My Story

I'm a simple girl from a small town in Ohio living in a beautiful coastal town in Florida. I'm married to my very supportive high school sweetheart and we have a beautiful cat, Hula. I studied interior design in college and after several career reincarnations I am now here, living the unexpected life of jewelry designer and absolutely LOVING it!!! This blog chronicals my journey through this wild and exhilarating and sometimes exasperating world of jewelry making from idea to fruition!

Update: Here we are 6 years later and I'm very happy to report that things are going well! I have a thriving shop on Etsy, my own website, I show occasionally at local art/craft shows, and my work is now available at Old Florida Gallery and Outdoor Center in Englewood FL! So follow along... it's getting very interesting!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Holiday Wish List Service...


This is a free and easy service I'm offering this holiday season so you can receive the gifts you want instead of another ugly sweater you'll never wear!  It's simple, visit my Etsy shop SSMDesign ~ Jewelry Personified or Facebook page and send me a message with the item(s) you love from my shop and the name and email address(s) of the person(s) you'd like your "wish list" to go to and I'll send an official email to each person : ) (THE NAMES AND EMAIL ADDRESSES PROVIDED WILL BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE ONLY!!! Your loved ones will not receive spam or further communications from me unless otherwise requested!!!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Old Borrowed and Blue as Inspiration...


If you've ever pondered the origin of my inspiration of my "Sands of Time" shake necklaces  this post will put your curiosity to rest.  A little more than 14 years ago I married the love of my life and high school sweetheart wearing the lovely necklace pictured above.  It was my old, borrowed, and blue compliments of my mom from her jewelry collection from days past.  The crazy thing was that when I asked about the necklace, we both remembered it being broken, but when she finally found it it was completely intact and ready for me to wear on our wedding day.  We're both still baffled by it to this day, I guess it was meant to be!  She ended up gifting the necklace to me and many moons later it inspired what I consider to be one of my best designs thus far!  I am continuing to evolve the original design and now offer many different shape options as well as pendant filling variations including beach sand, gold flakes, rough diamonds, and the newest are faceted diamonds and gemstones in a multitude of colors!  I am also currently working on designs to expand the line to include bracelets and earrings!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Back From Hiatus...


Here she is, my brand new niece who just couldn't wait until her due date.  I am blessed in that I own my own business and could close up shop for a bit to spend some very valuable time with her just after her birth : )  I am happy to report that she and mommy are doing very well and thriving!!!  She is such a good baby and I am so in love her, it was quite difficult to leave!  My solace is knowing that I will be able to see her again in a few weeks when she returns to Florida with my sister and my mom!  It was incredible to watch how much she changed just from day to day during my visit.  She was born with very dark hair and eyes and 14 days later her hair is markedly lighter and her eyes are turning blue like her momma's.  She will be a very different baby when I see her again next month!  I'm back in the swing of things now, all orders placed in my absence have been made and shipped and I am back to business as usual.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's Really Happening...





I've held off in announcing this huge news until the deal was done and now I am ecstatic to proclaim that SSMDesign ~ Jewelry Personified is officially a successful business!  I got my first wholesale order and it's ready to ship, so you can now visit Dragonflies Handcrafted Jewelry and Gifts in Saint Augustine, Florida to see, hold and purchase my jewelry in person!  I've had some false starts, but this is real and I feel like Pinocchio must have felt the day he became a real boy, I couldn't be more proud : D  Hopefully this is the first of many!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing (kind of) ...






