Every year in business has been so vastly different than the last. 2014 was a year of exploration -- trying to figure out what the heck running a full-time business was all about. 2015 was the year of the scramble -- big orders piling in, and a lot running around trying to juggle 20 tasks at once, feeling mildly crazy all the time. 2016 has been nothing like either of these.
This year has been a tad slower, or maybe it just feels slower because I know how to better time manage. I've managed to figure out how to produce faster and more efficiently, working with suppliers and my husband to make tedious tasks easier on myself. (My husband recently designed and 3D printed two parts to help packaging look better and go faster - blog post on those coming soon!). I also decided early in the year to focus on what I love and how I want Crafts and Love to stand out from all the other handmade jewelry lines that use gemstones and brass. Because let's face it, everyone knows someone that makes jewelry and I am just one of the many girls my age who has a jewelry business. Sometimes this can feel overwhelming and competitive, but I force myself to remember I have my own voice and need to express that individuality. Cue this mantra I have hanging on my desk: Creativity takes courage. -Henri Matisse.
I deliberately decided not to release two big collections this year, instead I launched one at the beginning of the year and then strategically launched products throughout the year. I took the extra time to focus on the products I currently offer and ask myself how they can be improved. Less popular items were discontinued, and I have been making my way through all the other pieces to update and overhaul the ideas. Whether that means new photos, more gemstone offerings, or new brass triangle styles, I have been taking a hard look at every style I make to insure it is representative of Crafts and Love, and if it isn't, I ask myself why and figure out steps to move forward. This is all part of my hope that Crafts and Love has an individual voice.
This honing process has made me realize that a large reason I love creating jewelry is discovering and using gemstones. For me, designing new pieces starts with a gemstone. I like simplicity, so I try to center every new design on a unique cut of gemstone. My favorite choice this year has been dalmatian jasper -- the black and white spots are mesmerizing, and create such a striking look, while remaining neutral enough to be totally wearable. These pieces have been favorites among customers this year too, and that makes all the deliberation totally worth it!
Kimberly Murray Photography took these (and lots more) gorgeous styled photos for us this year too, and I love the way she captured the beauty of the jasper and gave them so much life.
Progress, not perfection.
This is a mantra I have been repeating to myself a lot over the past few months. When I get too focused on making something exactly perfect the first time, I find myself being paralyzed by action more often than not. I have wanted to redesign my logo for months (if not years), and have shoved it farther and farther down my to-do list, really out of fear it would be too hard. I thought about hiring someone to help a million and one times, but never pulled the trigger.
I wanted to keep my old idea of a logo, but build on it, treating it like a first draft. Specifically, I wanted a better font and an ampersand (instead of previously writing out 'and' in my logo). I feel like after 5 years of business, people understand what my name is (although I do laugh when people say Crafts of Love -- so close, but nope!).
I knew I found the perfect font fit when the 'love' almost exactly replicated the love tattoo I have on my middle finger. My husband and I converted the font into vectors and off we went, moving things, connecting the 'F' and 'L', and basically making a lot of tweaks over an entire Saturday. As two people who have no background in graphic design (although, granted, my husband did spend many hours in college playing with graphic design for clubs instead of working on homework -- go boy!), I'd say we did a mighty fine job!
With anything in small business, progress is key. This re-brand is exactly what I wanted and needed at this time in my business. A big motivator in the whole re-brand era, was my desire to upgrade our packaging, and I didn't want to dive into new packaging without a new logo. I have wanted sturdier packaging that shines, and I went literal with that dream. Introducing, our shiny, sparkly, gold-loving new packaging!
Packing up orders, a task I do over and over nearly every single day, feels so new and fresh with these new materials. My whole mind-set has changed with these upgrades. Instead of trying to pretend packaging wasn't a big deal and boutiques wouldn't care if I had basic packaging, I now get amped thinking of my jewelry, on their pretty cards, or hanging with new letterpress gold-foil necklace tags, in boutiques across the country. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and that silly saying is so true in retail too. I hope you enjoy the upgrades, and get to see them in person soon!
Fringe is one of my favorite accessory layers, and happens to be quite trendy right now as well. The beauty of the fringe trend is it seems to always be relevant in some capacity, sometimes more pronounced than other times. Hence, one of our most loved pieces in the Core Collection is the Rose fringe necklace. Boasting an 18'' chain and vintage fringe charms, this necklace is ideally suited for layering. The golden neutral tones make it easy to match and layer, but she also looks great worn alone to add some simple but striking texture. I have always been a fan of understated takes on trends, and the Rose Necklace is perfectly suited for a minimalist fringe look.
Photos by Claudia Bost
You've Been Noted is hands down a hidden force behind Atlanta's creative scene, doing their part to connect local artists, small business owners, and organizations in the most unique avenues. They are the best hosts and I've had the pleasure of collaborating with them already a handful of times over the past 3 years. Every year, You've Been Noted organizes a curated market, The Ballog, in a new, unique location around the city. This year's installment was at the gorgeous Serenbe Farms, a quiet, insanely gorgeous, nestled community just outside Atlanta. I have always wanted an excuse to visit Serenbe, and was beyond ecstatic to hear The Ballog was hosted on their grounds this year. The market was one for the books: getting to hang and chat with new and old creative friends, eat delicious crepes, sell jewels to the most gracious customers, and be a part of a thriving, supportive community (my favorite part). Check out more gorgeous snapshots of the evening by Minoo Bassery here.
I do love my local ATL retailers for a whole slew of reasons. As I currently work alone most days, it is imperative I put down the tools, walk away from my computer, and get some fresh air a few times a week (of course, beyond the daily trips to the Post Office). The best excuse for all this is to visit one of my retailers to restock jewelry or hand-deliver an order. I always look forward to these mornings or afternoons when I can escape for a few hours and enjoy a nice drive and quality time in these stores.
Young Blood in Virginia Highlands is one of my favorite stores to pop into, as YB is the epitome of modern, clean, and minimalist with a very carefully curated store, making any purchase from their shop a definite winner. They have the most gorgeous store plants as well, and I almost always splurge on a little something for myself when I get time to visit the shop (today's indulgence was a delicious bar of milk chocolate). I highly recommend popping into YB next time you're swinging through Virginia Highlands: you're bound to find lots of treasures, lots of C&L, and the best cupcake shop three doors down. (Fun fact: I sold cupcakes at that bakery for a few years during graduate school. It was the most delicious job!).
First two images c/o Young Blood
Porcupine pendants for the people! These pendants are one piece I adore creating just as much as I love wearing it. Each porcupine quill is natural and ethically harvested; the quills fall right off the porcupines at local farms and are collected, cleaned, and turned into pendants. The gradients vary drastically from quill to quill; some are solid black, others have 5 stripes of black, white, and occasionally shades of brown scattered throughout. The quills are very lightweight and airy, making them extremely easy to wear. Be ready for a conversation starter, most folks will truly not believe these beauties come from real porcupines!