This week we introduce Brenda Sue Lansdowne, owner of B'sue Boutiques--on the Web since 1997. If you're interested in Mixed Media, New Vintage, Five and Dime Style, and/or Assemblage jewelry/art, this is a key person to get to know. B'sue sells quality jewelry supplies, instructional videos, and one of the most active creative communities I've run across on Facebook.
Brenda Sue is a dynamo, and her story is inspiring. She was in her very late 20's when she started her business. As she reminisces, she said she did it with a twenty dollar bill and a baby boy on her hip. Together they traveled around to every auction, flea market, junk hole and antiques mall they could, buying up boxlots of glass and china, bags of old quilting fabric and stashes of paper ephemera. Her education came from those boxlots, as she would look everything up the best she could in old antiques and collectables books. Those were the days before you could get information with the click of a mouse.
She had a few inexpensive selling spaces and she paid her dues selling at both indoor and outdoor flea markets. Finally she realized that her best bet was to reach out to those outside her area via the pages of THE ANTIQUE TRADER WEEKLY. Advertising in the TRADER helped her to recognize trends and learn more about the business she was growing to love. The very first ad she wrote for the TRADER netted her 800.00 in sales. It was then she knew she had found her niche! She also knew it would take years of hard work to get the business viable enough to be able to quit her 'day job' as a cleaning lady. Her cleaning business was successful, but it didn't feed her soul. She felt she HAD to make it as an antique dealer.
In her area at the time, there was quite a lot of old costume jewelry to be had, and as a rabid reader of the TRADER, she knew there was a good market for it. So she began to offer it to dealers, via an approval box. What's an approval box, you ask? It worked this way: People would give her a call and tell her what they were looking for. They would then give her their credit info, and she'd send them a boxlot of maybe $4-500.00 worth of vintage jewelry to look at. They could buy one piece, all of it, or none of it. Buyers could check the boxes for items they wanted to keep, while letting her process the credit card for the amount of what was kept.
Along the way, one of her customers who also promoted craft shows sent Brenda Sue photos of things she and other folks were making, as well as a box of junk to play with. And about the same time, a lady she did cleaning for challenged her to make a brooch from some old buttons. And that began her journey beyond jewelry sales and into jewelry making. She began to sell some of her creations at high school crafts shows and outdoor markets for crafts, and did well. The more she made and the more she traveled around doing shows, the more she realized how driven she was to have a creative lifestyle. And in the meantime, she was thrilled that people were buying her work. LOTS of it.
Eventually she did hundreds of crafts shows and home parties. All she did was make jewelry, day and night. When she wasn't making it, she was schlepping it. By 1993, she had a wholesale company making charm and button jewelry with employees to help her get the jewelry made and shipped. Together they created a 300 piece line which was picked up by sales reps from coast to coast. They came to have about 500 store accounts who bought their line: mostly florists, small gift shops, tourist shops, small department stores, a few catalog companies, and hospital gift shops.
Eventually she entered the Internet realm, beginning to do large, one of a kind pieces and selling them on Ebay. She also went back to selling vintage jewelry to shops as well as at Ebay. A colleague met online mentioned it might be a good time for her to begin selling some of the components she used in her own work. Why not? So her first website opened in 1997. It was a text-only page where she sold things like Simichrome, Sunshine Cloths and Hypotube Cement, as well as bags of vintage stones for repairs of old jewelry.
In an amazing and wonderful twist to Brenda Sue's story, her grown son, Jordan (the 'baby on the hip' from years ago), got intensively engaged in B'sue Boutiques when he began to home school in 10th grade, and he worked with her up through college. Today he is her business partner, and as she says, has been there for her in one way or another, every step of the journey.
B'Sue Boutiques hosts an annual workshop every May that lasts a long weekend, held at Das Dutch Haus in Columbiana, Ohio. They feature assemblage, metal colorization and/or polymer clay. They also do sessions on Responsible Repurposing, which is determining what vintage jewelry has some worth and should not be made into something else, but sold in order to fund jewelry making businesses. Usually there is some polymer clay play, too. There is usually room for 35-38 in the workshop.
The rest of the year, you can interface with B'Sue & her followers via her Facebook group:
and... her web site:
and...her Etsy shop:
Note the Creative Group is one of the best groups for mixed media jewelry making on Facebook, where creativity is number one along with nurturing, sharing and kindness! You can also share photos of your work....and many times Brenda Sue promotes those photos in social media, at Pinterest and in their special inspiration album:
Shown in this post are just a couple of Brenda Sue's amazing creations. Aren't they lovely?!!
Until Next Time,