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Maker Resources, Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studio with Donna and Randall Rollins

February 6, 2017

Randall and Donna Rollins in their Brentwood, NH studio, photos by Cassie Tweten Delaney

Most of us have had those days when we feel stuck in a rut. You know, when you’re sitting at your desk under harsh florescent lights, or walking extra slowly into your office building, or completing the same seemingly unimportant task for the 500th time. For most of us, this feeling creeps in and we start fantasizing about dropping everything and going confidently in the direction of our dreams. While the feeling usually passes, and many weekday warriors just keep fighting that battle against monotony, Donna and Randall Rollins figured that if they had to pour out their time and energy, it was going to be into something they love. 

The couple met while they were both working in corporate America. First they fell in love with each other, and then Donna fell in love with pottery. Then they learned about the healing properties often associated with gemstones from a friend with a PhD in metaphysics, and everything came together: Donna and Randall left the corporate world to start their own clay studio. They slowly grew their business to include family members and employ local artisans, they discovered new ways to incorporate stones and minerals into their designs, and, aside from acknowledging that their business backgrounds gave them the know-how to turn their passion into a career, they don’t do a lot of looking back. 

“We actively made the decision thinking, ‘If we tank, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll still have each other,'” Randall told me on my recent visit to the couple’s Brentwood, NH studio. “We took that risk and we were willing to lose it all.”  

As you’re about to see in the photos and interview below, Donna and Randall didn’t lose it all, and they’re still hard at work making beautiful pottery and sharing their passion for stones and clay whenever they can. In fact, when our Tabletop Buyer NéQuana and I arrived to the studio over two hours late, thanks to a flat tire, the Rollinses weren’t even fazed. Their team had left for the night, and evidence of a long workday (so many pieces, in all stages of completion!) was all around. Still, they welcomed us like old friends, offered us snacks, and almost immediately started showing us their collections of stones and telling us about the energy in the space.  

Healing Stone Mugs, before the stones are attached

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Maker Resources

Introducing the 2017 JCK Design Challenge

December 22, 2016

We’re always on the lookout for designs that stun us with their beauty, serve a purpose, solve a problem, or make us wonder why no one thought of it before. That’s why we’ve partnered with jewelry industry authority JCK on the 2017 design challenge for JCK Tucson, a curated destination for emerging artists and makers of finished jewelry and loose gemstones. JCK Tucson will be hosted from February 1-4, 2017 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ.

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Maker Resources

5 Things No One Tells You about Starting a Business

May 17, 2016

*Editor’s note: Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your small business for a while now, you’re probably no stranger to the unexpected challenges that tend to pop up from time to time. Designer, entrepreneur, and author of the book How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line, Emilie Shapiro, shares her advice for working through a few of the trickier things about running a creative business.

 

Business is the Keyword in Jewelry Business

A business without a goal is just a hobby. Owning a jewelry business is much more than making pretty things. The biggest difference between running a business and engaging in a hobby is the goal; you’re running a business to make money. More and more people are pursuing the life of entrepreneurship and becoming their own bosses. Being a designer and a creator is an amazing gift, but when you decide to become a business owner, your main goal is to make money.

There are a lot of difficult decisions and many hats that you have to wear every day, especially if you are a one woman shop. Accounting, sales, customer service, production management, shipping & handling – all things that are part of running a small business. Running a business is not for everyone. It requires a lot of persistence and ambition. As a craft business owner, you are focusing on efficiency over creativity. Making jewelry is just one small part of running a jewelry business.

As an artist, there is a tendency to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. As a successful businessperson, it is necessary to make decisions based on rational calculation. I like to strike a happy medium between the two.

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Maker Resources

4 Tips for Responsible Materials and Supplier Sourcing

May 10, 2016

How to Take the Leap from Maker To Business Owner

As the Senior Production Manager here at UncommonGoods, my job is to oversee the connection of design ideas with manufacturing resources to create new products.

Thomas Edison claimed that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. From my experience, product development warrants a formula of its own. To carry an idea through to a finished product you should start with a spark of inspiration, then add in equal parts diligence and thoughtfulness, especially when it comes to sourcing.

I’ve pulled together the following considerations for responsible material and supplier sourcing inspired by my experience partnering with our makers on new product development. I hope these thoughts will help other small business owners navigate the rough waters of sourcing.

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Maker Resources

5 Things You Need to Know Before Selling Your Designs Online

May 4, 2016

As a creator of original designs or handmade products you’ve tackled the most important part of your business, what to sell. Now you find yourself taking on new questions that may be harder to answer. You’re starting to ask, “Where can I sell my handmade items?” and inevitably “How do I sell my designs online?” We’re happy to answer your first question and encourage you to check out our submission page, but before you click that link, take some time to think about whether your product is ready for retail.