After spending much too much time virtually chasing my tail yesterday trying to track down an international package mailed April 3rd that had not arrived, I've been forced to make changes to my shipping policy yet again.  If you've read some of my other posts you know this is not the first time the US Postal Service has let me down.  Every shipment is important, my jewelry designs are like my babies.  I imagine, create, give birth to, and nurture each piece, but some are more time sensitive than others!  Many are for baby showers or weddings and though they've been ordered in plenty of time, it ends up being a close call once they leaves my hands.  The good news is, she received the package today.  The bad news is, international shipping with the US Postal Service is a crap shoot at best!  I understand that we shouldn't really expect them to be held responsible for a package once it leaves their facilities and enters customs, but at least claim some accountability!  If you're gonna charge $18 for priority service, and the word service should be taken with a grain of salt here, we should at least receive something for our money.  This is precisely how the USPS is putting themselves out of business, but then what are our alternatives!?!  Fedex and UPS prices are double and triple or DHL, no thank you, they can't even find my house (call me for directions, hello ever heard of google maps) and I live in a large development!  The point is, we need more and better shipping options!!!  I'm not going to bore you with all of the details.  What I will say, is that I haven't had a lot of overseas sales, but I appreciate my international customers and I hate that I have to punish them by only offering express service, however I need to have some recourse.  If she hadn't received her gift, I would have been out the money to make it, ship it, make it and ship it again.  And as a small business I don't have those kind of margins!!!  At least with express international packages can be tracked and insured, but the cost is ludicrous at $38.  Anyway, as you can see, I have not come this decision lightly.  I'm just doing the best I can do with the tools I've been given, and these tools should be reinvented : (


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Accomplishments...





This is a pretty big day for me as I've just finished creating my very first made from scratch ring!  Learning to prong-set gemstones has been a long-time goal finally realized : )  I still have a lot to learn and I'm looking forward to every wonderful frustrating moment!  I am currently on week 3 of a 5 week jewelry design course at Art Center Manatee with Wendy Thurlow.  The class itself is very laid back and Wendy allows us to suggest what we'd like to learn and I asked for prong setting, of course!  I thought the class would teach me to cut seats in the prongs of pre-made mounting, but I was definitely mistaken!  Last week we learned how to build a ring from the band up, so to speak.  So everything you see in the photos above was created by me (with the exception of the sterling and the apatite gemstone), from the band to the prong mounting, to the texture and I am pretty darn proud of myself I must say!!!  And though it may not be perfect, I think it's very good for my very first attempt : D 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trial and Error...





I'm learning a lot through this my first art/craft show season!  Last weekends show, which I thought would be a home run, was a huge disappointment!  And though I wouldn't say it was a complete waste of time, it was pretty darn close!  I have one final show this season this coming weekend at 5 Points Park in Sarasota and fingers crossed will end the season with a bang!  Throughout the season there have been many wonderful moments, but one moment from this past weekend truly puts a smile on my face!  A customer very excitedly enters my tent and exclaims "I'm so happy to have finally found you, I've been looking for you at every art and craft show since January", which made the disappointment from the previous weekend fade into the distance!  And though her husband did try to work a deal by talking me down on the price of the item she so coveted, I am happy to report that she did leave with the treasure she was seeking!  Just in case you've ever wondered, an art/craft show is NOT a garage sale!  Many of us don't have a physical storefront and this is our venue to display our hard work to the public. So it is not acceptable to most artists that you try to wheel and deal us on our price, in fact many of us find it quite offensive!  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy getting a good deal as much as the next person, but this is not the place for that kind of thing!  There are a lot of factors that go into how we as artists price our works and many artists don't charge for their labor as it is, so our work is generally priced more than fairly!  Anyway, I apologize for the sidebar, but this situation was a bit disconcerting for me.  But as this was to be her birthday gift and I could see that she would be heartbroken to walk away empty-handed, I didn't make a big deal about it and did work with them a bit.  And although it put a slight tarnish on the experience, I think the outcome was good all the way around and I'm ecstatic that someone enjoys my work that much : )

I've been weighing my options, trying to decide if art/craft show gypsy is for me and I think I've decided to participate in local shows early in the season (Nov. - Feb).  It just seems as though the market in Florida is pretty saturated with multiple shows per weekend, so traffic gets more and more diluted as the season progresses.  I don't want to pull out completely because I really enjoy meeting and getting to know my customers face to face, so I'll be trying this schedule out in the fall.

