Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Story of Willow and Me Jewelry

My son suggested that my first real entry into my blog should be a history of my company. Here are the results:

I have been a “crafty” person all my life. I have tried my hand at many things, from counted cross stitch to watercolor painting. I enjoyed those things (and still enjoy painting), but none were ever more than a hobby and usually only a means for making gifts for others.

And that is the way jewelry began as well. Two incidents with jewelry prompted me to begin making it myself. First, I purchased a necklace from a department store in their “costume jewelry” section to wear to a formal event. It was a beaded necklace and it matched my dress beautifully. Unfortunately, it was not well made and broke half-way through the event. Another time, I purchased a beaded ankle bracelet at an arts and crafts fair which got caught on something one day and broke. I lost most of the beads, but was able to salvage some of them. I then purchased more and tried to recreate the ankle bracelet. After experimenting with different designs and beads, as well as stringing materials, I finally made something I was happy with and that would not break on the first wearing. I had some left over beads and materials and made some other pieces. And I was hooked.

I began buying beading magazines and experimenting with techniques and materials. I made gifts for several people that Christmas. My pieces were a hit! I made more pieces as gifts and began to develop a style. Those who received my gifts or saw the jewelry I made began to tell me I should sell my pieces. By that time, I had been a stay at home mother for several years, having left my job as a paralegal after we adopted our second child. Now that the boys were older and didn’t need me constantly, I had time on my hands and I began to investigate how to begin a business. Finally I took the plunge and on January 1, 2006, Willow and Me Jewelry Design was born. (I have since shortened the name to Willow and Me Jewelry).

I began with my self-taught skills in beading. I tried by first setting up an online store, but without having a clue how to promote myself, that did poorly. I sold some pieces locally and landed a custom order for a wedding that first summer. I then decided I should try selling at craft fairs and began with a large local craft fair that I had attended as a customer for years. I did quite well that weekend and was encouraged to add more craft fairs to my schedule. I am now going into my third full summer season of craft fairs with eight shows scheduled. I have maintained my website for informational purposes ( This year, I have increased my online presence with the opening of my Etsy shop ( and the starting of this blog. I have become a member of the Etsy Maine Team as well.

At first, I relied on books and magazines to learn the skills I needed to make my pieces, but there became a time when I needed to have instruction from a real teacher who could give me feedback. My first classes were in soldering, wire work, PMC and lampworking. I have continued with my PMC work and in March of 2009, I received my
Rio Rewards PMC Certification. I still enjoy beading, but I also love the opportunities PMC gives me for making pieces in the past would only be possible by learning a whole host of silversmithing skills. That is my next goal – to add to my metal working skills.

I named my company after my cat, Willow. When I first began making jewelry as gifts, she was a kitten and would sit by my work area and bat around all my beads, or else she would sleep in my lap or in a bed I made for her. Whenever I would give a piece as a gift, I always signed it “from Willow and Lisa.” It was a natural evolution to go to Willow and Me Jewelry. Willow still spends a lot of time at my work area, either on my desk (still batting at beads) or else sleeping on the window seat or the cat tree in my office. She is smart enough to know when to stay away, for instance when I am soldering or using my flex-shaft.

I have saved some of those first pieces I made and I can see the evolution of both my style and my skills. I don’t think I will ever stop learning new skills. There is always a new technique or a new tool I want to try. As time goes on, I will be sharing some of those here.

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