Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quality - it's not about price

I have received many compliments on the quality of my jewelry. These have been much appreciated, as they come from customers and fellow artists alike. This influx of feedback, and my recent work on a new high end collection of designs, has set me to thinking about what constitutes the quality of a piece of jewelry - or of anything, for that matter.

I know many people who would claim that quality extends only so far as the materials used to make the piece will allow, that little else matters. To some extent, this is true. But it doesn't tell the whole story. Others believe that the craftsmanship of a piece is the sole factor that determines the quality. But again, this belief doesn't take in the whole concept of quality.

So, what is the deal? Consider what you want when you purchase a piece of jewelry. You want it to look nice, and you want it to last. As is the case with just about all things in this world, true quality of jewelry balances the use of materials with the workmanship that molds those materials. A piece of jewelry can be made with the finest in silver and gemstones, but will break or look badly if it is not crafted well. By the same token, a piece can be exquisite in the way it is built, but will not stand the test of time if the materials are sub-par.

Now, of course, there are shadings in this world of gray. A piece made with wonderful skill and superb materials doesn't necessarily belong in the same category with a piece made with wonderful skill and everyday materials. This is where price comes in to play. Price also indicates the uniqueness and desirability of the product. But let's not get too distracted by economics here, as that isn't my intended topic today.

So let's consider materials for a moment. As I said, many people require the finest materials be used in their jewelry. Jewelry is a luxury, and so why not invest in the best? However, don't think for a minute that quality cannot exist in the world of jewelry makers who work with plated findings and base metals. Sure, these items usually won't command the higher prices of precious metals, but that doesn't mean quality is lacking if the pieces are well-made.

In mulling all this over, I have come up with a list of what I believe are the key elements of producing quality jewelry. These are the standards that I apply to my own work.

1. Quality materials - I know, I know! I have spent all this time discussing why materials don't necessarily determine quality. But, in this case I am differentiating between quality materials made of any substance with low quality materials made of the same thing. Even in lower cost metals, beads, and gemstones, there is a huge difference in quality from different sources. If I buy a shank of beads, and some or all of those beads have cracks or flaws, I either wasted my money, or I use an inferior product. To create quality jewelry, use quality materials, no matter what price range you produce at.

2. Finish your product professionally. For instance, if you make a crimped necklace or bracelet, use crimp covers. These look so much nicer, and protect sensitive skin from the rough edges of the crimp. If you make earrings, practice wire wrapping techniques so that the tops look nice. Again, this improves the appearance of your product and, if done properly, eliminates any rough edges that might scratch or snag clothes.

3. Be consistent. When you are making a piece that has matching parts, make sure they are the same length and size if they are supposed to be. Again, earrings are a good example. No one wants a pair of earrings with one loop bigger than the other or longer than the other, unless that is the intended design. Practice to make your loops consistent, and compare your earrings carefully before wrapping to make sure they will be the same length. Other considerations - if you make a mistake in the pattern of your beading, take the time to go back and fix it. Your customer may not notice at first sight, but eventually they likely will see the mistake and be dissatisfied. Also, once you decide on a metal type and finish for your findings, be consistent unless it is a design choice. Would you want to wear a bracelet with a gold crimp on one side and silver on the other?

4. Use the proper tools. I struggled to master the wire wrapping on earrings, until I bought flush cutters and flat nose pliers. I found these tools necessary to properly finishing a wire wrap so that the end laid down - without bending the rest of the earring. Having the proper tools not only improved the quality of my work, but saved me a lot of time that I had previously spent struggling to finish wire wraps with the wrong tools.

5. Handle and store your jewelry and materials properly. Use proper precautions when storing glass and gemstone so that they do not get cracked, nicked, or broken. Sterling needs to be stored in a dry and sealed container, or with special papers, to prevent tarnish. Even base metals need proper care or they will start to dull or oxidize. I have had freshwater pearls discolor when I left them in the plastic bag they were shipped in.

When handling your finished jewelry, do so with care so as not to damage your product. Silver and glass may easily become scratched, and many types of gemstone are soft enough to be nicked if you drop them.

Now, many of these problems can be dealt with if they occur. Metal can be cleaned and polished, beads can be replaced if necessary. However, this becomes much more difficult with finished jewelry, requiring much more time and effort than it takes to use proper care in the first place. And, what if you miss something? What if a bead is damaged that cannot be replaced? You risk an unhappy customer by not taking proper care.

