After 15 years of making jewelry, I’m still obsessed with creating new designs everyday. I still love the process of design whether it is a room or a building, a sculpture or a graphic but particularly when it involves my jewelry. The question that is asked of me all the time is “Where do you get your inspiration?” I think the answers to this question are fairly universal but I will share my personal experience.
Let’s start with the basics, I am inspired by old or new materials like silver, unusual chains and charms and gemstones. Materials are to me like an artist’s paints. The play of color is probably the most obvious beginning of creation, so how the colored stones look next to each other is usually the starting point for me. I also look at the textures, shapes and metals along side the stones to enhance the colors or the design. For instance I love Labradorite and I think it usually looks best with silver, but sometimes a slice of gold next to Labradorite looks amazing! I came across some pale pink stick keshi pearls recently and paired it with silver faceted nuggets and a bright sterling chain and together the random pearls became a gorgeous confection.
Being a practical sort, there are other inspirations of a more personal nature. A new outfit that I need to accessorize gets me playing with materials and styles. A look or fashion trend will find me experimenting and improving a good idea. A person on the street wearing a fun piece of jewelry gets me thinking. All of these factors fall in the inspiration category.
Very very often, the inspiration for a new design comes from a customer. I can easily latch on to a good idea and run with it. The the design challenge is to surpass the original idea, making it even more beautiful and exceeding the customer’s expectations. Experience is why people come to a designer. The bracelet on the top of this article was an antique diamond broach that a customer brought to me for ideas. The design inspiration for this piece came quickly. I proposed keeping the setting in tact, making is horizontal and marrying it to a yellow gold bangle. Both the customer and I loved the idea of combining the platinum setting with yellow gold, but many people might have opted for a white gold band. Either way, it was a great re-purposing of the ring. Now the piece is out of the safe and worn often.
Creating for myself has always proved a good litmus test. If I like it others usually do too. I usually wear a new design for a couple of days to see how it looks, how it moves, lays, and feels. Is it comfortable? Is it versatile -I love it more if you can wear more then one way. Does it look better in gold or silver? Should the finish be shiny, matte, or oxidized? Would many customer wears this and pay the price for it? What if I changed the stone? These are all common considerations in the design process, probably as true in jewelry making or as in any art form.The process is not simply a matter of an inspiration but rather many inspirations, artistic preferences, practical considerations and experience. And most importantly, the love of beautiful objects.
I love using Thai silver beads and pendants, one of the first materials I experimented with when I started Pam Older Designs . The Hill Tribes of Thailand consist of about 20 different tribes, including the Karen, the Hmong, and the Yao. The villages have a history of making their living through the opium trade. In recent years the Thailand government has helped them to develop their silversmithing skills to give them a new direction and a better life.
Entire families are involved with bead production. I visited some villager huts and saw the process firsthand. (Although some village men prefer offering you a “hard” drink rather than show you how the beads are made!).
My friend and I visited one such hut that was also producing handmade primitive flutes and so we drank and danced. We found you could not buy a variety of beads from a single family. Each home specializes in certain designs and they function through a bead collective through which they sell their wares. Many of their designs, especially their focal pendant charms come from the natural world, like flowers,dragonflies and shells. We ended up buying most of our silver from a bead dealer in Chiang Mai.
Thai silver contains 99.9% pure silver on average, but it can range from 92.5-99.9. In that range it is considered fine silver which is softer than Sterling. To claim an item is Sterling it is required to contain 92.5% ore that is usually mixed with 7.5% copper to make it stronger.For this reason you will see sterling silver pieces imprinted with “925”. Unlike Sterling silver which can be dipped, polished on a polishing wheel or using silver polish, fine silver is more difficult to clean. The small oxidized silver beads made by the Hill Tribes, must be cleaned very gently using an anti-tarnish cloth. I use a Sunshine Cloth. I rub the strung beads very gently over and over until the non-recessed areas are restored to a gentle gleam. Be patient it takes a long time. You can also try a little lime juice but I think the cloth works the best. test the lime juice on a small area first. Other methods tend to remove the dark oxidation that gives Thai silver its rustic, handmade look. Never have it professionally polished to a high gleam- it will lose all its character. As with all jewelry, we recommend keeping it in an airtight plastic bag to keep it from tarnishing.
Emily Wickersham modeling our turquoise leather necklace- we can make it for you in almost any color.
My website just got a new look! Take a peek at www.pamolderdesigns.com.We have more featured items on our home page for an improved shopping experience and a carousel sporting more pictures AND our model, star of NCIS, Emily Wickersham!
We have also added a new secure check-out.
All just in time for the holidays- handcrafted jewelry with a contemporary twist and quality guaranteed. And if you order now take 15% off your entire order! Use Promo THANKS and thank you!