I also made my very first art for art trade with a very talented local artist Robert Johnson whose art I've featured above.  I love his use of perspective and color!  He and his wife Sandy are residents of Anna Maria Island and Bob paints scenes from many local establishments as well as nature.  They participate in quite a few of the local art and craft shows and they'll be in Englewood on Dearborn this coming weekend, so if you're in the area stop in and say hello!

And lastly, I'm super excited to start classes this week to learn some new jewelry design techniques and hone my skills, so wish me luck!


Friday, March 23, 2012

3 for 3 and Guardedly Excited : D

















I scored my very first retail location last week and ironically it isn't even in the state of Florida, it's in Indiana!  And after a trip to the east cost of Florida a few days ago, my jewelry is set to be sold in a total of 3 retail spaces with hopefully more to come locally!!!  I won't be naming names until the ink is dry and the first orders have shipped, but the boutique in Indiana will be featuring my designs in their spring fashion show!  I am SO EXCITED and this is only the beginning, look out world here comes SSMDesign ~ Jewelry Personified : D

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Learning Curve...

So many new things to learn!  My dear husband got me a professional DSLR camera for my birthday to help me take better quality pictures of my work and because my old camera is tired (I take a lot of photos of my jewelry) and frustrated me to no end.  I've discovered that I have a lot to learn about the basics of photography, but thankfully it takes great photos in automatic macro mode while I'm learning  : )  I've recently signed up for classes at Art Center Manatee and I'm finally going to learn how to prong-set gemstones among other techniques, so I'm super excited to get started!!!   And taxes, uggg!  Though I have an accountant to do the actual filing, but most of the gathering, organization, and calculating is up to me.  I've been working on it for 2 weeks now and every time I think I'm finished I discover something I forgot.  I make my business more organized with each year, but it also seems that each year brings more that requires my brainpower elsewhere taking me away from the actual creation of my jewelry : (  As I imagine most people do, I thought owning my own business would be easy, but it's A LOT of work!  Being a sole proprietor = you do all the work yourself and if you don't it doesn't get done until you do, so you have to prioritize your day!  But it's not all bad, I can spend the day in my pajamas if I want to, have a beer with lunch, or take a day off whenever I wish : )  And besides learning something new everyday is a good thing, it keeps the brain engaged and me on my toes!  (pictured above Chromium Earrings ~ 13 carats in natural emeralds and 1 carat in raw black diamonds set in 14kt yellow gold fill)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trust...

I have to learn to trust my instincts and end this internal battle I wage every time I need to order more supplies!  For me it's true what they say, "old habits die hard"!  I was taught growing up the old adage "waste not, want not", so every time I have an idea for a new design (and they are becoming increasing more elaborate with much more expensive findings) I question the supply order and my gut feeling that this new piece will be a hit!  Case and point, my most recent design "Sands of Time ~ Diamond (or sand) Filled Shake Necklace".  I've participated in two craft shows since its inception and it has been my best seller, so why do I keep doing this to myself!?!  I am making a vow to myself that it ends today!!!  I AM placing my orders TODAY!!!  End of story!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Eerily Similar...

   This past weekend was my first bonafide art/craft show.  It was a lot of work and also a lot of fun!!! I made some really great contacts who offered helpful advise and tips!  Some vendors travel all year long to various venues!  I can't even fathom that at this point!  I think for now I'll stick to our local winter season.  The photos were actually taken on day 2, it was just too cold and windy on Saturday!  Plus by Sunday we pretty much had the construction and deconstruction down to a science.  And though the weather didn't exactly cooperate and there were many other events going on, I have to say that all in all it was a successful weekend!!! 
I'm already putting what I learned into use to prepare for this weekends Anna Maria Islandfest!

