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B'sue is my name...
... actually, Brenda Sue to be exact. When I started selling a lot of jewelry, and needed to not only sign *it* but a lot of paperwork as well, I got lazy. Sometime around 1988 I became...B'sue.
People keep asking me, how did you get started in the jewelry business?
I guess when people see something and think it's been wildly successful, they want to do it, too.
But I would have to preface all of that by first saying, while I have been successful in that I got to stay at home and raise my son while working for a living, there was nothing easy or wildly profitable about anything I've done.
I did it for the love of it, the uniqueness. I've been at this business in one way or another since the mid-eighties, and no part of my journey has been easy. Gratifying, fascinating, enlightening....yes, all that. But NOT easy.
I've always been very creative. My idea of a fun evening is not sitting around playing cards. I need to be productive. I need to see something happen for the use of my time. I'm driven to produce, and I love pretty things.
I also love old things. I wish old jewelry could talk and tell me all of its stories. Oh, if only....but then, had that been the case, I would have never expanded into the jewelry field. I'd be a novelist, instead!
When my son was a baby, I needed to find a new way to buy diapers and baby food. I had been a housekeeper and a cleaning lady for years. AH YES...a productive way to make a living, it's true. But for me, not a bit satisfying, intellectually or emotionally. I began to feel as though I were an extension of a Hoover vacuum cleaner, maybe one of the attachments. When you start feeling that way, it's time to get out, do something else.
So I went to the auction and bought boxlots.
We had a really good auction in the fire hall here in East Palestine every Friday night. That guy would lug so much stuff in there, and he had to clear it, all in one evening. If you could manage to keep your eyes open and hang in there till past midnight, you could scarf up some deals.
I remember bringing those boxes home and identifying the contents....old Cracker Jack premiums, perfume bottles with labels on them, old pottery, depression glass. I would rejoice to find a pretty piece of depression glass that hadn't been chipped! My Schroeder's price guide practically became committed to memory, I read it every day.
There was a little place nearby where you could rent a shelf for $3.00 a week and sell your stuff. I figured I could afford that, so I did it. The first week I think I got a check back for $25.00. Okay, I thought. Now you're talking!
Soon I rented space in a well-known flea market and did my tenure for a year at my inside booth on Sunday afternoons. From there, I took summer rental on a spot at the big Rogers Flea Market in Rogers, Ohio. That was the year I first purchased my business license. Every Friday I would load my rusty old van with my junk and hike it out there to Rogers and sell it for whatever I could get.
It wasn't long before I realized, however, that there was a better way. You could get the ANTIQUE TRADER WEEKLY and advertise your stuff in it, finding a whole different audience. You could also answer ads and pick for fancy shops in San Francisco and New York. This appealed to me greatly. I remember the first ad I wrote got me $800.00 in sales. This was an unbelievable amount of money to me in those days (hey, I'd be happy for it now, too!) But it just proved my point....there was a better way, I just had to get in there and work at it.
Soon I met a lady named Ann Marie, who had a very fancy vintage clothing store in Connecticut. She was a tough task master....she wanted excellent condition, style, and she wanted it cheap. I had to really scramble, and sometimes the woman positively infuriated me. Honestly, though, I'd have to thank her, and do, down to this day! She just added a lot of tinder to the fire already burning in me, to make my new-found hobby work as a business.
Ann Marie told me that I needed to specialize. I couldn't keep selling EVERYTHING, there was too much to know. Well, I thought.....jewelry is easy to ship. There seems to be plenty of old jewelry around here. I'll sell old jewelry!
All the money I made that year (I think it was 1989) went to jewelry books and jewelry. I don't think I made anything but gas money. I devoured all the books of the day and bought every new one that came out. I picked and scoured and scoured and picked every auction, every antiques shop, every flea market. I found a lot of great, great stuff. I SOLD a lot of great stuff. Pretty soon, I wasn't selling any of it to Ann Marie. I had expanded into a very nice, growing customer base.
Back then we sold everything on approval. You'd call in, give me your credit info, and I'd send you a boxlot full of maybe $400 - $500.00 worth of jewelry to pick through. You'd pick out what you wanted, stick a check in the box for what you kept plus the postage, and return the rest. Actually this worked pretty well at the time.....believe it or not!
