Sunday, March 9, 2014

Shark Tooth Necklaces!

My boyfriend Ramsey and I recently took a vacation to Cancun to get away from Chicago's brutal weather.  It was an amazing escape!  We stayed at Paradisus Hotel where we lounged on the beach for a couple of days, then spent an afternoon spelunking and snorkeling in a National Geographic-certified cave a few hours away.

A little friend we found showing off

Reading marketing books on my new Kindle

Ramsey and I at the Tulum Mayan ruins

View from the hotel room

Lazy day at the resort

Sunset stroll

While on the beach, I was approached by a local jewelry maker named Angel selling his necklaces on the beach.  I chatted with him about his designs and his life (he's 21 and has a son), and he agreed to sell me some of his sharks teeth!  He told me that he purchases entire shark mandibles and pulls off the best teeth to use in his jewelry.  He fits the teeth into washed up coral and drills a hole into the teeth to hang them from his necklaces.

Angel and I discussing shark teeth

Following the trend of chevron, geometric triangles, and spikes, shark tooth necklaces are going to be a huge trend this summer!  I loved the ability to purchase these little babies from an independent artist like myself!  I brought them home (without declaring "organic materials" on my customs form... whoops!) and had fun designing a little set this evening.

I double wire wrapped the shark tooth using 22 gauge 14k gold filled wire onto one of my favorite types of chain: satellite chain.  I love the extra pattern it gives while still maintaining a minimal appearance.  I'm offering it on Etsy with the satellite chain (more expensive) and a standard chain.

Hope you love these as much as I do!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Shopping for Supplies!

One of my favorite parts of jewelry designing is shopping for new treasures to incorporate into my jewelry.  Month after month I'm inspired by the artwork, architecture, and activity bustling around me in downtown Chicago.  Inspiration can come from anywhere - the stained glass exhibit at Navy Pier, new spring flowers at my local flower shop, the funny way Violet (a two-year-old I babysit) chooses to layer my necklaces on herself as she plays dress-up. 

Month after month, I fine-tune my ideas into styles I want to incorporate into my jewelry... then I finally get to shop.  Every few months, massive wholesale gem and jewelry shows come to Chicago and neighboring cities selling all things jewelry related.  They have a fabulous selection of fine jewelry (where I've splurged on a ring I love), but they also have booth after booth of wholesale strands of gemstones, pearls, gold and silver treasures, cheap plastic beads, vintage rings and broaches, thousands of styles of chains... I could go on forever.  If you've seen it in Nordstrom, they have a way for you to make it.  I thank God every time I go for my wholesale tax license!  There are some shows open to the general public, but the really good ones need a tax ID. 

I was recently spoiled with two weekends back-to-back of jewelry shows: Intergalactic Bead Show (one I've been going to for 12 years that also travels up and down the East Coast), and the Jewelry Fashion and Accessory Show.  I'm blessed to have two good friends - Nicole and Anna - who live in my building and are unconditionally supportive of my growing jewelry business.  They tagged along to both shows, which made shopping so much more fun!  I feel like I can develop tunnel vision with some of my styles and designs, so it definitely helps to have a couple people to bounce ideas off of.  My girlfriends got into the excitement and wound up buying several strands and pieces from both shows so they could put together some pieces of their own.  I love inspiring new artists!  Here's a bit of information on the shows I've been to since I've been in Chicago:

  • Intergalactic Bead Show ( is expensive, even for a jewelry supply show.  I've been going to this show for 12 years - it was my first introduction to the overwhelming world of touring jewelry supply shows.  It used to have a huge presence and a lot of floor space, but it is slowly shrinking.  It's definitely worth the trip if it is coming to your area, especially if you don't have any shows coming up and you need to get your hands on some new pieces... but it isn't worth spending a fortune at.  I was extremely luck to find a new booth that I loved at this show last weekend which made the trip worth the drive: Adornments by Kathy Dokomos (  Loved her soft, matte gold pieces!  I'll definitely be ordering more - and she was so sweet and easy to work with!  You can check out some of the bracelets I made with some of her pieces on my Etsy at:

  • Transworld's Jewelry Fashion and Accessory Show ( may be a Chicago thing.  It has more than just jewelry - scarves, perfume, shirts, etc.  This show is more extensive than IBS as well as more affordable, but still isn't the best.  They also have  pre-made cash-and-carry jewelry that retail stores can purchase to incorporate immediately into their shop.

  • International Gem and Jewelry Show ( is the best I've found.  They have an enormous selection of gemstones at rock-bottom prices, tons of styles of chain, and a beautiful selection of fine jewelry to drool over.  They also have a section that is wholesale where you need a tax-ID to enter.  I feel like a kid in a candy shop every time I walk in - it is overwhelming and exciting!  Definitely takes two days and a glass of wine and slippers at the end of each day!  Hopefully we'll road trip to this show when it comes to Columbus Ohio in a couple weeks!  

