Handmade Art & Jewelry Inspired by the Land, Sky, Sea & Literature Fandom

Artist Interview 2017
for Independent Makers Resource Blog

1a) How and when did you start jewelry making? / 2) Why did you choose the name Enchanted Leaves for your company? / 3) Do you work on Enchanted Leaves full time? If not, what is your day job?

 Jewelry started off as a fun hobby that earned a little spending money while I attended college. I offered real leaf jewelry as an extension of my fantasy artwork. The leaves quickly became so popular, that I realized that I needed to market and brand them as their own entity. “Enchanted Leaves” was born – stemmed from the element of fantasy. Even after completing school, I sold jewelry online and at local shows while I worked as a graphic artist in the fashion industry. Although just a hobby at the time, I spent every moment of my free time developing products, designing my website, researching new shows to vend at, marketing, and establishing a strong brand for Enchanted Leaves. I began to market my leaf and nature jewelry for weddings, and I was fortunate enough to have my "geeky" fandom designs featured by several high profile bloggers. By 2010 it began to really take off, so much so that I quite literally had to quit my day job to fulfill orders and focus on my jewelry business full time. Today in 2017, I am still fortunate that creating art in jewelry designs is not only my passion, but my amazing career. 

1b) You mention on your Etsy store that you do other forms of art like graphic design. Do you have an educational background in art or graphics, or have you developed your talents in your free time?

Creative and artistic expression was always encouraged in my family growing up. I began drawing fairy and fantasy art when I was in middle school, and refined it throughout high school. I began selling my art prints and products online, at art shows, trade shows, and a few major retailers. During this time I was also an undergraduate art student at my local junior college while working part time at a fine jewelry store at a mall.
In 2007, I attended California State University Channel Islands, earning my BA in Art, with an emphasis on fine art, graphic design, and photography. For my business, I am responsible for the branding, photography, marketing, graphics and web aesthetics- something that every strong brand requires. 
Having a background in fine arts has also been crucial to product growth and development. I’ve been able to apply important concepts I have learned such as contrasting colors, balanced elements, complementing palettes, the use of textures in materials, and composition principles to my jewelry designs.
While I haven't had much time to work on my own artwork, I still on occasion create graphics when needed for friends and family. I hope to carve out time to devote to oil painting and my nature photography. 


4) You also mention that Aaron helps you on the weekends. What’s the best (and worst) thing about crafting as a husband-and-wife team?

My husband Aaron is incredibly innovative, and always has a different way of looking at things and improving them. He became my fresh eye and amazing problem solver. H
e has proven to be an asset to my business by improving productivity, inventive metalworking ideas, and given my business an overall new creative perspective. 
Conflicts we've experienced would have to be our time scheduling. Aaron has a full time job that can unexpectedly demand long work days that lead into late nights, and often require him on a project through the weekend. So I've found that this unpredictability can be challenging during the holiday season, or when a particular item that Aaron creates is in high demand. 


5) You mention finding inspiration for new pieces in nature and in “geeky things” you love. What are some of those geeky things?

Inspiration for Enchanted Leaves Jewelry clearly comes from nature, as I’ve always had a gravitation towards the beauty in nature. I am also deeply inspired by fantasy literature, especially the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I just can’t help it. So of course I use my jewelry designs as homage to these fabulous pieces of literature, and other TV shows, music, movies, and culture that I love! 


6) You also mention liking to hunt for hidden treasures on Netflix. What are some of the best hidden treasures you’ve found lately?

Not exactly hidden, but these days I find myself watching the Office (U.S.) on a loop! There is such a profound level of humor to the writing, and in a cheesy way, the characters have all become my adopted office family members. The show reminds me that there's a lot of beauty in ordinary things.


7) What strategies have you learned in terms of smart, cost-effective sourcing of materials?

Researching great sources can be challenging sometimes! Figure out what specifics are important to you, and know all their policies when sourcing suppliers.
• Do they offer volume discounts? 
This can be a great feature for independent crafters that either what to start small and try a new design- or if the materials is needed in a higher volume for top selling design. 
• How is their customer service?
Being able to quickly communicate with your supplier is something I look for when researching for suppliers. Assurance that there is someone that can quickly answer my product or order questions allows me to buy with confidence.
• Can they accommodate a quick turn around?
Knowing that you can have your materials in hand quick can be key when you are in a time crunch! For example, being well stocked and prepared before a show or holiday season.

8) How do you stand out in a crowded marketplace like Etsy?

Jewelry is definitely one the most competitive and saturated category on Etsy, and standing out and being relevant is incredibly difficult in this ever growing market. Always take time to refresh and update your products- whether it's taking new creative product photos, revisiting your listing details, rethink your tags/keywords with research, or even revamping the product itself. Take a look at what isn't working. Getting involved with etsy teams, forums, social media groups can also be a great asset to getting advice and sharing experiences with fellow crafters.
Try to think about what will set your brand apart from others. How will people remember you and your brand tomorrow? Make sure that your product packaging is done with attention to detail- these things don't go unnoticed! Make sure you include a well designed business card, and any information important for the customer to know- for example a jewelry care card, a coupon for their next purchase(great incentive!), and your contact information to know that they can get in touch with you. Also, a simple personalized handwritten "thank you" note can go along way!

9) You mention that you sell your work at craft shows and independent design fairs. In your experience, why is it wise for crafters to supplement online sales with outlets like these?

Offering your work at shows is also a way to present your products to an audience that you may not have been able to reach online. It is also a great way to receive real time invaluable feedback from customers. Being in front of your products and customers
 allows you to directly engage, talk and interact with buyers. You get a better insight on what is working, what is not, and very importantly, you'll get to see what would be any reasons an interested customer didn't buy? At shows, you learn more about who your customers are and what they are looking for, and apply that to changes or when designing future designs. 
I have also found that doing shows has consistently boosted my sales online. And remember, even if a customer didn't purchase that day, they'll likely to have taken a card home with them.
Another benefit of vending at shows is the opportunity to networking with other vendors, make business connections, gain new friends that share your entrepreneurial experiences, and even find potential wholesale clients(you never know who is walking the show!).

10) What advice do you wish you had gotten when you started out?

 If something is not working, that is ok. Step back and change your perspective. Don't be afraid to change things up until you haven't found your passion. If you have to, you can even start over. Don’t ever view it as giving up, but rather “fine tuning”. All forms of art are a process of trial and error.