UncommonGoods has chosen my rainbow tile jewelry for their Holiday 2014 catalog! See the necklace here and earrings here. If you like what you see, please share it, buy it, review it and read on to hear the backstory...
I love working with catalogs. It's exciting to see my jewelry designs featured in full color for oodles of new of customers to browse all across the country. It's also great or my business because we can focus all of our attention on making one or two styles in larger volumes, and this often helps us be more efficient. A few years ago my jewelry designs were featured in the Pendleton catalog and I learned a tremendous amount from that experience.
Now the Uncommon Goods catalog is in a new league for me. This catalog has circulation numbers in the millions and I absolutely LOVE the creative handmade, organic and recycled gifts they feature. Not to mention a gorgeous website, with a blog, lengthy features on their artists, and an active social media presence. They are also a company that truly cares about their employees, the environment and works hard to run a company to be proud of.
So... when a buyer from UncommonGoods appeared in my booth at the NY NOW wholesale show in January of this year, I was eager to show them around my designs. They were very interested in my Trilogy collection, especially the rainbow mix and ocean mix color palettes. Shortly after the show the buyer wrote to me to request some samples of the jewelry styles she had viewed at the NY show. She requested for consideration the 60" long necklace, the 3-strand bracelet, the triple tile earrings and the wishbone earrings, all in the rainbow and ocean color ways. In the end they finally settled on the 60" Trilogy necklace in rainbow and the matching long triple tile earrings. The UncommonGoods catalog is a bright and colorful publication and the rainbow colored glass tiles really work will with their aesthetic. They loved the versatility of the 60" long necklace because it can be worn long, knotted, doubled, tripled, or even as a wrap bracelet. They placed a "small" order for their Spring/Summer 2014 catalog to test it out and give it a shot.
(Above: Kathryn and I with Rachel, the jewelry and accessories inventory planner from UncommonGoods)
They were happy with the results and decided to carry it over to the 2014 Fall and Holiday catalogs, which they consider a more substantial publication. As soon as they placed their Holiday catalog order we got working right away on the production process of these earrings and necklaces. Before we could even begin making them, I needed to order the sterling silver clasps, ear wires, wire and chain we would need, the stringing wire called Softflex, and of course the colorful glass tile beads from the glass maker with whom I work closely, in the Czech Republic. This particular necklace is unique in my collection because it contains 12 colors, so this means that we had to be sure we had enough beads in all 12 of these colors, plus extra beads in the 3 colors included in the earrings. No small undertaking!
Then we perfected our working samples and got to making. Many of the necklaces were made by local gals who I call our piecework network. These are women, and sometimes men (though not at the moment), who work from home making jewelry. We train them on how to create the pieces and teach them all about the materials we have. They come in to the studio regularly to get a project and drop off finished jewelry. Then Jamie, who is my production manager at the studio (God bless her!), meticulously quality checks each piece of jewelry and occasionally sends an item back to its maker for adjustment or re-doing.
The piecework network is something I am very proud of here on Martha's Vineyard. This island is a very seasonal community and year-round jobs are difficult to come by. I have several women who have helped me make jewelry for over 3 years now and they have been such a blessing to our business. In turn, they have a flexible, creative way to make a few extra dollars throughout the year. Our jewelry-making workload fluctuates throughout the year, and the pieceworkers availability shifts over time too. I give Jamie a lot of credit for balancing the studio needs with the pieceworkers schedules across hundreds of styles and colors. This is a big job and she pulls it off gracefully and joyfully-- though her quality standards are uncompromising! And occasionally, when we are unable to meet the demands with our local network of jewelry makers, I call upon Melinda over at Melindesign in New York. She and her staff can whip up any project I throw at them.
To keep things interesting, Uncommon Goods requested a customization for their rainbow necklace and they asked if I would make that necklace and the exact earring color way (those colors in that order) exclusive for them throughout the Holiday season. Of course I would!
I typically use a sterling silver toggle clasp to finish off the 60" Trilogy necklaces (above left). Apparently, UncommonGoods has received feedback in the past from customers who dislike toggle clasps and prefer lobsters. So I customized the closure by adding a sterling silver lobster clasp with a few inches of chain at the opposite end (above right). The chain allows the wearer to fine tune the length a bit, which is handy when wearing it as a wrap bracelet. And the long Trilogy earrings with the top to bottom order of blue-green-red are exclusive to UncommonGoods this season so you won't find them anywhere else, folks!
Anyway... so we made what felt like a gazillion necklaces and half a gazillion pairs of earrings. Jamie quality checked nearly every single one of them (with a little help from Giocchina, my studio assistant and myself), checking for missed or damaged beads, the appropriate tautness of the wire (not to loose, not too tight-- we call this "slack" and proper slack is necessary for the perfectly supple beaded necklace or bracelet, which I'll have to cover in another blog post), neat crimps at the end of each strand, functional clasp, missed logo tags, and proper length. This was a monumental task. Many necklaces were re-strung or altered in the studio to render them perfect before they made the cut. On your left is a photo of Giocchina cheerfully checking and polishing rainbow necklaces before packaging.
Then it was time to package them according to the specifications that had been outlined in the original purchase order. Each necklace was sealed in a clear ziploc baggie, placed gently on a piece of fluff, topped off with a folded artist story card, then closed up in a 3" x 3" x 3/4" brown kraft paper gift box. The artist story cards have the UncommonGoods logo on front and a photo of me with a quick bio inside. I had previously created these to specification and they were ready to add to each box as we packed them. Each pair of earrings was hung on one of my earring cards, we then placed clear rubber backings at the end of each ear wire, placed them gently on a piece of fluff, topped them off with a folded artist story card, then closed up in a 2 1/2" x 3" x 3/4" brown kraft paper gift box. Phew! Lots of packaging detail right? Yes, but this ensures that each customer gets to open a beautiful handmade gift!
After each piece of jewelry was perfectly packed, the little boxes went into bigger boxes for shipping, and each was labelled with the appropriate purchase order number, style number, vendor number and quantities, not to mention the correct shipping address. Kathryn, my wholesale account manager made sure our paperwork was all in line. She's the one who helps me manage our relationship with the stores and catalogs that carry my jewelry. Here's a photo of me standing by the stack of boxes that went out to UncommonGoods in September, 2014, in advance of their Holiday catalog.
Then all we had to do was wait... wait to see the jewelry in the real printed version of the catalog. I remember that July day that I first found the catalog in my mailbox my husband and I were heading out for a date night and for some reason we stopped at the PO to check the mail on our way to dinner. Weird right? But it was perfect because my first ever UncommonGoods catalog arrived that day, and I could clamor all over it to find my jewelry on page 42. What a sweet reason to celebrate! It looked beautiful. Here's a picture of me just outside the Oak Bluffs, post office checking out the catalog for the first time. I was elated!
Now that the jewelry is in the UncommonGoods warehouse and the catalogs have shipped, the rest is up to our customers (that's you!). Here's hoping the sales are brisk, the reviews are positive, and the re-orders are frequent!
Which leads me to one last point... now that you know more than you may care to know about the life cycle of this rainbow necklace and it's trusty earring companions, do you need some? Must you have one for yourself? If so, please order here and leave me a positive review! Do you love my rainbow jewelry and want to tell the world about it? Please share with your social networks by clicking on one of the blue circles on the product page here. Thanks for reading!