American Craft Week will run through October 12, 2014. All across the country, those of us that make and sell our unique handmade jewelry, metal work, pottery, woodwork and other crafts invite you into our studios and to festivals to see our work firsthand. American Made is important to keep our strong history and tradition of crafts alive. Please support this week of events by sharing this with others.
We have been working tirelessly in our studio to come up with new jewelry for Fall 2014! My largest customer, the Sundance Catalog, start looking a year before for Fall merchandise.
Lucky for us, most of our handmade designer jewelry is seasonless so you can buy these pieces right now on our website! Her’s our Barcelona Necklace, named after the famous city I have yet to visit! I want to go, so perhaps this will be my tailsman and get me there. Have you been? What were the highlights, I would really love to know!
While we are at it, here are our favorite Barcelona Earrings to go with it! Lightweight silver with the same golden hues of golden semi-precious stones! Rutilated and Whiskey quartz, Mandarin Garnet, cascade from a loopy silver chain.
When browsing a jewelry website, sometimes you’ll see a piece and know it would just be perfect for your wardrobe…if only it were in a different color. Or maybe you see a piece you love but wish it included a certain kind of stone for sentimental or spiritual reasons. And sometimes you need a very specific look for your jewelry. We understand, and that’s part of what makes jewelry designing so much fun! There are endless options for each piece, and so many ways to combine them. To help you find that ideal piece you can’t wait to add to your collection, we offer customized handcrafted jewelry options.
While browsing through our website, you’ll see a button that says “Can’t find what you are looking for? Click here to customize your purchase.” Click on that blue button and you’ll be taken to an online form. Simply fill out the information, including your contact information and the specifics of your jewelry request. We’ll work with you closely either via email or phone to make sure you are getting exactly what you had imagined. We want your custom work to be perfect!
It is often by working with customers on their requests that we’re inspired with fresh new ideas for our own work. So fill out that form today and let’s get to work. Don’t forget to browse through our entire online store so you can familiarize yourself with the stones and styles we work with most to inspire you own requests. We can’t wait to work with you on your customized handcrafted jewelry!
Gift giving is often one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season. Many of us feel like the list of people to buy for is never-ending. What should be a loving act of generosity becomes a task that we dread. We want to help you make gift-giving fun again this holiday season! Get your shopping done with Pam Older Designs. You’ll be giving a gift that will charm and delight your loved ones. You can pick out handcrafted jewelry that match their personality and style, and give them a piece that they’ll be wearing year after year. Our handcrafted jewelry is not only fun to give, it’s fun to shop for!
We make finding the perfect pieces easy on our website. Simply browse our selectio of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets using the navigation at the top of our website. Our pieces are great for everyday wear, or you can select a piece that perfectly completes a special holiday outfit. Check out the Labradorite Dangle Necklace. This understated, cool piece has 15 labradorites wrapped to a silver chain. Or check out our earring selection, including pearls, gold, silver, and semi-precsious stones. Looking for earrings that make a big impact? Try the Cognac Pearl Earrings. We have customers that say they get compliments on these richly-colored earrings every time they wear them!
Don’t forget to check out our spiritual pieces, which incorporate lotus charms, Oms, elephants and buddhas to remind the wearer to seek beauty and peace in nature, in others, and within themselves. These pieces are sure to be cherished by the recipient. The Buddha Wrap Bracelet is a great piece that can be worn everyday, and works as a necklace, too! The 24kt gold Buddha charm is a delicate reminder throughout the wearer’s day of peace and love.
To make your holiday shopping even easier, we’re currently offering 15% off all purchases with the promo code 15offsale. Now you can get our amazing pieces at a discount, and get something for everyone on your shopping list. Don’t forget to add something for yourself, too. If you ever have questions about our pieces, just give us a call. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you make the best decisions about your gift-giving purchases. We’re excited for your to discover how wonderful giving handcrafted jewelry is–for both you and your loved ones! These are gifts they’ll treasure for years.
Pam Older Designs has a brand new website and a great promotional offer going on from now until November 22nd- 15% off most items and free shipping! Always 100% guarantee on all workmanship- all done in the USA in my studio.
These are going to be pretty for the holidays- although I am using them now. So far the response is great and the idea to put them on little easels is a great one from Justine at the Bruce Museum who is a pro at merchandising.
