Today we're featuring Donna Gingrasso, an independent jewelry artisan who operates an on-line shop as well as an Etsy site, where she sells her handmade jewelry.
Donna got involved in this business over 35 years ago. It began with her desire to find jewelry long enough to suit her. Necklaces with small pendants and thin, short chains just didn't "cut it", she says. The only solution she could see was to make it herself. She began selling where she worked, at a marketing firm in Milwaukee, WI, and was soon asked to make jewelry for an airline seat-pocket magazine, from which her little business began to blossom.
She lives and works now in Sacramento, CA. She met her business partner Malene 14 years ago, at a jewelry school where Donna served as the Director of Marketing, and Malene was a student. They worked together on several projects, and just hit it off. They collaborated for several years until Donna came down with a life-threatening condition and was forced to stop working. But they never lost touch with each other, and vowed that one day they would go into business together once their health conditions improved somewhat. That day finally came in the summer of 2010 when they created their online store. When deciding on a name for the business, Malene asked Donna if she knew what the meaning of "Felix Culpa" was. Donna said she did not. So Malene told her it meant "Having gone through much pain and coming out the other side happy". They both knew immediately that that was it! (As of today's date, Malene is now a silent partner due to poor health, but remains on the website with her handmade jewelry and occasional support). Donna herself just had her 10th operation, but as she says, "That isn't going to stop me!"
Donna's favorite thing about the business is, of course, creating her jewelry, but as anyone who operates a small business knows, that is only a small part of what needs to be done. She loves organization, and prides herself on that, and has helped others do the same. Her signature style is beads, beads and more beads! She finds design ideas in nature, and even, as she jokingly said, "in a pool of oil I saw on the floor of the car garage when my husband took the car in for repairs -- the colors were amazing!" (She later found out that there are indeed, beads called "oil slick", and of course, she had to get some of those!) Her favorite thing to use when creating her designs is COLOR. The more colors in something, the more she likes it.
What is particularly interesting about Donna (pictured on the left -- and Malene is on the right) is that despite her many health setbacks, she is determined to make this on-line business successful. Having done many trade shows in the past, she now places more of her focus on the on-line store. Her time is divided up between the creation of new pieces, taking care of the vendors and sales, and making sure the website is always up-to-date. Most recently she has started the process of taking more professional pictures of her work. On the advice of a marketer she is now working with, she has come to realize that good pictures of her product are worth their weight in gold. As she says, people have to "see it" before they will "buy it". This is one of her main goals for the coming year, including possibly moving to a new platform for selling. But as she says, she has to concentrate on one thing at a time so she doesn't lose her focus. Doing this on her own, she must stay disciplined to accomplish all of her goals. She's also hoping to travel with her husband for both business and pleasure -- with England and Italy being at the top of the bucket list.
Donna's advice to jewelry artisans, hands down is, "Never Give Up"! To her, determination, hard work and a positive attitude is absolutely essential. Though she is mostly self-taught, (she has taken courses including lapidary, cloisonné, and bead classes), she believes strongly in learning as much as she can from others in the business, maintaining good relationships with colleagues, and honing her skills when time and health permits. Listed below are venues where you can see the shop and work. Be sure to navigate to 'Donna's Spot' and 'Malene's Waterway', and while you're at the web site, and check out the work of over 25 other handmade vendors, with products ranging from jewelry, to bath/body products, purses, accessories, and many other great products.
We're inspired by Donna's determination -- we have met several artisans struggling with health issues and/or disabilities, and their endurance and courage is amazing. See these previous blog posts to read more:
http://www.thebead.net/index.php/the-bead-blog/76-disabled-beaders-and-jewelry-designers (Disabled Beaders and Jewelry Designers)
http://www.thebead.net/index.php/the-bead-blog/142-a-charmed-life-lori-s-journey (A Charmed Life: Lori's Journey)
http://www.thebead.net/index.php/the-bead-blog/200-vernon-of-panama (Vernon of Panama)
Until Next Time,