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glass redThis is a set of red glass beads and pendant for your matching earring/necklace designs. The earring beads (approx. 1 mm. long) consist of clear red glass set in gold oval frames. My understanding is that these are vintage, from the 1950's. The pendant (approx. 1" long and 1 mm. wide) is of blown glass with gold and other elements, with a generous horizontal hole (through the red section), ready for stringing. This is not vintage, but it is beautifully handcrafted, and it goes so nicely with these beads that we are offering it as a set for your jewelry designs.

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keirsten 1I just had the most fun interviewing Keirsten Giles of Montana, the creator behind Lune Artisan Designs on Etsy (and elsewhere). In her case, I'm going to give you the script of the interview verbatim. She had such a great 'voice' and sense of humor -- and what great advice she gives for the rest of us! Here goes --

SHEILA:

What path took you to jewelry-making, and how did you learn/refine your skills?

KEIRSTEN:

Well, back around 2007 I went through a brief phase where I was all into upgrading my wardrobe (when I made the move from landscape gardening to legal secretary in 2000 I hadn't bothered to change my clothes), and I couldn't find any jewelry I liked to go with my new clothes--everything in the stores seemed so clunky and gaudy and plastic. I decided to try making my own. My fashion mania was really short-lived, but the jewelry-making stuck. Because of my full-time job, I couldn't take classes (and I loathe taking classes), so I started out doing the email-based "crash course" at http://jewelrymaking.about.com/   

I started practicing those skills, and poking around the Internet where I found more instruction here and there, and other styles I wanted to explore. My learning style is that of the honeybee--a sip here, a sip there. I couldn't tell you today where I picked up my skills--hundreds of different websites probably, and then lots of noodling on my own. (I did take a soldering class once, but ironically that is something I've never really gotten deeply into.) Etsy, Flickr and Pinterest have been great places for inspiration, where I can see other construction techniques and reverse-engineer them into something that suits my style.

Here's one example of my work (above). I made this bracelet as a companion piece to my "Annie Oakley" necklace (see http://bit.ly/1P8HbEd.) It includes vintage mother of pearl buttons, drilled beach stones, silver leaf jasper, black agate, bronzite, Botswana agate, leather, brass, copper, and steel wire, pearl and shell, all knotted onto black waxed linen.

SHEILA:

Tell us more about you -- where you live, what you like about it, etc.

KEIRSTEN:

keirsten at tableI live in northwestern Montana, not far from Glacier National Park. I've been here off and on since 1979 (when my parents and I moved here from central California) for about 25 years total. I also lived for several years on the east coast in our nation's Capitol, just for an adventure, but discovered I'm really a smaller-town girl at heart, and that I missed pine trees, and that I don't really like people enough to live in a crowded city. I like living off the beaten path, in a place where nobody really cares what you do or how you look or what you drive. (Or maybe they do and I'm just oblivious to it.) I like that I can get in the car and drive for 10 minutes and be in a wild forest, even though I am actually more of an indoorsy person. I just like the idea that it's there. That wild forest. Should I want to go there. And my Mom lives here--that is probably what I like best about it! I love my mom!

I don't have a studio, I just work mainly out of my living room at a small table. (I don't have room for a larger table because our house, like my table, is also very small.) I have other tools and things stashed in other rooms (I can't stand to listen to the rattling of the tumbler so I run that in another room with the door closed; and I do my soldering in the kitchen, which is only steps away from from my small table in the living room, it being "open concept"). I have also been known to work in my car, at a table in the driveway, under an awning in a campground, in an empty office at my day job, or on a boat. (Fortunately, the type of techniques I do right now are very portable--no kilns or forges or industrial grinders for me.)

