Smell the Roses

ETA July 28, 2011: Congrats to Audi Arellano, for winning a handmade Bouquet of Roses necklace!

Next month, we’re hosting an Uncommon Jewelry Challenge, with an open call for jewelry and accessories from designers across the US. This month we’re highlighting our favorite jewelry and accessories makers. Find out more about our design challenges and learn how you can become UncommonGoods’ next favorite jewelry or accessory designer. And read on to find out how you can win one of Ellen Thurmond’s handmade necklaces.

Ellen Thurmond says she’s never been particularly “girly” or a “flowery” person, but when she was asked to create a rose necklace for UncommonGoods, she couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Instead, she thought about how to carry themes from existing designs into her new piece and looked to nature for inspiration.

The California-based artist has plenty of experience problem-solving and coming up with new ideas. She actually worked in jewelry for years before discovering her love for wirework, and took on the medium as an outlet for her creativity during a move, while she was staying in a hotel. Because of the mess and lack of a kiln, she was unable to work in her then-preferred medium, clay.

Wirework–the process of skillfully wrapping wire–started out as a hobby, but as she learned new techniques and developed new designs, Ellen realized people were paying more attention to her new wire pieces than some of her other work. The switch to wire as her primary medium came after she created her first tree necklace (now one of her most recognizable designs) for her best friend, who happens to be a tree lover.

According to Ellen, it took several tries to get the Tree of Life just right, but when she did, she knew she had something special. She then made one for herself. “I got about 10 compliments on it a day and people started asking if I sold them—so I decided I should start,” she explains.

We loved them so much that we put them on the cover of one of our catalogs last year. And we asked Ellen to develop a new design just for UncommonGoods. Ellen got to work experimenting with different wrapping techniques and searching for the best semi-precious stones to represent the roses and the perfect sterling silver wire to create the base of the bouquet.

She says that with the Bouquet of Roses Necklaces, as well as with her other pieces, trial and error is a big part of the design process. She experiments until she gets the product just right, then takes photos writes down her steps and the exact dimensions of the wire she used, so she can recreate the piece. Of course, since her necklaces are handmade, no two will ever be exactly alike.

“I buy the best quality materials I can possibly get my hands on, then I put my love into it, and I am really passionate about my work,” she says. “It isn’t worth it to make a product you can’t stand behind.”

Ellen is always working to improve her process and refine her skills as an artist, and offers this advice to aspiring designers: “Practice and hone your craft, use tutorials, try new concepts and techniques, keep your eye on trends—but use them to create new things rather than just copy what’s out there. When you copy someone else, your work lacks soul. People can see that, and they won’t like it.”

What do you put your soul into? What’s your passion? Let us know in the comments below, and you could win one of Ellen’s Bouquet of Roses Necklaces.

And as always, double your chances by leaving a comment on our Facebook wall.

Winner will be announced next Wednesday, July 27. Good luck!

Written by Cassie

Cassie spends most of her time at work writing things. She loves books (including comics), sketch comedy, and sci-fi. She's inspired by art and science. As a former Minnesotan, she longs for an afternoon on a lake, Grain Belt in hand. The New Yorker in her is happy spending that afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History instead.


  1. Suzze Tiernan

    I am a fanatic for road rallies (clue hunts)….I even help run the web site for the local ones. Have been doing them now for 30 years!!!!!!!

  2. Therese

    I love working with my hands, so I alternate between sewing, knitting and other crafts.

  3. Susan Kirk

    My passion is Taekwondo – great for the mind, body and spirit – keeps me young at heart!

  4. Leah rudolph

    I put my soul into my faith first, family second, community third. As a public library director my passion is to create a community center of life-long learning where people of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life can come together to learn, socialize, and find respite. I do this by using my God-given talent of networking with other individuals and organizations in our community. Perhaps that is my real passion, bringing everyone together to bring the best out in all!

  5. heather

    these are amazingly beautiful. you could even mix up the rose colors to represent children. great work! =)

  6. Katie Salch

    My passion is my work. I am an instructional coach for an elementary school. It is my daily job to make sure teachers are doing what is best for children. My school has all different backgrounds. Each classroom is diverse in its culture and learning environment and I get the joy of being a part of it all.

