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Jewelry

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ana Talukder

April 7, 2014

Inside the Artist Studio with Ana Talukder Simpson | UncommonGoodsHere at UncommonGoods, we work with amazing vendors who constantly wow us with their creativity, artistry, and love of their craft. We don’t always get to meet the artists with whom we work; often relationships are forged through email and over the phone. Recently I was lucky enough to travel from our Brooklyn headquarters to Seattle to visit the studio of Ana Talukder , the super talented designer behind our beloved Latitude/Longitude jewelry collection.

Arriving at the studio, I was greeted with a big hug by Ana, and was immediately charmed by her bubbly and vivacious presence. I could not wait to see her studio and it was just as I imagined from hearing her description of it over the phone–a spacious and bright room with walls awash in her favorite color: purple. Her studio is a happy place, with touches of her personality everywhere–a purple peg board with small metal buckets to keep her organized, a board of inspirational quotes, and my personal favorite: an indoor window box of pansies (in purple of course!).

Ana and I looked at her new designs and talked about her process. I was wowed by how prolific she is, and how many new ideas she is constantly hatching. It was a great afternoon together and time flew by! Meet Ana and welcome to her colorful and inspirational world!

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Maker Stories

Teresa Kahres on Jewelry and the Business Behind It

March 12, 2014

Teresa Kahres grew up in Long Island, NY and began showing her artistic leanings early in life. She went on to study jewelry design and enameling at SUNY New Paltz, the Cecelia Bauer Studio in New York City and in Siena, Italy. Some friends invited her to join them in a Brooklyn studio in 2005, where, the following year, she founded t. kahres jewelry, her line of sustainable, nature-inspired, handmade, recycled metal jewelry.

Teresa Kahres | UncommonGoods
Her deep love for the shapes and colors found in nature shows in the organic forms of her metalwork–often hand-cast from actual leaves, shells, etc.–and the stunning colors of her enameling. The end result is intricate jewelry art, exquisitely crafted like small sculptures.

We’re in love with her creations, and jumped at the chance to ask her some questions about herself and her work.

Enameled Silver Leaf Jewelry | UncommonGoods

Were you artistic as a child or teenager? If so, what kinds of things did you create?
I was very artistic as a child. I always drew pictures and took projects for class to the next level, whether it be a science project, an art project, history, etc.

I remember one project when I was in 4th grade. We had to make a homemade usable tool/object. I made a fishing pole out of a long branch and twine, and tied a rock to the middle of the twine so it would drop down in the water to catch fish. I carried it all the way to school. I taught an art drawing class on the computer in the 4th grade as well.

I was always more interested in art class and did very well in those classes. My mind understood that process. For the other classes I really didn’t have much interest, and it always took more time for me to grasp what was going on. It was kind of boring to me.

What were your major inspirations growing up? Any role models?
My grandfather and dad were major inspirations. They are/were very handy people. They would make things, if they could, before buying them.

My grandfather was always into funky gadgets. I remember he bought a huge (by huge I mean probably a foot wide) rear view mirror for the car so he never had to look back. He was all about the design, too. He was always drawing and was an exceptional drawer.

He and my dad owned a bookstore, and they built all the shelves and many of the things they had in the shop by hand. They wallpapered my whole house and made picture frames, step stools, tables, wall units, you name it. They weren’t woodworkers, they just knew how to create things the way they wanted it.

So I was around a lot of crafty, handy people growing up.

colors

Are there any great jewelry artists or sculptors of the past who you worship?
One of my inspirational jewelers is Art Smith. His jewelry is very sculptural, and he used a lot of found metals and materials to create his jewelry. His pieces are a true work of art to me.

When I started enameling, I was first influenced by Georgia O’Keeffe. I love her flowers and the colors she uses. Louise Bourgeois and her large metal spiders are amazing in real life. Her sculptures and what she expresses within them is a real influence.

When did you become especially interested in making jewelry?
I became interested in making jewelry when I made gifts for everyone out of whatever I could find. I would make jewelry out of beads, leather, vinyl, studs, safety pins, string, etc. I took a metalsmithing class in college and became hooked instantly! So I delved into metals and started loving what I was creating.