Looking forward to finding some new treasures at the upcoming shows!  Check them out as I incorporate them into some lines I'm developing! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Jewelry Looks Best on Your Face Shape?

Sometimes I see a beautiful piece of jewelry on a friend and think, "How is she pulling that off?  That would look terrible on me but it looks fabulous on her!"  Certain colors, lengths and styles make one person look balanced and effortless, while they make another person look cumbersome and stuffy.  
I started thinking about how I naturally gravitate toward thin, dangling earrings that are probably too fancy for my job as a speech-language pathologist (but I wear nonetheless).  That got me thinking about this new blog post: what kind of jewelry looks best based on your face shape?  Here's a diagram that will help you figure out what shape your face most resembles:

I have a heart-shaped face, which means I have a wide brow and narrow chin.  The kind of earrings someone with a heart-shaped face wear best are long dangles.  Their objective is to balance their face, creating the appearance that the forehead is narrower and the jawline is wider while providing more length to the face.  Another person with this face shape is the breakout actress from the flick 12 Years a Slave: Lupita Nyong'o.  Check out the earrings she chose:

They add length which is great, but an inverted triangle or teardrop would have helped balance her a bit better.  Still - gorgeous choice!  I love the geometry and sharp angles of the triangle - gives her an extra edge.

Here's a shot of me and my sweetheart on New Years Eve 2012.  You can clearly see my heart-shaped face, and I have a badass pair of long gold dagger earrings on that helped lengthen me out:

Regarding necklaces, I go against conventional wisdom for heart-shaped faces.  I prefer to wear a long layered necklace that comes to a point, but people with heart faces typically look best with a short round necklace that helps soften the chin.  I like this long look partly because I'm so short - nice pair of heels and long layered necklace do wonders to lengthen me out!  If I were taller, though, I'd be able to pull of something art deco like what Reese Witherspoon has on: 

Next we have the round/square face.  The objective of this face shape is to lengthen its appearance.  A round face is about as wide as it is long.  Kirsten Dunst is a good example:

People with round faces do well with longer earrings, especially ovals and rectangles.  People with square faces look great in teardrop earrings!  I have a ton of those on my Etsy site : ) Julia Stiles is a case-in-point:

Women with round/square faces also look wonderful in longer necklaces that extend below the neckline.  As odd as Kristen Schall is, she nailed it with this necklace that helps add some length and point to her face: 

Moving on to rectangular/oblong faces!  Women with a rectangular face have a consistent width from the forehead, cheekbones, and chin.  They usually have slightly sharper angles than someone with an oval shape.  The objective for this face shape is to shorten its long vertical line.  Mona Lisa is a classic example:

Women with this face shape do best with short, round earrings (gold balls, diamond studs, pearls, etc) to contrast with the longer shape of the face.  Take, for example, Jessica Simpson wearing a classic pair of diamonds:

Women with rectangular faces do well with shorter necklaces, especially if they have a long neck.  A choker looks great, although they're not my preference.  I think a nice 16" chain with a pendant helps soften the chin and shorten the neck and face. Gwyneth Paltrow frequently gets this look with a shorter neckline on her dress, but a short string of pearls would achieve the same effect.  I really like how she uses the neckline on the black dress to add a point to her chin:

Finally, the classic oval shaped face.  A woman with this face shape has an equal distance from the hairline to the eyebrow and from the eyebrow to the chin. It's considered the "perfect" face shape: it is slightly longer than it is wide, and can wear almost any neckline or jewelry style.  Lucy Liu is a great example:

She can wear whatever she wants and she'll look fabulous in it!  I've gone back and forth on Zooey Deschanel's face shape, but I'm deciding that she has an oval face.  Sometimes it looks rectangular.  What do you think?

Let's end with the queen of comedy, Tina Fey.  Tina Fey looks fabulous in any jewelry!  I love how she chose to wear bright dangle earrings that really pop against her dark hair:

What experience have you had with your face shape?  Do these rules hold true for you, or would you modify them?  Feel free to email me ( pictures of yourself with a description of your face shape and why you chose the jewelry you did, and I'll add it to this post!  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

South: Anna Spruiell's Success Story

One of the first stores in which I sold my jewelry was Blush Boutique, a wonderful little shop in Mt. Pleasant outside Charleston, SC that specializes in trendy adult and tween clothes.  Anna worked behind the counter at the time, and I loved coming in to bring her my new pieces because she was so much fun to chat with.  I was disappointed one day when I found out Anna had left South Carolina - then thrilled to hear she had decided to embark on a new adventure and open her own shop in Alabama: South.  Anna's shop sent a shockwave around Birmingham that I could feel from North Carolina.  She had a killer opening day (that I shamelessly stalked online), immediately had 1000+ Facebook likes, and somehow had an amazing lineup of fabulous indie designers (including me, I'm proud to say)!  Anna is a shining example of what it means to make grassroots grow!  Anna sat behind a counter in South Carolina ringing up sales... and knew she could make big things happen.  She had the guts to act on her dream, the determination to see it through, and the intelligence to make it thrive.  Anna's community has embraced her with open arms - her business has been a huge success and she continues to evolve as her business sense develops and the artists she features come out with new lines and new styles.  Here's Anna's account of her inspiring story:

My name is Anna Spruiell, and I am the owner and manager of South, an Alabama-based boutique that carries cutting edge women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories.

