Band©. Friends noticed it and asked me to create personalized bands for them. Soon, I began selling them online and in a few local stores, and my business unfolded from there. Here is a link to a video that tells this story: http://youtu.be/foPUOegruro
2. What is your education? Do you have special training from school that has helped you to run Mindfully Made Studios?
I have a degree in Communications and Business and worked in business consulting and fundraising for several years before having a family. I think this business background helped me to understand the importance of organization, goal-setting and tracking outcomes. I also took several courses through the Art Business Institute. Their seminars capture the fine points of building an art-based business. The information I took from those seminars helped me to take the next steps in my business.
3. What steps have you taken to transform Mindfully Made Studios from a hobby into a full blown small business operation?
First, I had to decide where I wanted to go with my work. Believe it or not, there are lots of options for us artists! Did I want to blog and write books, sell product at shows, teach, sell through stores and distributors? While often we do many of these things at once, I believe it’s beneficial to decide where you want to focus your energies.
My products lend themselves easily to wholesale sales or selling to retailers. I decided this was my primary focus and have been working to place Mindfully Made Studios in stores and shops around the country. By focusing primarily on this step, I have been able to grow our wholesale accounts to almost 50 stores this year.
4. I know you have done some traditional craft shows, but tell us a little about the professional trade shows you have also attended and what that experience was like.
Last year, I began selling my work at wholesale trade shows around the country. This was a huge financial commitment and a scary leap for my business. Happily, these shows are the primary reason we’ve been able to expand so quickly. I think once you know where you would like to go, make a plan and try it. Even if it’s scary!
5. Can you share some helpful advice that you received? Who gave this advice?
Carolyn Edlund (http://www.artsyshark.com) from the Arts Business Institute (http://www.artsbusinessinstitute.org) has been a terrific help to me as I’ve built Mindfully Made Studios. She stresses the importance of keeping up with the often-not-fun business side of your work. While your creative work is important, also be sure to take care of BUSINESS…bookkeeping, insurance, taxes, etc. Set aside at least one day a month for these tasks.
Carolyn also suggested a big change to my business early on. I was calling my Blessing Bands by a different name and she – very bluntly – said “I don’t get that name, you need to change that.” I was a little taken back, but I saw her point and quickly re-introduced my bracelets as “Blessing Bands.” Ironically, that’s when they really began taking off! : )
6. What advice would you share with someone hoping to take their handmade business to the next level?
Decide where you really want to go, talk to others that have reached similar business goals, and make a plan to get there. Also, don’t try to do too much at once. I often get so excited and inspired that I over-do it and burn out. Try to set manageable goals for yourself and celebrate small successes!
7. What are you conservative plans for the future of Mindfully Made Studios? What are your crazy big dreams for the future of Mindfully Made Studios?
Conservatively, I would like to continue growing our retailers to about 100 stores this year. I would also like to introduce several new products into our line. Ultimately, I would like our Blessing Bands to be picked up by a few major retailers that fit our brand. Subsequently, Blessing Bands would be on the wrists of the majority of men, women and children! : ) I say this jokingly, but I really do believe those little bands help people to stay present and peaceful…and that is what REALLY inspires me in my work.
8. Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your handmade business?
I just want to stress the importance of not losing your original focus when building your business. We all believe in handmade because we know that the things we create hold special significance and we LOVE making them. I would encourage you to put practices in place that help you retain your creativity and love of making. I try to set aside several hours a week for new ideas and designs. It doesn’t always work, but the intention is there.
It’s also very meaningful and FUN to remember that this is YOUR business and that means you get operate I a way that is meaningful and special to you. We give a portion of our proceeds to a foster care advocacy group called CASA. I can’t tell you how good it feels to give back in that way. It inspires me and my employees to work harder every day. We also believe in our local economy and stress that our goods are made in Central PA. I am proud to say this and I feel inspired to work harder to continue to help our local economy. It’s your business, so you get to do what YOU want…how fun is that?!? : )
Virginia Lindsay — Gingercake Patterns and Design
Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design. She loves the to sew practical, fun, and stylish things! Several of her patterns have been published by Simplcity and she has also written 2 books. Sewing to Sell and Fabric Stash Cuties: Pretty Little Birds.
Lisa Jacobs talking about “If I Knew I Could Not Fail.”
Bonnie Forkner presenting “Pursuing Your Creative Dream.”
April Bowles-Olin talking about “Creating Your Own Success.”
Paige French sharing photography tips.
I had such an amazing time and am so grateful to all of the presenters and the attendees for making it such a wonderful weekend! I took a huge step and shared about self-care and also worked with everyone on some worksheets I have developed in the last year. Everything was well-received and I am so excited about it! You can expect to see some changes start to happen over here but I promise you will love all of them! XO!Share on Facebook
Vintage Eraser Tops from The Newton Label
Want to know how to make your handmade product listings more attractive, persuasive, and easy-to-understand? Brush up on your proofreading skills.
Before you head for the hills screaming, “Oh no! Not a grammar lesson!” – hear me out.
You already know that a fabulous product description is crucial to selling your product. You’ve spent time thinking of descriptive nouns, persuasive adjectives, and vivid verbs to describe your product. You might have even completed a product descriptions course and used the tips to improve your copywriting.
You’re not finished yet. Your product listing needs one extra layer of tender loving care before you send it out into the world to help sell your product: proofreading.
Want to know why proofreading your product listing is so important? Here’s why:
A product listing with errors could cause potential customers to doubt the quality of your product.
What in the world does a spelling or grammar error have to do with the quality of my product, you ask? I know, I know. It doesn’t seem fair that people would think less of your handmade product because of a wording error, does it? But they might.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a grammar whiz to be a good proofreader. Read on for the areas you should check.
Basic Proofreading for Handmade Sellers:
- Remember that spell check doesn’t always catch errors such as their/they’re or its/it’s.
- Are you familiar with the Grammar Girl website and/or podcast? She approaches English grammar in a fun, easy-to-understand way.
- Say just what needs to be said; don’t be too wordy.
- Look for extra spaces between words, sentences, and paragraphs. Keep it consistent.
- Remember that just because your wording is free of grammatical errors doesn’t mean that it is clear to the customer. Do you use jargon (terms that apply to your niche but that your average customer won’t understand)?
Your product description isn’t the only shop wording to proofread. Here are some others:
- Shop announcement
- Seller profile
- Shop categories
- Message to buyer (automatically sent after customer makes an Etsy purchase)
So what is a non-grammar whiz handmade seller to do? The following reminders will help you improve your proofreading skills:
- Read your product listing (title, description, tags, etc.) for errors and then leave it for a while. Come back to it later when you have “fresh eyes” to spot errors.
- Copy and paste your wording into a text editor of some sort. Fix any errors that you find.
- If you know someone who is a grammar whiz, beg, plead, or bribe (☺) them to read your wording and point out any errors or unclear wording.
- Take your time when checking your product wording. Product descriptions that are written hastily are more likely to contain errors.
Okay, confession time. Which of the following proofreading styles best describes you?
(a) I carefully proofread all of my product listings and feel comfortable correcting the errors myself. I’m pretty good at proofreading.
(b) I struggle with proofreading my product listings. Customers sometimes point out mistakes that they find in my wording. I need to work on this skill.
(c) Proofread? I’m supposed to proofread my product listings? ☺
Tell us in the comments, will you?
Julie Corbett – On The Dot Creations
On the Dot Creations features handmade creations and shares biz tips with those who sell them. Check out Julie’s free video series, 3 Reasons Your Product Photography Might Be Turning Customers Away, or her brand new online workshop, DIY Product Photography.Share on Facebook