Welcome to our B.O.C. blog. Learn about the world of handcrafted ceramic beads, buttons, pendants & components from our talented and knowledgeable Artisans.
A PEEK INTO THE MINDS OF JEWELRY ARTISTS...
This week's artists is Jennifer VanBenschoten. As I have said many times before, I try to get to know a little about the person that I am interviewing prior to sending questions. It was very easy to do with Jen. She had a blog that kept me reading like it was a best seller. I was not only fascinated with her jewelry designs, but getting a little glimpse into her life captured me. I am a 'people person' and love to hear the interesting stories that others have to tell. I definitely think Jen's blog is one to follow and also hershop is one you want to visit. Jen juggles her life with her husband and young son with many other stories going on at the same time. Thanks so much Jen for letting us in on a little bit of you!
How long have you been creating jewelry and how did you first get interested in this form of art?
I first started creating jewelry when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old! It was all my mother's doing - she was a needlepoint, knit and crochet designer, and when she ordered her supplies, she would order bags of buttons for my sister and I to play with. We started stringing them to make necklaces and bracelets. Later in middle school, I started experimenting with other types of materials for jewelry like clay and paper. In high school, I started working with seed beads on one of those "Indian" bead looms, and I was hooked. Then, when I was finishing my Bachelor's degree in environmental science, I discovered beadweaving, again thanks to my mother, who gave me a pair of bead embroidered and peyote stitched earrings. I looked at those earrings and I just thought, wow -
I have GOT to learn how to do that! So I did!
I was fascinated will all of the different designs that you have. Do you have a plan in mind when you sit down to create or do you sit down and then come up with the plan?
Most of the time, I don't have a plan when I do my bead embroidered pieces. I sit down with some cabochons and some beads and I just start stitching. When I stitch the peyote bezel around the cabochon, I usually spend those hours sort of daydreaming about what colors I should use to accent the cabochon, but that's about it. For the beadwoven pieces, I usually have some kind of a sketch or design in mind when I sit down to begin. I keep a couple of sketch books full of my (bad) drawings of vintage jewelry pieces and colors and shapes that I see in nature. Sometimes, I'll be inspired by a particular focal bead or set of beads, and I'll use those as my jumping off point. I like to keep my options open when it comes to finding inspiration for my designs.
I know that you have a shop on Etsy, but do you sell in other venues as well?
If so, could you tell us a little more about that?
I have sold my work in local art galleries here in the Adirondacks, and at local craft shows and area farmers' markets. I'm looking to expand my market to some new high-end boutiques and craft shops.
While reading your blog, I thought, "Wow! This woman is an awesome juggler! She has a young son, farm animals, a job, etc." How do you successfully manage all of that?
I wouldn't say I'm successful at managing all of that, but I do my best. I don't think there's a way to find the perfect balance between work and life when you work from home, but I do love the fact that we have never had to put our son in daycare, and that my schedule is flexible enough that I can drop everything and go to the park or to playgroup in the middle of the day. I usually end up sacrificing sleep - very often, I'll stay up into the wee hours to get things done after my son has gone to sleep, but it's worth it. And I'm very lucky to have a wonderful husband who doesn't mind doing the laundry and the dishes when I need to work, and we get a lot of support from his parents, who leave nearby and don't mind taking my son to play for an afternoon so that I can work.
I have to admit that sometimes I feel guilty when I sit down to bead - it's so much fun that I have a hard time thinking about it as "work".
In terms of your jewelry, I see that you use ceramic beads in some designs such as necklace pendants and bracelet cuffs. What is it that you like about using ceramic beads? For example, is it the earthiness of the bead that is appealing?
There are a lot of things about ceramic beads that appeal to me. The colors of the ceramic beads and cabochons are so beautiful and so different than the colors you find in gemstones, and I love taking a piece that was so lovingly and beautifully made by someone else and turning it into a beautiful piece of jewelry. There's something about the ceramic beads and cabochons that you just don't get with the natural gemstones - while the gemstones are beautiful, I sometimes see them as cold and distant. With the ceramic beads, there's a connection there - this is a beautiful piece that was crafted by the hands of another human being. And while gemstone beads and cabochons certainly are beautiful in their own right, sometimes I feel that they lack a certain human quality that comes through in the ceramic beads. And I love being able to tell my customers that the piece they are buying is really the work of two different artists - the artist who made the cabochon or focal bead(s), and myself.
Now for an internet question....."About.com?" I noticed in a post that you are writing for them. Is this related you your bead weaving and how did this come about?
Since 2009, I have been the Guide to Beadwork for About.com. It's really a dream job for me - I get to write about beads, beadwork and beading, design projects, and interact with readers on the site. And it's perfect since I can do 99% of it from home, with the occasional trip to Starbucks to use their free wi-fi! The job opening was actually brought to my attention by someone on a message board that I frequent, and I just decided to apply for the job and go for it. I really love the way it lets me connect with the wonderful network of beaders and bead lovers on the internet.
I've also made note that your work has been displayed in magazines. Would you share with our readers who haven't (and, of course, those who have) submitted their work to magazines, how one would go about that?
My best advice is to just go for it. Rejection can be hard, but don't let that stop you - just because they don't want a particular design doesn't mean that it's bad. It just means that it doesn't fit in with their editorial calendar! Take good pictures of your piece (dim or out-of-focus pictures don't make your work look professional), and include a little bit about how you were inspired to create the piece.
Lastly, I see that you are also discontinuing your pieces with dichronic glass? I don't think I need to ask why since I'm amazed that you could fit this into your schedule, but could you tell our readers about your giveaway and the special that you are currently running in your shop?
Right now, until I run out of finished glass pieces, I'm giving away a piece of fused glass jewelry with every item purchased in my Etsy shop. I'm also doing giveaways on my blog - all you have to do is leave a comment to enter. You can enter more than once by posting about the giveaway on your own blog and posting about it on Twitter with a link to the blog. I choose all the winners by using a random number generator, and it's great fun! I used to love to do the fused glass and lampwork, but it's getting harder and harder to find time to sit down and do the glass.