  7. Megan Devito

    I love coaching swim team. It lets me relive one of my favorite parts of my childhood and get my kids outside and involved as well. The span of ages (anywhere from 3-19) allows kids to learn from each other, mentor, and grow their sense of sportsmanship. Being involved in a life sport where your friends are as excited to cheer for your kids as they are your own is fantastic! Passion is an understatement.

  8. Chris

    I devote my time to my own precious little flowers – my son and daughter, ages four and five, respectively. There are thorns on the blooms from time to time, but their grace and beauty make it worthwhile. I love watching them grow.♥

  9. Jenelle

    My passion lies in language: I read and write like breathing–it’s something I have to consciously force myself to stop doing, and I never pause for very long!

  10. Michelle

    My passion is writing, thinking, and teaching, which also happens to be my job as a graduate student! But, my joy is also in creating beautiful knitted gifts for my friends and family.

  11. marie

    my passion is for keeping people happy in my life like my family and good freinds with love and laughter

  12. Anna

    My passion is my work – teaching Kindergarten. I am blessed to get up and do something I love each and every day. :)

  13. talia

    My passion is taking joy in the little everyday things that make life enjoyable. The things that get you through the tough times and the makes the memories that last forever.

  14. Kelly Tierney

    I put my soul into my relationship with not only my better half, but also my 4 four-legged babies, my family and my very close friends as well.
    My passion as far back into my childhood as I can remember is animals; helping them, rescuing them, healing them and loving them. They ask for so little from us, yet give us so much in return. It always gives me the most wonderful feeling in my heart when I look into the eyes of every one I meet; cat or dog, large or small, it doesn’t matter, and for me that feeling in my heart and the look in their eyes when they meet with mine is pure passion because they always make me smile.

  15. Ciara

    Now I’m not quite old enough to have a job yet. However, I am very passionate about what I do in my time now. I babysit for kids in my neighborhood and it’s the best thing a kid my age could ever do. Sure, the boys may throw some fits every now and then and getting everyone to eat their vegetables isn’t always necessarily successful but when I get those calls from parents saying how their kids have been begging me to babysit, I feel accomplished and successful which is what everyone wants to get from a job. While babysitting isn’t a career I plan to pursue for my future I am very dedicated to it at the time being. (;

  16. Ellen

    I passionately crafted these necklaces, so I’m here to comment not enter the contest. :)

    It is very interesting and encouraging to read about people’s passions here! I do have other passions beyond jewelry making – my kids, my husband, my music, my writing, my volunteer work, etc. I just really try to be passionate about everything I do because it’s more fun that way.

    Good luck everyone!

  17. Florence Mims

    I love rescuing pets and caring for them. I have very few but love them to bits.

  18. Kathy

    My favorite ways to spend my extra time are with my significant other and with my daughter and her family which include my two grandsons! I love being a grandma!I also love flowers, in the garden, a dandelion from a grandchild or a bouquet from my love!

  19. c

    My passion is my volunteer work… I am a rape crisis counselor and meet with people who continue to survive and work through traumatic experiences… I’m very lucky to be able to meet and touch these people’s lives… And hopefully, I make a difference.

  20. Jenna W.

    i have a passion for sharing new food experiences with friends. trying a new dish for the first time in good company can be such a wonderful experience! i also have a passion for surprising friends with homemade desserts… cupcakes are one of my favorite ways of expressing love <3

  21. Kathleen

    My passion is to create something worthy, wonderful, and “uncommon” and be accepted into the catalog.
    Also, I like writing short stories and poems and I make greeting cards for my friends.
    Thanks and good luck to all!

  22. Kary

    I’m passionate about life and living it to the fullest. I feel strongly that my life is about continuous improvements – in myself, my family, my work, my contributions to the world at large.

  23. Angelina Kuo

    I am passionate about my children. I love spending time with them and lavishing them with affection. I have starting doing craft projects with my 3 year old and have learned a wonderful lesson in patience and surrendering to the process.

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