SHEILA:

What are your favorite materials/styles/methods? And why?

keirsten earrings 5Boy, this changes all the time, although I have to say that a constant preference is a more "organic" (I loathe this word because it is so overused, but I can't think of a better one), rough-hewn kind of look as opposed to something more slick and urban. I prefer beads with irregular shapes and earthy colors (as opposed to bright); fibers with an aged or homespun feel (like hand-dyed silks, recycled sari, or Irish waxed linen), and metal elements that feel as if they may be part of an ancient relic, an old contraption, or might even have been buried under the dirt for a hundred years. I want my jewelry to look as if it is made by hand, perhaps in a time before the age of machines. (I could have been an archaeologist or an antiquarian in another life. I also like the fact that this style does not require precision--I'm a slacker at heart.) For a while now I have really enjoyed embossing metals with various textures--with foreign coins (which often have some really gorgeous designs on them), brass texture sheets, nickel texture sheets I etch myself, or anything I can find around the house that will stand up to hammering. If you anneal your metal thoroughly, you can even use things like lace or burlap. This is much faster, less messy, and less complicated than etching, and I prefer the softer image I get. (I do still etch heavier gauges of metal though.)

The earrings to the right are based around a pair of cast components by Myknos in a blue-green patina finish (available from www.stinkydogbeads.com), and include glass nuggets, my hand-forged sterling silver headpins, and earwires, white pearls, and Indonesian handmade glass beads in robin's egg blue from www.HappyMangoBeads.com

SHEILA:

What inspires you and why?

KEIRSTEN:

Well, right now I would have to say "old stuff," "foreign stuff," and oddly enough, in spite of my indoorsy nature, nature. I love anything ancient, or sufficiently retro (must be Art Deco or older for me to be interested, although part of me would secretly--well, not secretly now, because I'm telling you--like to redo my house in a Mad-Men-Meets-Jetsons theme); I love the artwork, architecture, artisanry and handcrafts of places like Thailand, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, India, Indonesia, etc.; and any natural landscape whether it be beach, plain, forest or desert, and any natural odds and ends found therein. I don't necessarily work in these styles (like I don't make Celtic or medieval or Victorian jewelry) or literally use pine cones or mud cloth, but looking at all these things seems to inspire me. I love the feel of all of this stuff, and I want to feel that way when I look at my jewelry.

SHEILA:

How has your work evolved over the years?

KEIRSTEN:

Keirsten photoMy jewelry has gotten far more complex over the years. When I first started, I was just basically doing strands of alternating beads or gemstones. Gray bead, clear bead, silver bead, white bead (repeat 12 times), clasp. Done! I used all commercial components because I hadn't gotten into making my own yet. Now my designs tend to be more irregular, often asymmetrical, with a mix of materials, and I try to make as many of my own metal components as I can. I can make my own focals now from metal, and can patina them if I wish. I use a lot of artisan beads and elements now too (which I was completely unaware of when I started), and I am particularly fond of ceramic/stoneware beads and elements. My style has also become less shiny, sparkly and formal and much more casual and homespun-looking. Right now, I'm really into the idea of a village woman of the ancient world (like Evolet in 10,000 BC--yeah I know she's fictional), or an eccentric pioneer woman of the American Old West, making adornments for herself from whatever she can find.

SHEILA:

What do you think is most unique about you/your style/your work?

KEIRSTEN:

I think my textured metalwork and wire-working style make my pieces recognizable, and the fact that I make almost all my own metal components gives my work a distinctive look. Because I make almost all the metal elements in my pieces myself, the finishes and patinas all harmonize. There are some metal components I make that have become kind of "signature" elements for me. I like to cover, or at least dress up, end-knots and crimps and such wherever I can for a really finished look; I love the idea that even a really utilitarian/practical element in a piece of jewelry, like a knot or a crimp, can be embellished to be a design feature in its own right.

SHEILA:

What do you see in your future (re. jewelry design & sales)?

