Tag Archives: small business

A mile marker in candyland.

test pattern

The fledgling jewelry shop I started a few years back so I could play with plastics is about to cross a very big milestone. I’ve sold nearly 3,000 items in my urban legend Etsy shop, and I’m really excited to see the odometer roll over in the next few weeks. When I opened urban legend, I was just starting to experiment with using vintage plastics in jewelry. The bold colors and bigger shapes took my designs in new directions, and it was so fun that it just kept growing and growing.

In the last few years, urban legend jewelry has been featured in UPPERCASE magazine, and been sold in shops in 9 states, as well as in Australia and France. Best of all, it’s brought me so many new friends. I love my work and I’m proud of it. It’s going to be exciting to see that nice round number appear in my Etsy shop!

To celebrate, I’ve planned a special giveaway for the customer who buys my 3,000th piece of jewelry. One lucky buyer will receive a custom long necklace in the style of the pieces shown below, in the color or colors of their choice. As of writing this, I’m 9 items away from the finish line; I can’t wait to see what happens!

As always, please don’t eat the jewelry.

working with borrowed eyes.

Last weekend I was working on a new necklace design. I loved the colorstory of white, brown and cobalt that I’d had in my head for several days. The beads I chose were the right shades, but a collection of difficult shapes. Normally when I’m working, I just keep tweaking something until it looks right to my eyes, but this time I restrung the necklace several times until I wasn’t sure what looked right anymore. I wanted a second pair of eyes, but being home alone at a fairly late hour on the west coast, I didn’t have one. So I tweeted a picture of the necklace and asked for yea or nay votes.

The first response was a nope, not done yet, try again. The next two responses were unqualified yea votes. The fourth vote was “aaaalmost, but maybe you should try swapping the small bead under the shell and put it on top of the shell.” I made notes and went to bed.

The next morning, I had several more responses and I got interested in how we see things: what our eyes expect to see, and what, individually, pleases or offends the eye. Finishing the necklace ended up taking a back seat to collecting as much information as I could about how different people saw this one piece. I decided to tweet it again and see what else I could gather. There were several more responses, so varied that some of the suggestions were exact opposites. Curiously, everyone I asked loved the bead that bothered me the most: the large translucent cobalt on the bottom left of the arrangement. I starred all the responses and set about stringing a version of the necklace for each suggestion.

This was the final tally of comments:

  • Unqualified nay, try again: 1 vote
  • Unqualified yea: 3 votes
  • Add smaller beads on the left to balance the narrowness of the shell on the right: 2 votes
  • It needs one more color: 2 votes
  • Add one small bead on top of the shell on the right: 6 votes
  • Take out the large brown bead: 1 vote

There were too many trial versions to post all of them here, but this is a sampling of what I tried.

  

  

The process was fascinating, and I ended up having several conversations with artists in  various mediums about how we decide when something is done, and how much influence we get from other people while we’re working. I gained an affection for my original version, although it still looks a bit off to me, and have kept one of those for a project I’m doing. The final version ended up having just one tiny blue bead added on top of the shell bead; that necklace is available for sale in my urban legend shop. If you like any of the alternate versions and are interested in purchasing one, please email me and I’ll set it up for you.

126.

Ever since I moved into my apartment, my creative workflow has been off. I’ve fiddled with it here and there, and small changes have made small improvements, but it hasn’t felt really good to me in over a year. I’ve been missing the juice, the joy of it – the thing that used to make me come home from work full of colorful thoughts and get right to making things. I still have plenty of ideas, but they don’t seem to gel right. It often takes me three or four times longer to get a design right than it once did.

A huge part of my enjoyment in my design work comes from pure tactile contact with my bead collection. Being able to move them around and see them together and fidget with them makes things happen in my head. I’ve often joked about making a giant ballpit for them and playing in it like a sandbox. A couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated beyond the limit with my inability to find a good workflow, and the ballpit of beads joke suddenly seemed like the greatest breakthrough I could imagine. 
So I cut a huge cardboard carton apart into wide strips, taped them to the edges of my kitchen table, and dumped out 11 boxes and two drawers full of vintage Lucite beads. It made a crashing enormous noise, and it felt wonderful, but it still wasn’t quite what I needed. After staring at it for two days, I knew what had to happen. I needed the beads to be free range. I loved that idea, but it also made me incredibly nervous. I manage inventory in order to be able to repeat designs by knowing exactly how many of which beads I have, and having all of them together in bags or on strands where I can find them easily. The work still wasn’t right, though, and it had to be done. With some smiling encouragement from the good man who holds my hand, I bit my lip and closed my eyes and changed everything about the way I work and run my business. I dumped all the beads out of all the bags, and I threw the bags out. 
The result is pure joy. It’s a sandbox full of color and texture and shape and I can’t stop touching it and it’s unlocked dozens of ideas and put a huge giddy smile on my face. Every time I walk past it, I reach in and give the beads a stir and see something new. I pull out little handfuls of color, and make them sing. I’ve made more new things in the last 10 days than I have in two months. It feels fantastic. 
My candy revolution means that I’m only going to be making one of a kind designs for a while. It’s difficult to find specific beads to pull multiple pieces together for inventory. But I find I’m excited about that idea – offering unique pieces of jewelry to my clients and my stockists sounds like fun.
I’ll be in my playground; keep your eyes open for new work at urban legend!