6. Value your work. Stand behind it. Before giving any jewelry piece to a customer, check it over carefully for flaws and clean it. Metal can quickly lose its luster, and I often have to remove a stray hair or piece of lint caught in a piece. These things make a difference to the first impression your piece makes.

I also feel it is an important move to guarantee your work. Offer to do any necessary repairs or replacements without charge if a problem occurs within a set amount of time. If a customer isn't happy, offer them the opportunity to return or exchange the item if it is in new condition and within a reasonable amount of time. These small accommodations for your customers show them that you stand behind the quality of your work. Even the best sometimes make mistakes - being willing to set those mistakes right sets you apart.

I hope you will find my thoughts on creating quality jewelry helpful. I am preparing a series of tutorials for jewelry makers, and many of these topics will be addressed. Since I have received so many comments on my wire wrapping, that will be the subject of my first tutorial. Keep your eyes peeled!

If you would like to sign up for my weekly newsletter, please enter your information in the box at the upper right of this page. You will need to check your email to confirm that you would like to sign up. I will send out a weekly notice of my SNS special, new products, special offers for subscribers, and recent and upcoming blog topics. This way you won't miss out on a great tutorial!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

BOGO Sale extended!

If you missed yesterday's BOGO sale, never fear! I am extending it through Sunday. I will continue offering all earrings as buy one, get one free until Monday at 6 AM.
This is a great opportunity to do some early holiday shopping! I am also offering bulk discounts for the holidays. If you are thinking of placing a larger order, check my Etsy profile for details.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrrr! It be a Talk Like A Pirate BOGO Sale!

In honor of talk like a pirate day, I am hosting a 24 hour buy one, get one free earring sale! All earrings in my shop are included in this sale. The only catch is that the second pair must be of equal or lesser value.

The sale lasts until 12AM EST on 9/20.

Yar, me mateys, visit me shop an' plunder the earring section, or ye may bloody well be tossed o'er the gangplank to swim wi' the sharks!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Balancing Act

Most of my blogs lately have been specifically about my buisness promotions, products, and so on. Mainly, because I have had a lot happening in that area, and have been working on a lot of new items. But, this blog is about all aspects of crafting and running a business and being a mom. So for today, here is something a little different!

I have been shedding weight lately. I have wanted to lose weight for years, but haven't had much luck. Some of that was lack of lasting motivation. Some of it has been due to my medical conditions that make it a challenge for my body to actually lose weight, period. Last Christmas, my mom had my wedding rings sized bigger for me, because they were too small and I hadn't been able to wear them in months. I couldn't afford to do it, so she had it done for part of my gift. Now the rings are sliding around on my finger!

How am I doing it? I have a very, very active 4 year old boy. I substitute teach, and this year I have had a lot of work so far. Starting in about a month, I will sub full time for several months. I am crafting. I spend my down time creating, which I love, love, love. But besides crafting, I am starting, not just running but starting, a business that I think will be a success.

Now, starting a business is different from running one. Right now, I am going crazy trying to promote my shop, learn how to take fantastic photos and how to edit them, making my shop just right, and design my logo, business cards, address labels, and all that necessary "stuff". I am working hard to make my company have a cohesive look, one that is professional and interesting.

I am exploring all the places I can sell my work, where I can advertise, where I can network. I have started this blog, and kept it up to date. I have lots more ideas for it, but not enough time yet to get them into motion!

I have been attending craft fairs. Which means figuring out how to display my items, how to set up my booth, and the time I invest being there. And building stock, so I have lots and lots of items to sell.

So, have you wondered yet when I sleep? I don't. Not much, anyway. I don't eat much either, as I am too busy and distracted most of the time. This is how the weight is coming off. And you know what? I may be tired a lot of the time. I will have to sleep more at night when I start to teach full time. But I feel good - really good - for the first time in a long time.

I think this is because I have a purpose, and I am doing something fulfilling and creative. I love what I am doing. I love being a mom. I love teaching. And I really love running my business. After 3 years of unsuccessfully looking for a job, trying to figure out how to live with chronic illness and disabling pain and fatigue, and of dealing with a highly difficult child, I was frustrated and depressed. Not to mention broke.

