1. In a sentence or two, could you tell us what you do?
I bring forgotten stories and sentiments from the past back to life. In other words, I salvage vintage sheet music and use it to create one of a kind jewelry and pieces of art!
2. How did you get started?
I used to do decoupage for a hobby and to sell out of (at that point) my little Etsy shop for fun. My mom, a musician herself, came into a large collection of old sheet music from the late 1800s. After framing all of the nice pieces she found herself with a good deal of music that was too tattered to frame, but still too interesting to throw out, she suggested that I try incorporating some of it into my decoupage. I loved it! I found that even after using the sheet music for decoupage I would still have all these little scraps and pieces of it left over. Not wanting to waste any part of the music I started experimenting with turning these little snippets into jewelry. My first sheet music necklaces were wooden pendants decoupaged with music. Pretty soon my jewelry was flying out of my shop, so I switched gears and started to focus on that.
3. What three words best describe your personality?
Creative, compassionate, dreamer
4. What’s your favorite part of your creative business?
Far and away it’s the freedom. Not just being able to work in my pajamas (which is great too!), but the complete freedom to let myself experiment and try new things. There is nothing as thrilling as starting with a sliver of an idea, molding it, reworking it, and seeing it through to conception. There are few jobs in the world where that’s possible.
5. What’s a typical workday like for you?
My most creative time is in the morning, so I try to capitalize on those precious few hours where energy, inspiration, and motivation overlap. This means a quick breakfast and trot outside with my doggie co-worker. Custom orders get first priority, and then I finish up any batches of music waiting to get set. Depending on the weather and light I will work in some photographing time. My lunch break consists of a proper walk for the dog and me, something to eat and then I practice violin for an hour. After that it’s back to work! I use the afternoon for all my “computery” tasks. This might be listing new inventory on Etsy, editing photos, responding to customer emails, or any other number of things. I try to end my days around five or six o’clock, but it all depends on how much I have to do.
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
I have always been fascinated by found objects and the histories and stories you can build around them. Old postcards, photographs, calling cards, buttons, keys, lace and ribbons….all little, every day, objects that once meant something special to someone but are now relics of an age past. Sheet music in particular is magical because it embodies the intersection of all my passions: music, art, and history. Really though, inspiration can strike anywhere. Lots of my favorite tv shows such as Downton Abby, Boardwalk Empire, Mr. Selfridge all supply fodder for my work. A trip to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the arboretum, or even picking up my violin or autoharp are all activities that can get me out of a creative rut as well.
7. What’s your creative process like?
I like to sit down with a big stack of sheet music and go through piece by piece. I look for words and phrases that either strike a chord with me (hah, no pun intended), or I think would potentially interest my customers. I try to use every part of the sheet music, so illustrations, advertisements, lyrics, and notes are all potential components of my jewelry. As I cut the sheet music I try to loosely associate a feeling with how I want the piece to turn out. The kind of emotion I want to evoke will dictate the setting, embellishments, and finish of each piece.
8. How do you balance family and business?
I don’t know if I so much balance family and business so much as I strong arm my husband into taking part in my business! Since he’s at school during the day I try to get the bulk of my work done so that when he gets home we can hang out and enjoy dinner together. During the summer when I am busy with shows he is right by my side. I really value the fact that I can do what I love and not only have his support, but also his company on those days when it’s slow and I just need someone to chat with!
9. What advice would you give to someone who would love to do something similar to you and make a living from handmade jewelry?
I would hope it goes without saying, but first and foremost do not expect to get rich (at least not quick!). Aside from that, you just need to be willing to put yourself out there. This can be hard if you’re shy or afraid of rejection, but it’s really important. Apply for shows even if you think they’re too hard to get into because you never know. Make connections with other artists and jewelers. Be proactive and find boutiques you think should be carrying your jewelry. Success isn’t going to come find you, you have to go find it!
10. What’s been the most difficult thing about building your creative business?
Probably building momentum without burning out. This is something I still struggle with as I try to find a balance. There are inevitably slow times, and figuring out how to plan ahead and continue to grow during these periods can be challenging. On the flip side, when there are incredibly busy times it can be hard to sustain the momentum.
11. What’s the best creative business advice you’ve ever received?
This is a tough one, as I’ve gotten so much great advice from other artists and crafters over the years. One thing that has really stuck with me though is what my friend told me once: don’t undervalue yourself. To me, that has meant not only pricing my work for a fair profit, but also budgeting my time realistically and learning to say “no” in some cases.
12. If you had to pinpoint one thing that has helped your business more than anything in the past year, what would it be?
Investing in education! I used to have a chip on my shoulder about needing to be self-taught about everything. Once I realized that I would never be able to grow without SOME kind of guidance, I got real and invested in some classes. My first experience was with April’s Six Weeks…course. It was like a magic key that unlocked this whole other section of my brain. Suddenly new ideas were pouring in, but even better, I had the resources to make them a reality. Shortly afterwards I signed up for a jewelry making class at a local bead shop to learn a technique that I had been struggling to learn on my own. Why did I wait so long?! It totally took my jewelry making to another level. Blogging was another area in my business that I was really struggling with, and when I learned that April offered a blogging course I was quick to jump on that. So rather than feeling “defeated” about needing to invest in education, I found it to be completely empowering; now if there is a skill or area that I want to learn or improve, I know that it is within my reach.
13. What books or magazines are you currently reading?
Right now I’m about half way through “The Duchess” by Amanda Foreman. It’s the biography of Duchess of Devonshire and includes a LOT of historical context, so it’s kind of slow going! It’s interesting though because it shows that the cult of celebrity existed way before TMZ was around!
14. What are your top three favorite blogs?
15. What are you currently working on? Anything new coming up?
Oh yes! Being a bit of an antique junkie, I have numerous and extensive collections of vintage ephemera and other found objects. I’m working on starting some new jewelry lines which will incorporate these materials!