Friday, June 5, 2009

Hi all! We are enjoying an absolutely beautiful day here in Toronto, not a cloud in the sky, no humidity and a perfect temperature, ahhh the early days of summer are the best! Hope everyone is having a FAB day.

This weeks Fridays Feature is Sarah of, from Martha’s Vineyard. I hope you enjoy your read - get inspired, learn and have a little giggle :)

Tell us a little bit about yourself...
Hi my name is Sarah K. Young, beads are both my passion and my profession. I chose to name my business, Vineyard Sky Bead Design because it incorporates both my initials and dearly loved home, the island of Martha’s Vineyard. This is both a tourist destination, in the summer, and somewhat remote the rest of the year. While my business is very busy in the summer, the off season offers much in the way of solitude, beauty and time for creating new work.

Beading has been part of my life since childhood. My parents have both always had creative interests, painting, sewing and gardening. I’m quite sure that my grandmothers love of antique glassware has influenced my own love of color, texture and light. My interest in beading led me to a job managing a bead store, loved that budget! At that time I also started taking lots of classes to learn some of these techniques; knotting with silk, lampwork glass bead making, macramé, furnace blown glass and color theory. I have taught quite a few beading classes, written for Bead & Button magazine and traveled to lots of bead shows around the country.

Wherever I go I often have a beading project with me, I love the portability of my medium and I find it difficult to just sit. When I used to fly rather often, I took several bracelets to crochet. In the summer I spend as much free time as possible sailing and find it quite enjoyable to work on beading at sea, not usually while we’re under sail but more often at anchor with calm seas! Macramé, one of my favorite techniques, is both a natural and traditional pastime for the marine environment.

Owning my own business means that I’m pretty much at work whenever I’m not sleeping! There is always something to work on, designing, creating, ordering supplies, bookkeeping, marketing, research, never a dull moment. While I enjoy being independant I do miss the camraderie of a work environment where I felt part of a team. I get some sense of that team feeling from the other vendors when I do a series of outdoor summer art and craft shows.

When I’m not beading I can be found beach combing, knitting or crocheting, practicing my photography skills or biking the many roads and trails nearby. I very much enjoy helping others with any kind craft endeavor that I have familiarity with, even if I’m unfamiliar I’ll give it a go!

How long have you been in business?
I started selling jewelry professionally in 1992, at first through local craft shows, a few times a year.

Did you start your business full time? if not, what made you take that leap into running your business full time?
When I first started selling it was still my hobby and I hoped to make enough to keep my supply of materials replenished. It was several years after I moved to the Vineyard in 1997 that I realized that even though I no longer worked for a bead store I was still purchasing with that mindset, a full palette of materials and good range of colors. With an ample stash, a growing record of sales and repeat customers I decided that I should pursue jewelry making as a full time endeavor, either that or I had to seriously curtail my shopping habit! I am also fortunate in that there are at least five artisans markets, or craft shows, that take place here in the summer every week.

Did you write a business plan? or do you set regular goals to achieve?
No I did not start with a business plan, and I admit that with some embarrassment. I do have to say that I’m very organized and keep lots of notes about any ideas I have to improve my business. My to-do list includes daily, weekly and quarterly tasks which need to be accomplished. These are not always completed but if the priority is high they will be.

What selling venues do you use?
My sales are the greatest at the shows I do here on the island. There is a juried Artisans Festival that takes place on holiday weekends and biweekly through most of the summer and early fall. Through the summer months there are several local flea markets specializing in antiques and art. One is held at our local art center once a week and a local church has biweekly flea market. In the summer I’m working outdoors a lot, my tent is white and the colors of my materials really look great in the natural light.

For the past several years I’ve had a retail outlet with Rainy Day,, a lovely shop here in Vineyard Haven. I have a line of custom coordinated designs on consignment at Shibori, also in Vineyard Haven, selling artist made tie dyed and shibori dyed clothing. I’m currently working on an order of jewelry for consignment with Vineyard Backwater, an outdoor clothing store, in Edgartown.

My own web site,, was my first online selling venue. Since late in January I’ve also had a shop on Etsy, Wished I’d joined when someone suggested a couple of years ago!

After selling for through several summer seasons I realized that come fall, things really dry up around here sales wise. Off island shows are not impossible but with ferry fees and travel related expenses, it seemed wiser to reach out via the internet. That is what propelled me to start a web site, I have a wide range of visiting customers here in the summer and this has been one way of staying in touch for sales throughout the year.

In the off season I do occasionally travel to do trunk shows. I’ve gone as far as New Jersey and often try to coordinate this with a visit with friends or relatives along the way. Living on an island means that an off island excursion is a good time to work in as much as possible in the way of shopping and catching up with friends and family.

Give us one tip on how you stay motivated (to run your business full time)?
I’d have to say that repeat customers are my greatest source of encouragement. It’s wonderful to hear that they are still enjoying the pieces that they’ve purchased in the past! To have them buy again confirms my belief that my work is well made and that the designs evolve and change enough to inspire new interest. I also feel blest to be able to use my creativity everyday and make things that make people feel happy and maybe even more beautiful.

Where do you draw your design inspiration from to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
Thankfully I seldom seem to want for an idea, there is such an endless array of material right here in my little studio! If I do feel a need for inspiration I love to look through some of my older designs, that will sometimes jog a memory of a variation that I thought of while making those pieces that I’ve yet to try. Sorting out or otherwise organizing my beads is also very worthwhile. I’ll often come across a bead in a shape or color that I haven’t seen in awhile and that gets the creative juices flowing too.

I love to take photographs of the nature around me and will often look through those. Springtime blossoms in soft oranges inspired some recent designs. Beach scenes offer a lovely earthy palette that I favor and can include a beautiful variety of blues from the water and waves.
It’s very exciting when I’m inspired in an unusual way. I’ve been known to jot down a phrase or some sort of descriptive text that is totally unrelated to beads, or jewelry in any way. Food descriptions can be quite interesting to look at in terms of color and texture combinations!

What is your best advice on customer service?
Share your knowledge and enthusiasm for the medium you are working in. I present each piece of jewelry with a folded tag that describes the materials that went into design they are buying. My display is artful and feminine but there is also an area of my table dedicated to work. I always have materials and tools with me so that I can adjust an necklace or bracelet, modify and earring, or even custom make something for the customer on the spot.

What is your favorite tip you received from a mentor or someone in business?
Creating designs that are distinctly yours will pique interest and selling a high quality, a lasting product will inspire confidence in your customers.

If you could offer one piece of advice to someone just starting a business, what would that be?
Take classes, read books, join a group of others who share your interest, learn your craft. There is a lot that one can pick up on their own but if you are truly dedicated to the craft you love you’ll always find something new to add to your repertoire of skills.

If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be? LOL sorry had to add this, I feel like Barbara Walters and so far the answers have been really interesting and inspiring :)
Bwahaha, a bead tree of course! That was my first thought, what fun to find branches full of sparkling treasures at my finger tips. My second thought is that it would be wonderful to be a huge old maple tree. I’d share sweets in the spring time, provide strong sturdy branches for tree house building in the summer, fall would mean a glorious riot of color and in the winter field mice would have a merry home amidst the roots!

~~ for summer season shows where you can meet Sarah or check out her classes go to .. ~~

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Grab a coffee, tea or whatever suits your fancy and take a load off :) This blog is about, all things jewelry and the jewelry biz. Look for daily updates - Business Ideas, Jewelry Tips and Tricks, New Products, Tools, Designers Showcase every Friday (interview with a small business jewelry owner) and much more.
Enjoy your read and hope you take away a little inspiration or motivation.
- Dianne Bassett