But now, I am helping to support my family, and I am doing something constructive on days that I can't even get off the couch. Most of all, I am expressing the artist in myself - something I have never been able to do enough. I am teaching, something that I think I was truly meant by God to do. I am raising a beautiful, loving, smart and sensitive little boy. I am fulfilled. I am crazy busy, and tired, and my house is a mess. And I love it.

Sneak Peek: The Infinity Collection by JustaGirl

JustaGirl has always offered a range of jewelry. From simple chain and pendant necklaces and classic strung bracelets, to detailed beadweaving and complex chain designs. I have also always offered a range of prices, from very affordable to a little more pricey.

Because I have wanted my jewelry to be accessible even to those without a lot of disposable income, I have used a lot of base metals and plated materials. I use quality supplies, including very nice beads and crystals in all my work.

I intend to continue offering affordable designs with these materials. However, JustaGirl is expanding! I am preparing to introduce a new line that uses very high quality materials, including sterling and gemstone. These designs will be exceptional. All components and packaging will be of the highest caliber. Of course, this all means that this product line will be more expensive - it is intended for discerning jewelry buyers.

To give my customers a little preview of the Infinity Collection, I have listed Red October. This is a transitional piece, and the first of the new collection. It is similar to the Sweet Dreamer necklace design. The Red October, however, has a sterling clasp and uses exceptionally uniform seed beads. The beadweaving extends throughout the entire necklace, making it more of a collar style. It is a piece that takes a lot of time and precision to produce - and the result is absolutely gorgeous.

I hope you will enjoy seeing my new item, and look forward to the addition of more luxury jewelry designs to this section of my shop!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New listings!

Over the weekend, I put up close to thirty brand new listings in my shop! Some of them are still incomplete in pictures or descriptions, as I was interrupted by a family emergency. But they are listed.

I also have moved more items into my clearance section, so check that out for some great deals!

I went through a huge production increase to get ready for the craft fair season, so these are all new designs. I have lots of gemstone included in this group for fall. I really enjoyed creating these items, so I sure hope my customers will love them, too!

Head on over to my shop to see all my fabulous new items!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike Relief

I am currently donating $3 for every $10 spent in my shop to the Red Cross for Hurricane Ike relief. Please come take a look and help the victims of the storm.

I am working to get the Etsy community involved as a whole. If you would like to see other Etsy shops who are donating, or would like to pledge donations for your own shop, please see the pledge thread here:

ANOTHER place to see me!

I have been included in this fabulous treasury! Go take a peek!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

JustaGirl on Funky Finds!

Hey, take a look at this! I am on Funky Finds :

Jessica features really great artists with amazing products. I am thrilled to be included in her blog! She has some really impressive accomplishments, including a Martha Stewart staffer reading her blog.

Go check it out!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New shop feature: Sale section

I have added a new Sale section to the JustaGirl shop. You can access it here:

I currently have 17 items on clearance listed in this section - go check it out and get a great deal on some fantastic jewelry!
I will be adding new items to this section regularly, so keep checking in!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Busy, busy...

I love nothing more than feeling productive. I have been so busy lately, but I feel such a great sense of accomplishment.

First off, I had my shop made over - I hired mycreativepaper on Etsy to design a new shop banner, avatar, and business card for me. I love the result! She did an excellent job, I am very happy.

I also attended my first sales event. I probably will not sell at that event again, as the traffic wasn't great and most people weren't my customer demographic. But - it was a great learning experience. I have other shows coming up, and this gave me an idea of how much stuff I am going to have to haul around, how long it will take me to set up, etc. I did sell a few items, and handed out a lot of cards, so it was certainly worth my time.

I have been creating like crazy to get ready for my upcoming shows and for a possible holiday shopping rush. I love, love, love it when I get to spend my time creating. I am not so crazy about photographing, packaging, tagging, and all the other things that go along with running a business, so the days I can just create are wonderful!

I also have had several orders to fulfill, and custom orders to work on. I am almost all caught up now, which feels wonderful.

On top of all this, I have been substitute teaching every day, and now I have a sick kiddo to take care of. My wedding rings are starting to slide around on my finger - apparently all these years I wanted to lose weight, all I needed to do was become crazy busy so I stopped sleeping and eating, hahaha!

