I started making handmade jewelry when I was about fourteen. My dad had just had his double lung transplant, and in a weird series of events, reconnected with an old veterinary client of his who was into all kinds of art, including jewelry making. Ellan Vavrick is extremely talented in a number of mediums, including but not limited to painting, sculpture, stained glass, and print making. Although there is about a forty year age difference between Ellan and I, on many levels we connect like we’ve been friends forever. She has the same dry sense of humor I do, and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. It wasn’t long before she was not only teaching me to make jewelry, but also becoming a member of our family. Ellan and I did art shows together, went to movies, enrolled in art classes, and laughed at and with each other constantly. We actually still do a lot of that. She helped me with every high school and college art project and was there for every milestone. Ellan sort of became my quirky fairy godmother, and is still the first person I go to when I just don’t know what to do in any given situation (aside from Mom, but there are just some things you don’t ask your mother).
One of the most important skills in jewelry making that a lot of people don’t think about is knowing your materials. I use precious and semi-precious gemstones, sterling silver, gold, copper, high quality crystals, and freshwater pearls in my one-of-a-kind pieces. In other words, I only use the “good stuff.” I don’t buy gemstones that have been dyed, and in general glass and plastic is totally out. My stringing wire is extremely strong, and I guarantee my pieces. If they break, I will fix them at no charge.
Ellan taught me the name of each gemstone and how to make sure that what I buy is truly authentic. There are some extremely real looking fakes out there. In order to turn a profit making jewelry, we buy most of our materials at wholesale bead shows that come to town every few months. Somewhere between 50 and 100 vendors fill a hall, all vying for you (the potential purchaser) to buy their product. At first it is a bit overwhelming as many of these vendors are from India or Thailand, speak very broken English, and come at you all at once. There are literally thousands of beads all around you, and each vendor tries to convince you that his product and price is the best. After a lot of practice, you learn what certain items should cost, when you are getting taken for a ride, and which vendors you want to go back to at the next show. Ellan and I have a couple of guys that take care of us and we have gotten to the point where we only buy from them because we know their beads are high quality and their prices are reasonable. Even they get a little pushy sometimes, and Ellan taught me how to stand my ground and just say “no” when I am not interested in buying something. She also taught me how to barter a bit and get the best deal I possibly can with every purchase. There are also a few websites I order from when in a pinch, but I have found that you get the best product if you can actually touch and feel the beads before you buy them.
Over the years, I’ve learned new techniques, and jewelry design gives me a different outlet for my creativity. As much as I love painting, sometimes I need a break from doing the same thing over and over. Making jewelry is completely different from painting, and it’s an art form that my clients can actually wear and use to express themselves. I love challenging myself in creating unique pieces with different gemstone combinations, and then watching my clients’ faces when they try on that piece that is perfect for them. It is extremely satisfying as a designer. I sell my jewelry designs online, at select local festivals, and in private, in-home art shows.
Here are a few of my favorite pieces that are currently available in my Etsy shop!