What are the most challenging aspects of creating your jewelry?
The most challenging part of jewelry making is the steps you take to get it to what you want it to become. Drawing it and fabricating it out of base metal, paper or wax to see scale and design before you actually make it in the metal you want. Making a model out of precious metals can get expensive if you are in the very beginning stages, so it’s always better to try and make it first from something less precious.

mixingmaking1

 

What are the greatest design challenges in creating jewelry?
The greatest design challenge is trying to make something unique and eye-catching and yet something that an everyday person can respond to. I understand that not everyone will like my work, but I want the work to be wearable and sellable.

Do you work alone, or with a team? If the latter, how does that work?
I currently work with an assistant, and it has made everything so much better and easier. It relieves some stress of pressing orders. She helps me make decisions and keep things organized. She is great!

leaf_hand_torch1

leaves

How long does it take to create each piece of leaf jewelry?
When I am doing production I do a bunch at a time, but I’d say each leaf earring set takes about a full hour to complete from start to finish.

How do know when you’ve spotted something you want to make into jewelry, like a leaf, etc.?
I know when I want to make something into a piece of jewelry if it speaks to me instantly. I am always on the lookout for new things to create and colors to use so when I am feeling something I usually try to create it out of metal.

rocks

With your nature-inspired jewelry, does the change of the seasons inspire you to change what you’re making?
Most of my jewelry is beach-related, which is where I find the most peace for myself. I somewhat dislike winter. Although I did do a new collection not so long ago and based some shapes on ice, so I guess I am influenced by all seasons. I just tend to get more inspiration from the warmer ones.

Inspiration

When did you start becoming a “real” business woman?
I started to become a real business women when I realized that I wanted this to not be a hobby. A few friends of mine were getting studio space many years ago and asked me to join in with them. At that point it started becoming more and more like a business. I did have another job during my first years into business so that I could fund materials and such.

I was approached to do the Grand Central Holiday Fair a few years ago (at that time I was working three jobs, jewelry included). I decided to take the leap of faith and do the fair and quick my other jobs. The fair was going to be 42 days–and very long ones–so I wouldn’t be able to work all three. I was very pleased with my decision to let go and go for the business in full force. The fact that I can run my own thing now is the best. I was scared, but happy I finally got over it.

studio

What are the biggest business lessons you’ve learned?
Big business lessons I learned are:

  • It’s pretty difficult being your own boss; the structure, and keeping everything organized and on time.
  • Not being scared to not be good enough and trying to get what you want is a big challenge in such a competitive field. Going for it and not standing back was a challenge. But as my business grows and I am a bit older, I am trying not to let anything stand in the way.
  • Having the freedom is great, but you have to be structured in order to have a successful business. Sure, you can take off whenever you want but then things get left behind.
  • Hiring someone is scary because now you have to manage someone else besides yourself. But if you get sick and need to take off and you have no one that works for you, business stops.

Those are my biggest thus far. I am sure as I grow, others will arise.

necklaces

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist Studio with Stacey Lee Webber

March 5, 2014

Stacey Lee Webber Studio Tour | UncommonGoodsPhiladephia jewelry designer, Stacey Lee Webber, creates her pieces from pennies and small coins—making art from what could easily be overlooked and discarded. The same can be said for her incredible studio and living space. Situated within the former Globe Dye Works factory–a space she calls home, work, and the location of her wedding–her space is one of the most uncommon I’ve ever visited. Aside from having been saved from scrapping and recycled, the factory is home to many other designers and just oozes creativity. Stacey’s studio also serves as storage for her creative friends’ projects that won’t fit anywhere else.

After I was done drooling over the space, I got to know one of our artists in a deeper way. Behind the beautiful necklaces and cufflinks on our site is a process of sawing, filing, and tiny metal splinters, creating the kind of dichotomy that makes handmade pieces like hers so special. When I see a coin, I see an opportunity for a Tootsie Pop. When Stacey sees a coin, she sees art–just another reason why it’s so fun to try to get inside the mind of our designers.

Take a stroll around Stacey’s creative space and get to know this Uncommon Artist.