I am a relaxed, laid back person. I love lazy days and just relaxing, with nothing pressing to worry about. It goes to show how much I really love what I am doing here that I also love being crazy busy with all the responsibilities of running my shop. I guess we never stop learning about ourselves, as long as we keep expanding our horizons.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Win jewelry! September giveaway hosted by SpottedOnEtsy!

I have been featured on Spotted On Etsy! Visit for a chance to win your choice of one of my new fall jewelry pieces, shown here. It is so easy to enter!Add Video

Newsletter coming soon

I am getting ready to start a weekly newsletter for my shop. If you are interested in signing up, just send an email to justagirlcreations(@)

The newsletter will let you know about upcoming shows, new products, and my weekly Saturday Night Sale special. It will also occasionally include special offers for those who sign up.

Send me that email or you might miss out!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And the August winner is...

Sorry it has taken me a few days to get this posted! I have been busy, busy! But, finally, I have the winner of my very first giveaway for the Go Green cell phone/ipod lanyard - Layla! Congrats to her, and I will be sending out an email to let her know.

Thanks to everyone who participated! It was a great turnout, and I appreciate each and every one of the views and compliments. Since I sold out of the other 2 lanyards I had in stock, I would say this was a success! I am still taking custom orders for them and have a couple I just finished that will soon be posted to my Etsy store.

I will be holding giveaways monthly, but am not sure how September is going to go. I have a couple of features coming up on other blogs that will involve giveaways, and those may be it for the next month. But I will be sure to post the links here, so check back!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Survival Sale!

I am having a sale! I decided I should help all those parents and grandparents celebrate their survival of a busy, fun, and looong summer vacation - and the beginning of school - with a sale! So go ahead, treat yourself, or even begin your holiday shopping! Good through noon EST on Thursday, I am offering a 15% discount on your total purchase, PLUS free shipping. This is a fantastic deal, so come do some shopping! Enter the code RELIEF 2 in the message area when you order to get your discount!

Mark your calendars, locals!

Would you like to see my items in person? Let me tell you, photos just cannot do some of my jewelry justice. You need to see and feel these lovelies to get the full effect.

If you live in the central IL area, you are in luck! I will be setting up shop at the Flea Market/Craft Show at Progress City in Decatur, IL on Sept 7 (located just north of Richland Community College). I will also be at the Third Sunday Market at the Interstate Center in Bloomington, IL on Sept 21. Hope to see you there!

Can't make it this time? I will be doing more shows over the next few months, and I will be sure to add the dates here, so keep checking back!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Treasury: Metallica

Finally!! I got my very first Treasury on Etsy! I am super excited, and I am very happy with how it turned out.

If you don't know what an Etsy Treasury is, you need to check it out! This is an area where Etsy members can spotlight a selection of their favorite items on the site, and they are usually arranged in themes. Really great treasuries are used on the front page of the site, and bring big traffic to the members featured.

My treasury is titled "Metallica" and it features jewelry pieces made of, you guessed it, metal! I tried to choose items that were completely devoid of any other materials. The result? An edgy, stripped-down kind of treasury. There are some really great items in there, so go have a look!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My first giveaway!

I have decided it is time to do my first giveaway here on my new blog! I will be holding a drawing for the cell phone lanyard pictured here. If you would like to read more about why this lanyard is really great, you can visit my thread here: .

To enter, all you have to do is visit my Etsy shop at and choose an item you love. Come back here and leave a comment on this post telling me what you chose and why! Each comment left will earn you an entry into the drawing, feel free to enter more than once!

The lanyard being given away is a pretty small size, so if you win and would like a larger one or a different color, I will be happy to accomodate you!
Drawing will be held on Friday, Aug 15

Getting and Giving

I was setting up my seller account on ebay one evening, and as I worked on posting my first item for sale, saw that I had the option to donate part of my proceeds. I was stunned to see, at the top of the list, Gift of Life Transplant House. It seemed fated - I didn't know that this organization, which had been so important to my family, was so well-known. I immediately chose it as my charity, and boy, does that make me smile!

I am a giver by nature. I give love, I give a shoulder to lean on, I give anything I have and you might need. But I have never yet been in a position to do much in the way of monetary giving. Now I see, I can easily begin making some contributions.

Not only do I want to give, I need to give. Because through the course of my life, I have received so much. The Transplant House is very special to me, as my family was one of the first to live there. And we lived there many times. We stayed in the very first transplant house, before they purchased the large building they occupy now. When the house was full, we even stayed in the convent!