Need a website and want t get started marketing your jewelry? Building a website and developing a strong online presence takes time, patience and a budget. Here are the basics so you can begin to formulate what you can do yourself and what you will need to outsource or delegate to a team member. First of all you will need to register a domain name and sign up with a web host – a company that has many computers connected to the Internet. Once you develop your website, your web pages will be hosted on their computers so everyone in the world will be able to view your site. In essence it is your site’s home and you pay an annual fee to live there. The purpose and complexity of your website will determine the cost to build one. If you want to provide full e-commerce capabilities you will need to invest in a website that will support all that is needed for that type of site. Before you seek a designer/developer, look at lots of websites to see what other companies and artisans in your field are doing stylistically. Make a list of sites with features you like and communicate those to the graphic designer and/or web developer that you will choose. You need to be part of the process or you will end up spending more money redoing your site. After your research, you should begin the process of interviewing graphic designers and/or web developers so that you can see their portfolio of work and what other services they offer. You might want to use a designer for the appearance and a web developer for the technical implementation, or you may find a web developer with designers on staff. Through the interview process you will begin to understand what is possible in terms of design, features, expertise and the cost of your project. Look for designers that can incorporate great design with animation, video and simple navigation. It’s always a good idea to provide an incentive to the buyer on your home page or through out your site; perhaps a coupon offering 10% off for first time buyers, or a message like “sign up for our emails and receive 20% off your first pair of earrings”. Buyers expect and respond to promotional offers, so let the designer know about these needs upfront as well. Once you have chosen a designer, find the best web platform-to build your site upon. The days are gone where someone has to build a website from scratch. Today’s web platforms are really E-Commerce Content Management Systems (CMS) that come with hundreds of sophisticated features, many that you will use. Read the rest of my article – The Basics of Website Creation and Social Media- click here!
Feel free to ask me any questions. If I don’t know the answers I can get you in touch with someone who does!
Very important aspects of the wholesale/retail jewelry process that many artisans may not focus on are presentation, branding and packaging. When you are starting out or have been in business for years,a new logo or package design will call attention to your brand. How many times have you gone to a craft show where the artist gives you their work in a plastic or paper bag? As unbelievable as this seems, it’s happened to me on more than one occasion.
A well designed logo is the basis for your brand identity. It should be printed on your business cards, order sheets, gift boxes, jewelry display cards and labels, shipping boxes and packing slips, and your artist cards. These small touches will provide an organized look for your beautiful handmade jewelry and spread brand awareness. Get the design right the first time and you will save yourself time and effort by being able to print all these components up front. If you are new- trust me, they are all necessary. If you use Quickbooks you can even upload your digital logo so that your invoices, statements and emails generated by the system will include your logo. Needless to say you want it displayed on your website and included in advertising as well. This is an inexpensive way to tell the world about your existence!
Your personal emails should also include (in your signature) a logo or tag line and perhaps a miniature picture of your work. Follow through on your banners and signage that you use for retail and trade shows.
Although there are many resources my gift boxes and pouches are produced at Packaging Specialties in Newburyport, MA. I love their service, quality, product design and print capabilities as well as the low minimum requirements for ordering. My new boxes have a two line version of my logo (I have two versions for spatial design problems that arise), a silver foil box and a magenta metallic imprint. It’s a simple design but is looks “SPECIAL”. I am sure someone that gets a gift that includes my jewelry, a pretty artist card telling them about the jewelry designer and the box tied up in a silver bow will remember Pam Older Designs and return to buy more! For many years I had ordinary packaging- an uncoated box with a label affixed to it. It was fine for someone just starting out, but it was ordinary and not professional and certainly did not convey “SPECIAL”. Recently I got a package from India in an uncoated kraft box with leaf pattern printed on the top. It was all wrapped with hemp and a little wooden elephant charm. It was memorable, but there was no logo and no personalized packing slip- I have no idea what company sent it! This company took the time to come up with an adorable package but missed the opportunity to sell to me again.
Neatness counts- buy plastic bags of all sizes to protect your jewelry when shipping out orders to your wholesale accounts and always include artist cards for the galleries and boutiques that want them. Try not to reuse old boxes, even your wholesale packages should be SPECIAL and to convey quality.
What have you done to spruce up your packaging and to spread brand awareness? I would love to hear from you!
Getting ready for a trade show can be daunting, especially for the first time jewelry designer exhibitor. My company, Pam Older Designs was at the August 2011 New York International Gift Show at the Javits Center so I have some recent experiences and advice on how to do a major trade show. I started out doing a few smaller regional shows before hitting NY. It gave me an invaluable introduction to the process. My booth design has evolved and improved over time and yours will too.
I hope this makes it easier for you to set up your handmade jewelry booth.
It’s all about your product. If you have a good product priced competitively you will sell! Sometimes it takes a few shows for people to start to really recognize what you have. Other times you could be a hit right away, don’t get discourged, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Develop a color story for your products a couple of months prior to your show and make your samples. I find that seasonal collections are essential for jewelry and apparel, but sometimes you have customers from different climates, so don’t omit your prettiest styles just because they are not in season. A month ahead of the show, get all your samples labeled with wholesale prices and style numbers. Put them all in plastic bags to bring to the show and resist the urge to start taking them out! For me this is the most time consuming part- once I get it the jewelry packed I feel I am ready to deal with the rest of the many details, but at least the design and manufacturing is complete.