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Design

What To Do When Your Design Isn’t Accepted

February 28, 2014

What To Do When Your Design Isn't Accepted | UncommonGoods

Was your design not accepted by a buyer? Or were you not the winner for an UncommonGoods Design Challenge that you thought was in the bag? Yeah it sucks, but it happens to the best of us. Being rejected is part of growing as a designer. I once heard a story about a salesman who got excited every time he was rejected because he had figured out that for every 9 no’s he would get one yes. So how can you use the no’s as an opportunity to get more yes’s? And how do you know whether to move on and contact different companies rather than pushing your designs to the same seller?  Here are a few tips to use post-rejection to become a better designer.

Don’t take it personally. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to not take anything personally. You really don’t know why they said no unless they tell you.It could be a variety of factors, even that it’s just not the right time, that they have strong relationships with the ties they already carry or they don’t have the budget to pick up a new line. If you lost a competition, it just may have been that there were a lot of entries or similar submissions to yours. This gives you an opportunity to become more individualized in your design and your style!

Do something nice for yourself. Post rejection, it’s really important to keep your energy level up. Go for a walk, buy yourself a treat or do something else that makes you happy and feel good.The key to keeping your energy up and staying on track is to stay positive. Treating yourself well always helps.

Ask for and listen to feedback. You may or may not get the opportunity for feedback, but it’s a great idea to ask for it. Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, understanding why a buyer said no is a great way to improve your brand. Try to listen to the feedback from an objective manner. Think: “How can I become a better designer?” Remember a no may not be a no forever, but just a no for right now.

Send a thank you note. An unexpected touch for a buyer is to receive a thank you note when they have turned down your line. This is key to staying top of mind even if they didn’t buy. It also opens you up to referrals and creates opportunity for potential down the road.

Keep in touch. Keeping in touch is important! If your assortment changes or something changes in the store assortment, you may have a chance to work together down the road. There is a statistic that it can take up to 7 times before a buyer notices and actually purchases a line. Keep that in mind.

Consider: Am I right for this store? Buyers and curators consider many factors when looking for designers. They are looking at budgets, current product assortments, price points, and their clients as well as many other factors. If they passed on your design, take an honest look at your collection as it is now. Is it really right for this account/store/contest/person? Sometimes, your energy is freed up if you aren’t wasting time barking up the wrong tree. Invest your time on the right types of stores where your dream clients are hanging out and shopping. Rejection isn’t always a bad thing. When you can use the information you receive to improve your line and grow, you are always in the right place.

It’s your turn! We want to hear from you! In the comments below, tell us the following:

1. What have you done in the past when you have been rejected?

2. How have you overcome rejection and turned an awkward situation into an awesome situation?

This post was written by the creators of Flourish & Thrive Academy, Robin Kramer and Tracy Matthews. For specific sales & marketing advice to get your jewelry into the hands of your dream clients, head on over to Flourish & Thrive Academy.

TracyRobin-about

Maker Stories

Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace Shines Bright

January 15, 2014

Natha Perkins

Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace design is obviously beautiful, but I would have to say the message behind it shines a little brighter, just giving me more incentive to add the charming pendant into my very own jewelry box. The message that stands behind the design is all about finding clarity, direction, and seeking one’s path. When wearing it, it should remind you to trust your internal guidance, reassure yourself that you know your own answers and that you, indeed, know exactly where you want to go. As someone who has been bitten pretty hard by the travel bug and tends to live life a bit off the beaten path, I’m in love with the fact that the eight pointed star symbol was the first known compass in the history of humanity. Natha’s necklace is the first winning jewelry design I’ve come across with a resonating message that touches on both my personal hopes and fears. I hope to stay on the (very loopy and sometimes off-the-cliff) path that I’m currently still paving out for myself. I fear losing sight of that direction and hopping onto someone else’s already-made yellow brick road. The Eight Pointed Star Necklace is a pretty reminder to keep going and to never doubt oneself. Meet Natha Perkins, someone who definitely knew how to pave her way into becoming our latest Jewelry Design Challenge Winner.