    I do have to say though, that participating in art/craft shows is eerily similar to my former life  as a product specialist.  With the travel, early call times, and odd comments from patrons (seriously, do a lot of people not think about what they say before they open their mouths, do they just let fly!?!)  The only real difference I see at this point is that I am promoting my own product, not someone else's and that for me that is priceless!!! 
    These are my latest creation!  I am so proud  of the way my Sands of Time ~ Diamond Shake Necklaces turned out : ) So much so, that I made them the focal point of the display.  I bought this gorgeous vintage frame from junk shop and made a display board from cardboard, scraps of burlap left over from another project (rehabbing an antique headboard) and old sheets.  I'm all about recycling and using what I already have : )





  These are up on my website Jewelry Personified if you'd like to see more detail or have one of your own!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Process...

 





                                                Xs & Os Necklace

    I thought I'd take you through my process in creating a new design.  New designs come to me at all hours of the day, many at the most inopportune times, so I have paper and ink scattered throughout the house, in the car, and in my purse!  They come to me in my dreams, in that fog between waking and sleep, and sporadically throughout the day.  Sometimes I'll sketch new ideas in my design book and sometimes they'll just haunt my brain until I bring them to life, either way they eventually become a tangible thing.  This particular design came to me a couple of days ago as I was creating another Valentine's Day design (a pair of earrings ). The photos above will give visual affirmation to the process of creating this necklace from start to finish : ) 
    So clearly the moment of conception begins in my brain and unfortunately, I can't really show you that, but once the idea has formed my hands go to work.  This necklace involves PMC (precious metal clay) which in a nutshell is tiny particles of recycled pure silver suspended in an organic material creating a clay-like base that can be formed and/or cut into shapes and impressed with patterns that once fired (either by torch or in a kiln, I'll be using a torch today) the organic matter is burned away leaves behind .999 fine silver (pure silver).  And since this a design for a necklace and the design requires a handcrafted chain complete with gemstones, I'll be wire wrapping rhodolite garnet beads, I'll be illustrating both. 
    First I lay out the items I'll need to prepare the "XO" charm then I lube everything up with olive oil to keep the clay from sticking.  I cut the amount needed from the pat of clay, roll it out to the proper thickness, impress the pattern for the base and xo for the top then cut them out with circular cutters, remove the excess clay and place the pieces over a warming plate to dry.  Once the clay is leather hard I remove it from the warming plate, sand the ragged edges and smooth the surfaces, place on my firing board and torch away.  After firing I quench and dry them then run a wire brush over them to remove the fire scale and check of any unfinished areas.  When I'm satisfied with the result drop them in the tumbler to polish to a brilliant shine : )  At this point depending upon the application, they are either ready for placement or in this case a dip in liver of sulfur for oxidation, once they've reached the desired depth of color they are rinsed dried and polished once again to reveal texture and detail and added to the other components.  Now it's time to make the chain, so I measure and cut all of my wire and chain to size and begin wrapping, forming, and stringing until my creation is complete.  I'm a bit obsessed with detail, so I meticulously choose each gemstone to best compliment the others!
   Throughout the entire process I'm listening to calm soothing music.  The process of design/creation is very meditative for me and whether you believe that an artist adds a bit of their own vibration and spirit to each piece or not, I want to make certain that your jewelry feels as good as it looks!  So there you have it, a finished necklace.  Different designs require different amounts of time for completion  depending on the amount of detail (this one took several hours).  However once a piece is finished it's really only the middle of it's journey!  It still needs to be displayed, photographed, priced, listed, and hung until it's purchased, boxed, shipped, and finally opened and worn by it's new owner.




Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Please excuse my absence...



I all the hustle and bustle of the holidays I had a bit of an accident.  While on my usual skate I ended up in a face-plant with road rash down my right side from my face to my knee  : (  I was very lucky in that I didn't break anything or mutilate myself to the point that I won't heal completely.  I still have no idea how it happened, I was down before I knew I was in trouble.  I mean I didn't even have time to try to protect myself, my hands are in perfect condition! And it's funny the things you think of after the fact, I guess it's better that I could break the fall with my face instead of my hands since I don't make jewelry with my face.  Thankfully,  I'm on the mend now and healing surprisingly fast!  Exactly one week to the day and what's left of the devastated flesh is new and pink!  Anyway, it's back to business as usual and I've got some great new designs in the works for the new year ; )
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