Start sending promotional emails to your customers telling them your show and booth location many months prior to the show! Closer to show time you should offer an incentive for them to come see you. Perhaps a few show specials or a discount for an order over a set amount. Of course you should be using Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic all through the year. This year I id a video for FB showing us setting up the booth- from unpacking and setting up to the final booth ready and open for business.
Arrange for extra help to help you set up the day before the show and someone to help man the booth during the show. It’s hard work, don’t think you are lazy! Two people for a small booth is not overkill. Just don’t crowd your customers. Pre-register online and eliminate the time spent on getting badges the day of the show. Usually you will also need to get a badge for your set up crew if you have movers.
Design your booth and lay it out to scale in your garage or living room so you can see if it is going to work in your booth space. Stick to a style and color scheme , consider light weight and folding shelving, pedestals and tables. You will regret heavy items or things that are not compact, especially if you are planning to pack and move it along with your merchandise and displays. Walk the show before your actually exhibit there to get ideas of how you would like your space to look. Pay attention to the various sections – for instance the NY Gift Show has Personal Accessories, Handmade, NY’s Newest and other sections where you might be placed- or that you can choose from.
Lighting jewelry is vastly important – so figure that aspect out ahead of time. I always have a track light for my booth plus additional lighting to shine on all the surfaces. Pay for additional lighting or wattage if you think you will exceed the minimum feed. This time I signed up for electricity and brought my designer lamps. I found I did not need to buy any additional track lighting due to the convention center’s placement of overhead lighting. I was lucky, it doesn’t usually work out so well, but from now on I will wait until I see the actual booth space and the light. You may be able to save 100.00-200.00 if you do not need to order additional lighting. Most shows do not provide light- so make sure you check out the details. Lighting is paramount.
I display my earrings on upright racks to save space, and highlight my best pieces on necklace busts, T stands, and bracelet stands. Risers can double your space! Mirrors or natural stones look great as a backdrop for tabletop displays as well. I pin some of my pieces on padded canvases that I put in pretty silver frames and hang them for hooks secured on the booth frames for interest. They work especially well for long necklaces. Look for unusual display ideas – a good place to find the is at discount stores or online. Get your signage ready- you are going to need a vibrant banner or poster with your company name and logo and images- that will pull people into your booth. I pack all my displays, table coverings, frames, scissors, tarp, clamps and other assorted items in large rolling suitcases. If you have room in your car a folding dolly is indispensable.
You will need a minimum of two people to transport all of your things to the show AND into your booth. Arrange for that person to come at the show’s end to help move back as well. SOmeone usually has to stay with the vehicle while you are unloading and then you will be required to move the vehicle. Usually you can avoid expensive freight charges if you have a large vehicle, a dolly and a strong mover – all of which will make the process go faster! Some shows include drayage and packing in fact it is often part of your booth fee. This means you can unload your vehicle at a loading dock and get it brought to your booth on a skid. A large show may take a bit longer using this method, but it works for a small show. Sometimes it may take a little longer (you have to wait for them to bring out your containers) but you can do it without as much heavy lifting and carrying items to and from your vehicle.
The week before the show assemble everything in one place. Pack all your jewelry displays, branches, vases, magazine clips, signage, table coverings, sheets for covering the tables at night and a big tarp to close off the front of your booth- using clamps to close it up. Also bring fishing line to hang things, extra price tags and business cards, fine point sharpies, calculators, order sheets, and chargers for your phone and computer. I have a check list that I refer to for each show:
comfortable shoes to change into after the show
water bottles and candy (for you and your customers!)
extra chair (the show usually provides one but you may need an extra)
Computer and phone
Chargers for your electronics
email sign-in book
Brochures or promo materials
Business Cards/resale tax number
folding tables or pedestals
Checks for things you might buy at the show!!
hooks and hangers, double faced tape
plastic bags for jewelry or your jewelry cases when you are ready to pack it all up
Candy for customers
organizing boxes to store things under your tables.
Plastic bags for packing up orders prior to packing up.
Your Jewelry (if you can believe it, I forgot mine once and had to have someone take the train 3hrs to bring it me!)
Ok- your’re finished. Allow a 4-6 hours minimum to set it up so that it all works! Cover everything up, seal your booth with your tarp and go get a good night’s sleep!
The next day get up much earlier than you would like, get a cup of coffee, open your booth, take a deep breath, smile and start selling! Good luck!