Monday, April 20, 2009

Studio Time: Giraffic Park

You know what's really cool? To take raw materials (bits of wire and glass)...

...create this sweet little set of glass beads....

...and make a necklace for a friend...

I had some friends visiting who like giraffe-y themed items. I played around with the design and came up with these little zoo-themed beads in a giraffe motif with some delicious chocolate-ly spacers. It's a beautiful classic piece that is stunning when worn (my friend was wearing them as she departed today...she looked gorgeous). The nice thing about a classic piece is that they can be dressy or casual, worn with anything and look stunning because they are glassy and shiny.
Custom WorkRegarding doing custom items: I've purchased some of Rena Klingenberg's e-books, in particular the Secrets of a Handcrafted Jewelry Shopping Service, and it had an idea for customized jewelry wardrobe service. I've had a chance to experiment with this on a few friends...and I really like doing custom work.

On one hand, custom work is scary. A lot of artists don't like to do it. I've had a few experiences where it was difficult to connect and create the desired piece. This usually happens when it's long distance. To do long-distance custom work, I either need someone who has an open mind for my interpretation or a lot of patience for long-distance back-and-forth and some snail mail exchanges. This is why it's easier to do custom work in person and over a period of time.

My favorite opportunity to create is the Personality Customization. Some of my custom order experiences:

Design Customization: the first big commission I had was for a wedding. The bride wanted handmade necklaces and earrings as gifts for her bridesmaids. The bride designed her own piece. She had a mass-produced costume piece that provided a starting point for our conversations with a few key elements that appealed to the bride. Having a starting point made the conversation easier to create her design. (I generally like to use my Flickr Gallery as the starting point for design discussions.) I made a batch of beads in different colors and color-matched the best choice to the dresses she chose. She wanted small, classic beads, which were easy to achieve with reactive glass. We were also able to customize the sizing to the bridesmaids. She was so pleased, she ordered two more sets in a different color for two of her friends as gifts for their help with her wedding.
Ready-Made Customizations: my second commission was based on my signature style. My signature style involves color riots. For people new to handmade jewelry or artisan made jewelry, it’s a little surprising and not always their cup of tea. However, I find appreciation grows when I have the opportunity to explain the effort that goes into the piece. I had a piece that was one of my more colorful arrangements based on a foundation of a gorgeous set of green, purple, and blue beads by Laura Sparling. I had originally created it as a piece to keep for myself, but I was surprised to find that one of my friends liked the piece, and with a few tweaks it has become a staple of her wardrobe…she loves pinks, purples and browns and this was a great accent piece that she could wear with the majority of her wardrobe.
Personality customization: this is my favorite way to create. I take some time to get to know the person, observe daily attire, differences in outfits, commonalities in outfits, general color palette, and style preferences (classic, funky, retro, trendy, etc.). I also spent some time showing her my “hobby” from the creation of glass beads, to various techniques (chain maille, wire-wrapping, stringing, base metal). Through casual conversation I also learned her color preferences, design preferences, and was able to observe what she wore normally and what she chose in souvenir jewelry. I also learned a little tidbit that giraffe’s were a family theme. I went off and experimented with giraffe-y themes. The first few beads weren’t quite “right” but I had the opportunity to play some more and got the “ooh, ahh” factor from the second play session. That was enough to formulate the above set and turn it into a classic, everyday piece that can dress up or go casual. I have a follow-up request for a tie-tac for the husband to match the wife. (Now I need to go find a tie-tac finding.)


  1. The necklace is beautiful!! Custom work is hard but can be very rewarding when the recipient loves the results as was the case with your latest work!! :)

  2. Thank you, Catherine. I've had some misses with custom work...which makes me surprised I still like it. But, like you said, it is rewarding when the recipient loves the results.

  3. Hi Jenn....Wow. Great blog! You found me, now I have found you! And, so glad I did. I will be adding you to my favs also :)