One day I received a gift from a customer in Florida. It was a box of broken jewelry, Victorian buttons, bits and parts and all manner of tchoch. She sent pictures along with it, and told me that people took these mementoes and made jewelry from them, and pieces sold for $100.00 and up. Somehow she felt that not only could *I* do that, but that *I* should do that. To this day I am unsure why she felt I should, but I gave it a go. In fact, I still have that brooch , I keep it in a special cupboard and would never part with it, as humble as it is.
Another customer did mall shows with her antique goods. I told her that I had begun to fool around with making things from old stuff and she became very excited. "Send me some of that!" she said..."I can sell it!" And she did!! And now you're talking again! TO THINK....I could do something I knew I would LOVE...something that involved OLD STUFF and my creativity!!!....and buy the groceries that week....well, it just seemed like a dream.
Believe me, it was no dream, it was blood, sweat and tears. I read, read, read. My brain went non-stop, trying to think of the next door to open. If I couldn't get through a door, I'd try to find the next window, at least.
I did hundreds and hundreds of small table top crafts shows and home parties. All I did was make jewelry, day and night, and when I wasn't making it, I was schlepping it. Every day was a new learning experience. By 1993, I had a wholesale company with seven employees and we created a 300 piece line, which we sold to over 500 store accounts. We did this for five long years, and we stayed in the black.
Along came the internet. AT LAST, I found the right niche for me. When we did shows, people asked me all day long how they could have a little fun and make jewelry, too. It used to annoy me, frankly. I mean, I'm the artist here...this is my product! I'd like you to buy my product; I don't really want to tell you how to do it yourself! But really I DID want to help. I love to share, to nurture, and to talk about the things I love.
The internet would be a good way. I could share some of the things I made, and somebody could buy them; I could also share the parts, bits and pieces that I had stashed here and somebody could buy THEM! By the end of 1997 my first website opened and it's grown from there.
There are six of us here, now: my friend Shelley, who is my right hand girl and accompanies me on most of my buying trips (she's worked with me now for ten years!), as well as Rachael who is my other right hand girl, and my head shipper. Those two are right down here in the trenches with me and work pretty much full-time. We also have my son, Jordan, who finished his business degree and works here full-time, and we also have his wife, Lauren, who assists Rachael two days a week. We also have Chelsea, Rachael's sister. She now does the majority of inspection, inventory and packaging. We all take our work very seriously and want YOU to be happy; but we do take two days a week off (Monday and Wednesday) to participate in Christian volunteer work and take care of family. I usually stop in to check the email every day, though! Your emails are very important to us!
The best thing I can tell you is this: This can be a lovely business, and the camaraderie among designers is non-plussed. If you are looking to learn to make jewelry because you wish to become rich or famous, well, I will tell you, some do. Most do not. Still.....jewelry making can be a viable business if you are willing to give it all your determination, and pay your dues. And.....you must love it.
In the long-run, it's always better to do it for the love. ANYONE can make jewelry....and there is no right or wrong, as far as jewelry making is concerned. Don't ever let anyone tell you that there is.
We happen to be at a time and place in the history of jewelrymaking, where the old rules are great and form a basis for this type of artwork, but they are all made to be broken. Don't make it hard....it can be as simple as a few beads on a hatpin or a dangle, or as complicated as silversmithing.
I personally like simple, with flair. Don't think you have to create what I term 'big-opus' work to be legit as an artist. Your pieces don't need to require months to complete. In today's hectic lifestyle, projects that can be completed in an hour or less are intensely gratifying, and if you sell your work, far more profitable.
We sell plenty of things here to take you down that road.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that you cannot make jewelry. Do not delude yourself into thinking that you have no talent.
EVERYONE HAS TALENT.
Everything that surrounds us is art. I can become inspired in a hardware store, or make jewelry from junk found alongside the road. The greatest inspiration is the world around us, the greatest Artist is God. Pay attention to nature, be awed by it, the play of light on a summer path, the amazing variety of color in birds, flowers, foliage. Pause to think of how a drop of water magnifies the veins of a leaf underneath it.
When you look at a component, think not of what it is, but what it might BECOME in your hands. It can become whatever you wish it to be..
Best to you in all your endeavors!