 

Designing the Milkyway Scarf

Ali Bennaim and Ximena Chouza working on their Cat’s Paw Nebula Lightweight Wool Scarf

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Maker Resources

5 Ways to Attract Retail Buyers to Your Brand

March 16, 2016

attract retail buyers

*Editor’s note: For many artists, the idea of approaching retail buyers can seem intimidating. We’ve tapped Emilie Shapiro, jewelry designer, instructor and author of the new book, How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line, to share some ideas that budding entrepreneurs can use to attract retail buyers to their brand. 

 

1. Design a Marketable Collection

Whether you are starting from scratch or have created hundreds of pieces, making a collection is very different from designing just one piece. Designing a collection is about translating one design into many different forms. For example, when creating a jewelry collection, you should be able to translate a design for a ring into a necklace, earrings and a bracelet. Every customer will gravitate toward a certain type of piece. Some customers love rings and that is all they buy while other customers want pieces that go together. Retail buyers for a wholesale account will typically want to present the full collection so there is something for everyone.

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Maker Resources

Jewelry Designer Jacqueline Stone Talks Design Inspiration and Tackling To-do Lists

December 9, 2015

We caught up with JCK Design Ambassador Jacqueline Stone to learn why she believes it is important to support other designers. Jacqueline is one of several members on the JCK Events team made up of industry insiders that have come together to ensure that each JCK event is flawlessly executed. She is also the lead designer and founder of Brooklyn-based fine jewelry company, Salt + Stone, so we tapped her to share her perspective as a designer with us. In part two of our interview, Jacqueline talks about where her design inspiration comes from and her secret to tackling a never-ending to-do list.

Missed the first part of our interview? Check it out here.

saltandstoneig_Fotor_Collage

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Maker Resources

How Our Makers Prepare for the Holidays

November 23, 2015

As purveyors of cool and unusual gifts for any occasion it is no surprise that the holiday season is UncommonGoods’ busiest time of the year. But, we’re not alone. Research firm eMarketer predicts holiday sales to grow 5.7% this year which will be the biggest jump in sales since 2011. This estimated jump in sales means that online retailers like us have to work even harder this year to make sure we are prepared for the influx of business the season will bring. A busy season for us also means a busy season for the artists and designers we work with. We talked to two of our makers to learn how they prepare their businesses for the holidays and deal with holiday stress.

rsz_1jill_henrietta_davis

 Jill Henrietta Davis in her studio with units of her Birthstone Wishing Balls ready to send out this holiday season.

 

Jill Henrietta Davis, Owner & Designer, Henrietta Glass

In both business and life generally, I try to avoid stress by being prepared well in advance of deadlines. We were delighted to start making the Wishing Balls for our holiday purchase order (PO) in July, so that we’d be done early and have plenty time to fulfill additional orders. I deal with stress by making lists, counting things, and playing in whatever supplies might prove helpful in dealing with whatever’s causing the stress. The fourth quarter is a real love/hate time for us in the studio. The increased volume of sales is exciting and great for the ego, but when a new design turns out to be more successful than I could have even imagined and is selling faster than we can make them then the stress gets pretty intense.

We have tally-boards in the shop so everyone can see exactly where we are and what most needs to be done. You get to put a star down when a category is completed. It sounds silly, but that star feels just as good as an adult as it did as a little kid getting back a good paper at school.

I also makes lists…every day and sometimes more than one. My lists alleviate stress by reducing the worry that I’ll forget something, by making concrete the many things that need to be done and by providing tangible proof of progress.  I hardly ever “finish” a list because I typically transfer the last few things to a new list. Every time I cross something off I enjoy the illusion that it is possible to finish the list and that all these tasks are completely manageable.

One last funny thing: Being an uber-recycler, I make many of my lists on the backs of envelopes. Being a little superstitious, I choose envelopes that held checks, or good news, or came from people I like. Probably doesn’t matter, but hey, it can’t hurt!

 

Mary Kearns_Fotor

Mary Kearns last year with the first round of holiday season shipping boxes ready to send off to UncommonGoods.

Mary Kearns, President & Founder, Herban Lifestyle, LLC 

Like many makers, the holiday season is by far my busiest time of year, a concentrated few weeks filled with deadlines for making products, vending at craft shows and fulfilling orders. As you know, making this all work smoothly can be incredibly fun but also incredibly stressful!

There are some things I’ve found help me get through those intense few weeks:

  1. I make sure that I have extra help available.
  2. I delegate as much as I can at home and at work.
  3. I try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night so that my head is clear and I have the energy to plow through each day.
  4. I meditate regularly – just 5 to 20 minutes five days a week, but it’s enough to keep things in perspective for me.
  5. I try to get in some form of relaxing exercise a couple of days a week, like yoga or hiking.
  6. I try to carve out some time for fun and relaxation each week with friends and family, to take my mind off of the endless to-do lists running through my mind; and finally,
  7. Every year from December 25 to January 2, I take time off to spend with my family. Knowing that I will have that uninterrupted time to relax, unwind, and have fun keeps me going through the most intense days leading up to that time!

 

We want to hear from you! What are some things you do to combat holiday stress?

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