My father was a four time kidney transplant recipient. I was 8 years old when he had his first transplant, and I have a lot of memories of the way friends, family, and strangers alike supported my family and gave from their hearts and their pockets.

I remember the fundraiser at a local high school basketball game. I remember the farmers helping to bring in the harvest the year my dad had his first transplant. I remember all the wonderful families we met at the Transplant House, and the friendships that emerged.

The Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, MN, provides housing at a very reasonable rate for transplant recipients. A transplant recipient at Mayo Clinic has to spend a lot of time at the hospital before transplant, and has to stay within a few miles of the hospital for at least a month following surgery. The Transplant House was founded to help the families of transplant patients bear the financial burden that this brings, and to give them a supportive, home-like environment to live in - instead of a hotel room. Families cook together, eat together, play games and watch tv together. Individual rooms don't even have televisions, to encourage the residents to interact.

So, although I am still not able to do much in the way of making monetary donations, I realized that I can do this - as I sell my work on Etsy, and Ebay, I can donate part of what I make. From every sale, I take what I think I can spare, and I put it in the donation account. And it makes me so happy to do so, because finally, I can show my support and gratitude for all the giving I have seen from others in my life. Granted, volunteering and other acts are as important as donating money - but from this distance, the best I can really do for this particular organization is send my donations.

My craft fulfills me in many ways, but perhaps this is the one that is the most important.

To learn more about the Gift of Life Transplant House, visit

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stay tuned!

I have decided that I will regularly feature different Etsy shops here. I am getting together a list of people wanting to be featured, and I am going to try to put the spotlight on someone about once a week or so. We will have to see how often I can keep up : ) But keep your eyes peeled for some great Etsy shops!

Friday, August 1, 2008

My very first Etsy purchase!

I just received my very first Etsy product! I received three handmade soaps from today. Sadly, this wonderful lady is no longer selling her soaps, but she does have a neat sister shop still going.

Anyway, I am thrilled! I love homemade soap, it is perfect for my sensitive skin. And these smell FABULOUS! I ordered Pink Sugar, Blackberry Sage, and Vanilla Mint Oatmeal. I absolutely cannot wait to jump in the shower with these.

They are all nicely packaged and labeled, came with a nice thank you note, and arrived super fast! I am just so sad I wasn't on Etsy earlier so I could have stocked up before she closed shop.

My verdict? Etsy is a fabulous place, and I am going to have trouble not spending all my profits!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hey, lookit!

I was browsing the forums on Etsy, and I really love Karmic Jewels -

This particular shop is full of vintage inspired earrings, and I am in love with the style! I am constantly overwhelmed and inspired by my fellow Etsians.

She is holding a contest to win a pair of earrings, and I am so glad - because I found a new shop to heart! Go check out her work, it really is unique and very cool.

Come back and share if you like it, too!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Introducing "Vamped"

I love my new design. I just finished it yesterday, and I can't stop looking at it. It is such a great combination of edgy and classic styles. And, since I am pretty new to designing, I am proud as punch that this is all mine (even though I know it is likely someone else has come up with something similar somewhere out there).

This design really came about by accident - and perhaps that is the way of designing. My main inspiration was in color - I knew I wanted to work with copper and pair it with a bright aqua. So, I stocked up on some copper supplies - I went and bought some chain, jump rings, head pins, and clasps. I already had plenty of aqua beads to choose from. I got out my beads, and chose an opal Capri blue Swarovski crystal, light aqua glass crystal, and white glass pearl. I had a teal colored pearl, but liked the summery feel I got adding the white.

I had intended to make a necklace of some sort. However, when I got out my supplies and started contemplating what I wanted to do, I discovered that the chain I had bought was actually a bracelet, instead of just a length of chain as I had thought. I considered cutting up the bracelet and making beaded spacer sections to make a necklace. But for some reason, I picked up a bead, strung it on a headpin, and wrapped the headpin around a link in the bracelet to hold the bead on top.

It looked kind of cool. So I kept going. And Vamped was the final product. I replaced the clasp with one that I had chosen, and was thrilled with my new product. I hope my customers like it as much as I do. But even if they don't, I have realized that perhaps some of the best designs came about more through going with the flow than through sticking to the plan.