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 ARTIST WHO CREATE WITH BEADS-OF-CLAY...
Sharon Harris comes to us from her home in Minneapolis where she resides with Bill and their pets Sammy and Jazz. She is two years into a happy retirement from her career in human resources. She spent 10 years prior to retiring as an Administrator for Minnesota State College and University System.
Making and selling jewelry has been her passion for about seven or eight years and now she finally has the time to make it a priority.
Bill is an budding artist and works on his painting most days. When not creating, they take their fishing boat to the northern Minnesota lake country and also love doing long road trips around the country and to Canada, which gives her lots of opportunity to buy beads. And from the looks of things, Sharon has lots of variety in her jewelry, both in style and color.
The name Gypsy Jewels seems to be very fitting for the vast styles of your jewelry, how did you come up with that name?
When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to tell stories about the Gypsies traveling through and camping for a few days on her family's farm in Iowa. I was especially entranced with one about the time her family was invited to a Gypsy wedding. The verbal picture she painted of the clothing and jewelry the beautiful Gypsy women and dark handsome men wore as they danced and celebrated into the night, has remained a vivid memory for me. One day when I was making a necklace at my work-table, my grandma's story popped into my mind and the name Gypsy Jewels by Sharon was born.
While doing a little research, I realized that your shop 'Gypsy Jewels' is part of a website called 'Ruby Lane'. I feel like I've been in the dark, but this is the first experience that I have had with this site. Could you tell our readers a little more about it?
When I first decided to try selling on the Internet, I did a lot of research on different sites versus creating my own and I sold briefly on e-bay. Ruby Lane would often pop up in my searches. I liked the look of the site, and it was easy to navigate. It is a specialty site that allows sellers only in specific areas, such as artisan jewelry, vintage jewelry, collectibles, antiques, fine art and a few others. The site has very strict quality, display, customer service and other business rules that shops must follow. For example, all shops must have a very customer friendly but strict refund and return policy. This kind of guidance was something I felt would benefit me as a new seller. Ruby Lane also advertises in national "interest" publications and owners can have their shops featured at very reasonable prices. Many of the jewelry artisan shops, including Gypsy Jewels, advertise in American Style Magazine, which is a wonderful arts publication.
I know that many people on Etsy were effected by the drop in economy. With what seems to be a better outlook for our country's future, have you also seen an increase compared to what was happening a year ago?
When the economic downturn became widely apparent, the first thing I experienced was that my international sales went almost to zero, followed closely by very careful spending by buyers. Customers who would likely have purchase two or three pieces at a time, now restricted themselves to one, or bought something on sale. It was my faithful repeat buyers who kept Gypsy going and I priced as low as possible for them, sometimes even losing money on individual items. People are still very cautious in their purchasing (I include myself in that), but in the last year, I've had some international sales again and some of the higher prices pieces are selling, so I'm optimistic.
How did you get started with your jewelry sales business? Was it a surplus of jewelry or something that you thought you would want to do right from the beginning?
As a child, I loved making bracelets and necklaces with wooden thread spools, string, buttons and whatever else I could find to hook or pin together. All my life, I've been interested in many arts and crafts that gave me skills and ideas for making jewelry. When raising a family, attending college as an adult and making a career, I found I had less and less time for my creative pursuits and I missed them terribly. As I moved into the last few years of my work, I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do in the rest of my life. Trying to make jewelry was first on my list. A friend and I kind of accidentally walked into a local bead shop one day and we were both smitten with the colors, the shapes, and the possibilities. We signed up for a class on how to make earrings. Neither of us got to the class but we tried a second time. We had so much fun, we stayed for the next class to learn how to make a necklace. I was so proud of my first necklace, I thought it was the about prettiest thing I had ever done.