KEIRSTEN:

I see myself continuing to explore, particularly metalworking. I would love to learn bezel-making and generally use soldering more in my work (although I will always be a cold connector at heart), and would love to have the time to learn chasing and repousee. I would also like to learn to use resin and images in bezels, and I think it would be fun to go to the local DIY ceramic shop down the street and try to make some little ceramic elements for myself. I am also hoping I will get over my enamel phobia and finally try some experiments this summer.

keirsten blog pendantFrankly I do not ever see myself making a living from selling my handmade jewelry, and would not want to. I work far too slowly, and I would not want to have to do it all the time. It tires me out rather quickly, and I frequently get burned out on it and need to walk away. It also seems to me you would have to work around the clock, between design, fabrication, marketing, bookkeeping, etc., and I am past the point in my life where I am willing or able to work that much. Unfortunately, right now I spend too much time at my day job to be able to do much of the things I've mentioned above (an unavoidable situation at the moment), but I think eventually working part time will become a possibility and I would fill the freed-up time with a little jewelry. (The upside to working full time at a "day job" is that I don't need to have any income from my jewelry, so it doesn't really matter if anyone buys it or not. I love the freedom this gives me to truly just make what pleases me.)

Here's another example of my work (to the right). The pendant was designed around a ceramic "Forest Fossil Ring" component by Karen Totten (http://www.starryroadstudio.com). It is knotted onto two colors of Irish waxed linen--Sage and Victorian Rose--with prehnite nuggets and heishi, dragon blood jasper, lava, copper and leather. I used one of my own embossed copper poppy caps, upside-down at the base of the focal, and my own hand-forged copper connector rings, cuffs (to hide the knots!), and clasp.

SHEILA:

What bugs you most about jewelry making and/or sales?

KEIRSTEN:

It's exhausting and there aren't enough hours in the day.

SHEILA:

What advice would you have for aspiring jewelry designers/Etsy shop owners?

KEIRSTEN:

Try to do something original that will distinguish you from the other jewelry artists out there--if you're thinking of having an Etsy shop, and you really want to eventually have sales and a following, spend as much time as you can looking at as many other jewelry shops as you can. Try to find a niche you can fill, either with a unique style, or doing a popular style better than everyone else--find the Etsy shops who are doing it all the best, from photography, to branding, to promotion, to design, to craftsmanship, to writing the descriptions, and up your game to compete. Those people are your competition. Alluring, high-quality photographs are essential. And--not to be a downer--be realistic. This is a very difficult time to make money with truly handmade jewelry. It is incredibly time-consuming if it's truly handmade, and you are competing with China (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other handmade jewelry artists around the globe). If you need to fully support yourself, and are considering trying to do it with truly handmade jewelry, be sure you understand what you are getting into and get help in developing a feasible business plan.

SHEILA:

What are your selling venues/provide links -- do you market via social media? Where can we 'like' & 'follow' you, and buy?

KEIRSTEN:

I really only sell on Etsy, although I do have private sales to a limited number of people. My "marketing" right now is limited to posting pictures of everything I make to my Facebook shop page and Flickr (and I upload my work to dozens of Flickr jewelry groups--this is essential to getting your work seen on Flickr), and blogging from time to time about new pieces. Fortunately, a lot of my work has been pinned to Pinterest lately, and I get quite a lot of Etsy traffic from that. (This is where the quality of your photography really comes in.) There's lots of other sites out there too that I know nothing about and have not used (like Instagram and Tumblr), that can be really powerful marketing tools. So many people open an Etsy shop and put their items in it, thinking they will have instant sales--but that stuff will sit there forever unless you promote it. Educate yourself on how to develop an online presence that will drive shoppers to your site. If you are stymied by the Internet and unwilling to use social media, you're probably better off selling your stuff in more traditional venues like consignment shops and craft fairs.

You can find me here:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/lunedesigns

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunestudio/

http://cerebraldilettante.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/lune.artisan.jewelry

SHEILA:

Anything else you'd like to share?

KEIRSTEN:

If you have long hair, pull it back before using a Dremel or flexshaft. Trust me.

LOL! (And thank you, Keirsten, for a great interview!)

Until Next Time,

Sheila

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