The Handcrafted Jewelry Design Process


Pam Older Designs custom Diamond and Yellow Gold Bangle Bracelet

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.

Creating a Website and Social Media 101


Blue Opal & Mother of Pearl necklaces by Pam Older Designs
Blue Opal & Mother of Pearl necklaces by Pam Older Designs

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!

Packaging Artisan Jewelry


My graphic designer/daughter, Lia Strasser designed my logo!

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!

Nina Designs!


Victorian Hearts

Just completed a few new pieces that I love – The Victorian Heart & Leaf Drop earrings are both in handcrafted in pyrite. The earrings look great with my new Vintage Victorian Necklace (my all time favorite piece!).  Also fond of a little brown leather bracelet with two curled vine leaves that I did as a special order. These great charm components came from a supplier called Nina Designs!

Vine Leaf Leather Bracelet
Leaf Drop Earrings
Leaf Drop Earrings

Spring Weekend in NYC


Here's what to wear!
Here’s what to wear!

Here’s the recipe for a great weekend in New York City! Choose a gorgeous day to take a very early walk on the High Line, have brunch at  Good Enough to eat on the Upper Westside and then go to see the Cindy Sherman show at  MOMO.  Dinner at the adorable West Village restaurant the Owl. At some point- off hours, or you won’t get in, sneak in to the best ramen joint in NYC- Totto in Hell’s Kitchen.  Before you head home finish it up with a walk up to Zabars, stopping at a cafe to watch humanity stroll by!  More time? get a ticket to a matinee and leave feeling like you got a real taste of the city- till next time! What to wear- I wore this pretty Pam Older Designs one of a kind necklace made from tanzanite, mandarin garnets and rutilated quartz .

Visiting my Indian Sister in Jaipur


stone cutters in Jaipur India

The Stone Cutting Factory

Last February,  I went to Northern India and Nepal and stopped in Jaipur to visit my friends Nidhi and Ranjan at their home and stone cutting factory. Nidhi and I connected right away in person as we had  gotten to know each other through our extensive email correspondence over the years. We had gone through a divorce (mine) and a death of  a loved one (hers) and she was my Indian Sister as soon as we hugged each other at the airport.  They met me with roses and gifts and I was overjoyed to finally be meeting her and Ranjan. Later I met their two children and his parents and was shown how their 8 year old son could preform complex mathematics using an abacus. Two feasts were prepared in my honor. The second could not be served because I was still so full from the first one and from the mid morning samosas & chai, one of the culinary highlights of my life.  I was so sorry, they had gone to such extreme measures to prepare, but I could not possibly eat another bite! After our meal, more gifts were bestowed- a lovely book on India and a traditional painting adorned with stones.

After our meal Ranjan and his number two man brought in satchel upon satchel of beads for me to look at and buy for my handmade jewelry business. They had called in their local bead contacts who sent in valise after valise of bead strands for me to inspect and buy. I bought rubies, chalcedony, apatite, citrine, and my favorite- tanzanite.  One of my new handcrafted hoop earring designs for the Sundance Catalog features these stones- take a look http://www.sundancecatalog.com/product/code/56585.do!

After the buying was done, I met the men that cut the premium calipered semiprecious stones that I order for my creations! The crew was so kind – they came in on a holiday to meet me and to show me the sorting, cutting and polishing process that goes into their work. Here is a picture of the small room where they work the top floor of a residential building (Ranjan and Nidhi live below on two floors and renters below that). The center core of the building is open to the sky and on that day we got a wet.  Outside were cows and camels and a man taking a bath in a bucket. This is still Jaipur in 2012.  Go to http://www.pamolderdesigns.com/lemon-filagree-drops/  for an example of the beautiful lemon quartz briolettes they made for us.


Setting Up a Handmade Jewelry Business- Part One


pearl earring

Setting up a handmade jewelry business involves some things you might not even consider, in fact you may be surprised to find yourself spending most of your time in activities somewhat unrelated to making handmade earrings and necklaces! I think this post may be one of many delving into this topic.

Without question you will be spending time selling your wares. If you are going to be successful, it means selling a lot and keeping your costs under control. Resisting all those gorgeous stones and materials is difficult for us at Pam Older Designs, and it will be for you too, but of course an artists needs materials to create. However, selling is key and you must be creative about how and where you sell to maximize your efforts and diligent about selling all the time.  If you are just starting out you will probably start selling to your friends, local shops and exhibiting at  local crafts shows. Try to find venues where you do not have to pay too much to make those sales.  As your business grows, pay attention to trade shows that cater to galleries, museum gift stores and boutiques.  In the New York area, January means shows where buyers are already buying for Spring.  Christmas jewelry buyers start in August!  Preparation for these shows like the Buyers Market of American Craft or the New York Gift Show start just as your Christmas and Spring peak selling times end.