After that, I couldn't stop and jewelry collected in every spare space in my house. The college where I worked had a couple of arts and crafts sales events every year and my co-workers liked the jewelry I wore and encouraged me to participate. By then, I had more jewelry than one person could ever wear or give away. I signed up and was absolutely amazed when my sales were several hundred dollars. I bought a lot of jewelry materials and supplies on the Internet and almost always had good luck with my purchases. At some point it dawned on me the that this was where I could get started selling while working full-time and continue it more intensely after my retirement.
I noticed that you use many artisan ceramic beads in your designs. Certainly, that makes many ceramic bead artists happy.... What is it that you like about ceramic beads/pendants that work with your designs?
Good handcrafting is a treasure to me. I took a class in ceramics one time and found I was rather dismal at it, which made me admire the ceramic work of others even more. My jewelry designs are generally simple and I depend upon the combination of materials and components I use to make them beautiful. I really love the variety of shapes, colors, textures and skill that goes into making ceramic beads and pendants. When I hold them in my hand, I feel I always want to honor the work of the artist who made them.
Are there certain pieces of jewelry that you like to create more than others. For example, are you drawn more to bracelets vs. earrings? Why?
During the late fifties and sixties, when I was a teenager, my mother managed a gift store that carried the big flashy jewelry so popular during that time. She had a few shelves in the bathroom where she kept the many colorful pieces she wore to work, including big pearls, huge earrings and lots of necklaces with flashy rhinestones and shining glass. I spent a lot of time preening in front of the mirror trying them on. Whenever I borrowed one of those necklaces, I felt glamorous and pretty. Necklaces are my favorite creations.
Do you often have a plan in mind when you sit down to create something or are you like me and just wing it, take it apart, wing it for round two, etc.?
Only rarely, do I have a real plan. I'm not a planner by nature, but I do have a plenty of jewelry ideas rolling around in my head . If I were to name my method of making jewelry, I would call myself a "Winger-Stringer." I might sit down at my work table with a pendant I want to use, start picking up beads or components and putting them down, and pawing through drawers of supplies. After awhile, I have some sort of concept about what I want to do and I start putting it together. It's probably not a very efficient way to work, but it's not unusual for me to complete a piece and keep taking it apart and doing it over, until it's just right. What I start with rarely looks much like what I end up with.
You have such an extensive amount of beads in your designs. How do you keep all of that organized? I could use a few pointers myself!
I don't think what I do with my "stuff" would raise to the level of being "organized." I have a tiny little room for my workspace and it's packed. There's a big buffet type piece where I keep finished jewelry, two sets of five shallow drawer filing cabinets, a standard size desk, a computer desk, eight storage cubes and a fair sized work table. In other words, wall to wall furniture and a little room to walk around. My jewelry work space is on one side of the room and my computer set up and everything I need for packaging and mailing is on the opposite side. I keep my gemstone beads by color in the wood drawers and some extra plastic drawers. Pearls, Ceramics, Raku and pendants are stored in clear plastic containers that can stack on top of each other. Findings are separated by type of metal (sterling, gold fill, brass, etc) in clear plastic stacked round and oblong containers, with similar pieces together. One nice thing about my small workspace is that it has a wood floor and a chair with rollers, making almost everything for jewelry making within my easy reach so I don't have to move very far from my work-table.
Are there other venues that you sell at other than Ruby Lane? Is so, could you tell us a little about that? If not, do you think that t here might be in the future?
I have done a show here and there but I've been exclusively on Ruby Lane for several years. They offer some nice incentives to shop owners who only sell there, such as extra featuring on the artisan jewelry home page. Right now, Gypsy is well established there and I'm satisfied with my sales and the services Ruby Lane provides. However, I'm always looking at other possibilities and I'll be alert to opportunities that might present themselves in the future.
Lastly, Is there anything else that you would like to share that the questions did not lend themselves to?
People are in this business because they love it and because they have a deep need to create. I've met talented artisans and made good friends through this process of creating and selling jewelry. It's a fulfilling passion and I feel very lucky to be able to do it. It brings beauty and happiness to the people who purchase and when I give jewelry as a gift or donate it for a good cause, it puts a smile on my face and gives me a big wonderful dose of satisfaction.