Early this year, I quietly reopened my handmade jewelry shop j. Frances Design on Etsy. I originally started the shop in late 2009 right before I entered grad school for interior design. I began making jewelry during college, mostly seed bead weaving. When I moved to the West Coast after graduation, I discovered amazing bead stores that carried an array of gemstones and was immediately hooked. In Phoenix, I took my first wire-wrapping class and learned how to create necklaces, earrings, and bracelets with sterling silver links.
Looking back, it’s so interesting to observe the evolution of my shop and my skills. From the very beginning, I was obsessed with quality. I would remake a piece over and over if the wire wraps weren’t perfect or one earring was a hair longer than the next. You didn’t see any strung necklaces or bracelets in my shop because I struggled to perfect the tension in the beading wire and was never satisfied with my results. Over time, my connections and wraps have become more precise and refined, and my interests have expanded beyond wrapping into soldering and forging metal.
I also learned how to improve my descriptions and my photos, which was key to a successful Etsy shop, and developed a nice little business. I sold my jewelry at local craft shows like Market Day, Craft Saturday, and Art in the Garden. I particularly loved meeting customers in person. I was proud that this little business was able to provide me with extra income while I was in school.
In the spring of 2013, I graduated and got a real job, but I kept my shop. Later that summer, I started teaching in the interior design program at Iowa State and decided after a few months that I needed to concentrate on both my students and acquiring design clients. I stopped posting to my Etsy shop in early 2014 but never actually closed it.
But late last year, I got an urge to make jewelry again. I had started following a number of jewelry artists on Instagram and missed making physical things with my hands versus always being tied to a computer screen. I started crafting new pieces with the materials I had on hand and reopened my shop. I also signed up for a metal working studio at the Des Moines Art Center so I could relearn how to set stones and solder properly with a real torch.
Over the last several months, I’ve restocked my Etsy shop with a variety of designs, mostly using the semi-precious gemstones I love but also including some pieces with Czech glass and vintage Swarovski. I have been doing some light metalworking with a butane torch, but I am super excited to get a real torch when we move to our new house next month. Then I can really begin to practice setting stones and offer a wider variety of pieces that include cabochons. I’m also interested in working with raw gemstones and crystals. The possibilities are truly endless.
A few weeks ago, I also launched the j.Frances website. It is a fully functioning e-commerce store for my business. Many of the pieces on the website are also available on the Etsy shop, but the website will mostly focus on my gemstone pieces that are crafted with sterling silver, precious metal clay (PMC), 14k gold-filled wire, and some copper. The “costume” pieces will stay in my Etsy shop.
I’m really excited about reopening my jewelry business because I love the process of taking raw materials and turning them into wearable art. Most of my designs are one-of-a-kind or extremely limited because I enjoy the creative process of dreaming up new combinations rather than producing one thing over and over.
You can find the link to my e-commerce site in the menu above and to my Etsy shop in the sidebar. I started a newsletter for my shop, and you can save 20% on your first order in either shop by signing up. I’ll use that list for weekly shop updates, promotions, and other news related to the shop.
I also have a blog on the j.Frances site, so I won’t be writing too much about jewelry in this space. If you’re interested in my creative process and being notified about new pieces when I add them to the shop, be sure to follow along there or sign up for the newsletter.
Requests for custom pieces are always welcome! If I can’t make it, I can refer you to another artist who can.