The single most important thing you need is a camera, proficiency in taking good clear pictures and the ability to retouch images. These are advantages you cannot underestimate. You will need to save images for print, email, your website and promotional opportunities. Eventually you may have a catalog or line sheets. Start photographing- or have someone do it for you to save time.  You will need a library of shots saved at hi resolution for print and low resolution for the web.  Marketing never stops? I have spent more time taking pictures and photo re-touching than I would ever have imagined.  Good photography is an absolute necessity and the sooner you have it the easier it will be for you to get the word out about your business!

What to buy on my website? Try this gorgeous necklace that will add bling to anything you wear!

Bridal Jewelry You can Design and Afford


Your dream wedding- an exquisite bridal gown, a gracious venue and your gorgeous bridal party dressed in their dresses and smiles!  Where do you go for the  perfect bridal jewelry? As a jewelry designer I have access to stones in every color of the rainbow, gold or silver and the creativity to make your jewelry dreams come true.  If it’s diamonds in platinum or a simple silver necklace, Pam Older Designs can make handcrafted bridal jewelry the way you envision it- customized to the women you are giving it to.

Pam Older Designs offers customized jewelry for brides, bridesmaids and flower girls. Select from existing styles or collaborate with us on designs for handmade earrings and necklaces that will enhance your wedding. Send us pictures of your dresses, swatches of fabric and other materials that you would like to us to use as inspiration. Our semiprecious stones will  flatter your wedding party and make unique gifts.

Like most brides these days, you are most likely looking for jewelry that accents the colors of the dresses you have chosen for your bridal party.  The semiprecious stone earrings and necklaces we make for them will become a cherished gift – a personal thank you  for being part of your wedding day. Pam Older Designs has worked with many brides to design their perfect bridal jewelry.  Westchester Weddings and Bridal Guide Magazine  both featured my handmade jewelry! One of my favorite pictures in The Bridal Guide  is a long coral necklace they used in a destination wedding article.

Color is big right now and many of my designs on http://www.pamolderdesigns.com work for wedding jewelry. I adore working with brides to custom make artisan wedding jewelry. Just give us some notice so we can work with you to find the most gorgeous materials available.   I truly lovve making beautiful bridal jewelry – its my way of making a meaningful contribution to all the beautiful brides on their wedding day!

Romancing the Stone: Westchester Jewelry Designer, Pam Older in the WAG


Pam Older

I just met with a writer named Mary Shustack.  I had met Mary 7 years ago when she interviewed me for an article about Westchester jewelry designers exhibiting at The New York Gift Show.  Mary called me for a new article that just came out in the December 2011 WAG. The new piece is about Westchester and Southern Connecticut residents who are passionate about what they do. I am honored that she included me in the mix!

The WAG is under new ownership whose goal is to increase readership by expanding coverage of local news and personalities, making it more of a consumer magazine. The magazine is available at retail locations in Westchester and Southern Connecticut.  Click here to read the article and thanks Mary! A small handmade jewelry business is grateful for publicity!

St John Holiday Bazaar in Larchmont, Sat. Nov 19th


We are going to be at St Johns Holiday Bazaar this Sat. Nov. 19th from 10-3pm. This has become a wonderful tradition for me, seeing all my friends and neighbors and helping them choose gifts! Please come out and come early and get the best of the used books, toys, sports equipment and the best white elephant items offered in Larchmont!  Come and bring the family for a great time and– let’s not forget the delicious home cooked chili and scrumptious Pam Older handmade earrings and necklaces!

silver tourmaline necklaces
Handmade Tourmaline Necklaces

The Daily Muse & Saatchi & Saatchi Celebrate Women Who Create!


The Daily Muse and Saatchi & Saatchi are sponsoring SheMakes, a holiday pop-up festival in NYC to celebrate women who create. Pam Older Designs will be attending this unique holiday event with a special line of beautiful necklaces created just for holiday giving. Please come support all 30+ female designers and entrepreneurs! From artists to food entrepreneurs, the event is to help holiday shoppers discover emerging talent and find unique gifts from female- lead companies. The pop-up festival will be held on Dec. 3rd,  12-5 pm, at Saatchi & Saatchi, 375 Hudson St., NYC.

Labradorite Ruffle Necklace

Festive Jewelry! That time of year at Pam Older Designs Jewelry!


White Topaz Vermeil Pendant on Nugget Chain

These sparkly necklaces are just waiting for a party! The short briolette necklace is tourmaline & pink topaz, a gorgeous mix of stones is $350.00.

The sparkling vermeil (silver with 22k gold microplate) pendant on a long nugget chain can be worn long or doubled, without a pendant, as versatile as it gets at $650.00.  The circular pendant is set with white topaz replacing the diamonds I used in a more serious 18k pendant sold through the Sundance Catalog for $6,000.00! My friend tried it on with a beige cashmere sweater and it looks elegant! These are both limited edition items. If you are interested email me at Pamolder@mac.com! http://www.pamolderdesigns.com/lemon-quartz-ruffle/