Natha Perkins

What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your jewelry?
I don’t  journal much, or keep a diary, but I have 30 rings that I’ve made through the years for myself.  Each ring has a specific story behind it and each design is totally relevant to something that was happening in my life when I made the ring.  (I’ve been metalsmithing for 13 years, so for those of you counting that’s approx. 2.3 rings a year)

I love that your necklace has a lot of meaning behind it, do you mind explaining it?
I love the symbolism behind this piece!  I wrote a blog post about it here, but in a nutshell, the Eight Pointed Star is an ancient and universal symbol, as well as the first compass in the history of humanity. It guides your way to a new life, giving you clarity of vision to see the future through a lens of hope, healing and beauty. It also bestows nurturing energies. A symbol of optimism, an eight pointed star assures you that unexpected help is coming and serves to help bring about a renewal of good fortune in the material world. Like with any of our pieces, wearing  this piece will help bring you clarity simply by providing you with a reminder that you are indeed supported.

How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Jewelry Design Challenge?
We did a lot of jumping up and down and screaming!

Where do you find inspiration within your work space?
The studio itself is full of tools and stones and lots of different working areas but we have the most beautiful garden just outside with grape vines and a gurgling rock fountain and roses.  We’re also basically at the foot of a great big gorgeous mountain (Boulder is surrounded to the West entirely by mountains) so when we walk out of the studio, we’re surrounded by all of this natural beauty.  We can walk 2 blocks and hit a hiking trail that weaves its way up to an amazing vista of the cities of Boulder and Denver.  It really is heavenly and I feel very lucky. studio gardensWhere do you go/ what do you do to find inspiration when you find yourself in a creative rut?
This might sound strange, but when I’m not feeling creative, I go to see my acupuncturist.  In Chinese medicine, blocked creativity means some sort of imbalance in the qi and yin department.  If I’m feeling blah or feeling uninspired, I figure I need a body tune up.  (Did I mention I live in Boulder?  We’re kind of alternative here.)

If you have a great idea for a design and want to pursue it, what’s your first step?
When I was in art school, our professor required us to have 40 sketches of a single design before we could finalize our idea and start on a piece.  Thank God I’m not designing my pieces in art school any more!  I honestly just dive in.  I have an idea, I gather the metal, the tracing paper, some saw blades and I get going.  This has led to many an end result that was really different from the original idea but like any medium, the materials co-create with the artist and it’s fun to see what comes through. Natha PerkinsOther than being an artist, what else do you do?
I’m a mama, I’m a life and entrepreneurial business coach, I teach art and jewelry classes.  I went and got certified to coach because I wanted to teach people how to make intentional art.  Art is such a beautiful way to get in touch with who you are on a deep level.  Talk therapy is great but its heady.  We all have our old stories that we tell over and over and it’s hard to see past them to the truth.  Art and intentional making incorporates head, heart and hand and opens you up to new types of insights and understanding about yourself and your process.  I feel really called to help guide people to this place.

When (and how) did you realize you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
When I was 20, I searched high and low for  a juicy red, heart shaped ring and I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere.  I don’t know why, but I felt such a  longing for this red heart shaped ring.  I dreamed about it.  Fast forward 2 years and I took a small class in a strange warehouse next to a strip club (which isn’t relevant to the story at all but it’s an interesting fact nonetheless).  The teacher was this eccentric man who  taught me the basics of metalsmithing.  I was hooked in the first class because I realized that I could actually make my heart ring.  It  took me 5 years to get good enough to make my ring but I still treasure it because it was the inspiration that started my jewelry career before I even understood it to be that. Natha PerkinsDo you have any special projects or events that are in the works or that are floating around in your brain right now?
I’m actually knee deep in a handful of  projects right now that I’m really excited about.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been coaching and working on some art classes that involve intentional making.  Myself and two other women; a life coach and a photographer, are formulating a curriculum that we’re planning to take into local high schools.  The idea involves working with young women and teaching them empowerment tools through a combination of intentional making, student led photo documentation and teaching of emotional skills.  I’m also working to develop some cool art classes to offer to the participants of  The Boulder Tattoo Project, a large scale community art project involving a”love poem” to the city of Boulder and 200+ residents (including me) who got bits and pieces of the poem tattooed on their bodies.  My friend Chelsea (who spearheaded BTP) and I are collaborating on the classes and they will include making art that centers around the actual words that each person chose to get inked with.   Everyone involved chose words that were particularly meaningful to them in some way and we want to offer a venue for them to explore that on a deeper level. teachingWhat are your most essential tools that you must have by your side while you design? 
I do most of my designing in my head, usually when I’m walking in nature, alone.  I come up with a word or a line from a poem or song and the piece takes shape around that.  I also love to design using stones and stone colors.  I will go through my 15 or so boxes of stones just pulling out shapes and colors, just to see how the colors play against each other.  I’m fascinated with color play and color theory and it shows up often in  my pieces.

Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?
Funny you should use that word productive.  It’s  been on my mind a lot lately because I realized that I have this uncomfortable tendency to feel unproductive if I’m just relaxing.  So to answer your question:  I practice yoga 4 times a week, I walk the dogs, I read lots of articles and books, I cook food for my kids.  All of which sound suspiciously productive, don’t they? Natha PerkinsWhat was the toughest lesson you learned as a freelance jewelry artist?
I hired a press company that cost an absolute fortune.  They promised me more than they were actually able to deliver and they kept about $5,000 in samples too (that were supposed to be be returned).  But I had my part in it as well;  I wasn’t prepared for the experience.   I didn’t have  the fundamentals in place, like line sheets and tight production collections.  Knowing what I know now about editorial coverage, media, wholesale, retail and business in general, I see clearly that my approach was doomed to failure.  I was trying to build a mansion on a slippery foundation.  It was a disaster but I learned so much, I would never make those same mistakes again!  Today in fact, I’m a much stronger and more savvy business woman which is a very different skill set than ‘artist’ but a necessity when you’re trying to sell art. piles of SpellBound RingsWhat advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
You create your own reality.  If you can’t learn to relax, the world will meet you with un-relaxing situations.  If you don’t appreciate the things you do and create, the people around you won’t be able to either.  If you’re constantly trying to control the world, you will will exhaust yourself trying to make the impossible possible.  Everything is perfect.  You are loved.  You are amazing and strong and more powerful than you will ever know. (Okay, I’m getting teary now, but it’s all true.  Again, the old stories that we tell ourselves about not being good enough, smart enough, not being enough…such lies.  But I’m getting it now, I’m seeing the truth.)
Natha Perkins
Which artists do you look up to?
I’ll say this: I look up to anyone who has the courage to make their art, to express themselves in that way and to put themselves out there.  Our art, our creations; no matter the medium, comes from the depths of our individual souls and anyone who has the courage to show up like that, to lay themselves open to the appraisal and opinions of others has my respect. Natha Perkins

What does it mean to you being a design challenge winner?
I’m thrilled to be the winner of this challenge!  My studio assistant Whitney and I had so much fun working on our newest collection Divine ~ Align.  We put so much thought into the symbolism and meaning of each piece. So to be recognized in such a prestigious way for one of the pieces in the collection is a huge honor.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“You set the standard for how you are treated.  People will treat you the same way that you treat yourself.”  It’s lovely and it’s true.  I’m not sure where I found this quote but I came across it during my certification program with The Secret to Life Coaching Company  (with whom I got certified) and I’ve learned to see the world through a new lens.  We really are responsible for everything in our lives, we create everything, which is actually a really empowering notion. quoteWhat are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Management tools!  I adore metalsmithing and my business Luscious Metals.   I love to create art but I’m transitioning my business into something that’s bigger than just me and my personal skills.  My amazing studio assistant, Whitney, is ready and willing to take on more responsibility and wants to help me grow the business and this is just the beginning. I know that in order for this to work out, I need to transition from artist and designer to manager and  leader.  I’m ready and excited to see where we go next! Natha PerkinsWhat advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Jewelry Design Challenge?
Some of the best business advice I’ve ever gotten was from a book called The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles (great book!). “Act now.  There is never any time but now and there will never be any time but now.  If you are ever to begin to make ready for the reception of what you want, you must begin now.”  In other words, make sure your ducks are in a row (good product, great pictures etc.) and then GO FOR IT!  You can’t win if you don’t enter right?

Find Natha and her business Luscious Metals on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.