When I’m not at the store, I love to travel and spend time with my family. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy. It really opened my eyes to new experiences. I love meeting new people, seeing the world, and experiencing other cultures. There is a whole world out there that I am dying to see.

How did you get into the retail business?

After I graduated from The University of Alabama, I moved to Charleston, SC. I didn't know a single person there and was without a job. Ironically, my first day in Charleston, I met a wonderful family who offered me a job at their local boutique. For the next three years, I split my time working as a nanny and at a clothing boutique where I learned the retail business.

What brought you to Alabama?

I am an Alabama native but could never make the leap to move back home after college. My heart finally called me home when one of my family members fell ill and I knew I wanted to be there. I am very close to my family and I decided that I didn't want to spend another moment without my family and friends right beside me. I also felt it was the right decision to open my first store in Alabama – surrounded by my support group.

Growing up in Alabama definitely shaped my style and I wanted to reflect that in the overall feel of the store and designs I have selected for South.

What was your biggest disappointment and success story in the process of opening your own store?

The biggest disappointment was trying to open South without a penny to my name. My parents strongly urged me to go back to school but I insisted on opening my own boutique. I had to take out a loan at 24 years old with very little help. Everyone told me I wouldn't make any money and I would be paying back what I put in it for the next few years. Within the first month of opening South, I had paid everything off and was already making a profit.

What's the best piece of advice you can give other aspiring grassroots shop owners?

Follow your passion and work hard. Be prepared for the store to become your priority and make sure that you have the time to devote to it. I was literally at the store every night until 3 AM for the first 3 to 5 months.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned in opening your own shop?

It has definitely redefined my work ethic. Patience is also important.

What role has Social Media played in promoting South?

Social media has arguably been the strongest driving force in my business. We love to post our items on Instagram and Facebook. We are also looking into new opportunities on Pinterest.

How do you find the artists and vendors you want to feature in South?

I lived in Los Angeles and Charleston for a while and would find things in my favorite stores that had not made it to Alabama yet. We try to bring new lines/items from the west and east coast.

How has South evolved over the past year or so?

Over the past year, South has transformed from a small boutique in Trussville, Alabama with a local customer base to a popular online store that ships to customers all over the country.

What direction do you see South going in the future?

Right now we are considering franchise opportunities for South or expanding on our own. We've also looked at opening South at several locations outside the state of Alabama, but nothing to report just yet. Right now I am just enjoying my first store! Opening South has changed my life, and I so grateful for the opportunity to share the experience with our amazing customers, friends and family. We have the best customers who have helped make South so successful during our first year.

Be sure to check us out online at or stop by for a visit.

I found Anna's story so inspiring, I had to share it with the world!  Hope you've loved reveling in the success of a woman who had enough faith in herself to pursue her dreams and achieve so much more than she expected.  Just look what can happen with intelligence, passion and determination combine!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Interview with Dajana Markota: Owner of String a Strand on Wells

What I'm listening to: I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers

Yesterday I posted a photo blog of my trip to local Chicago jewelry supply store String a Strand on Wells with my fellow grassroots jewelry designer friend, Katy Katan.  Today I'm sharing my follow-up interview with Dajana Markota, owner of String a Strand.  Dajana put in a ton of legwork into making her dream of owning a jewelry supply store in a very competitive retail hub in Chicago.  Here's what she has to say:

Tell me a little about yourself - who you are, where you're from, what you love to do, etc:

My name is Dajana Markota I was born in Croatia, graduated from a business school, started jewelry making as a hobby that turned into my business.

Give me some background on String a Strand - how did it start, how long has it been in business, etc?

The store has been around for about 10 years.  Things were different back than, the economy was much better, it was easier to start and succeed, it still shouldn't stop anyone from pursuing their dreams, don't misunderstand me.

You're in an incredible location in Chicago (Old Town) - what made you choose this spot?

As they say Location Location most important part.  I don't know, somehow I just had this area on my mind, I remember coming here to Old Town and looking at a space that use to be a card reading place (psychic) and thinking to myself "that space would be perfect for my store," and my luck, in about a month, a confidential listing came out on the market for that particular space (unbelievable).  When I called the agent said it will be available next summer, they had to remodel the building.  I took it off the market the next day gave them whatever they asked for rent money :)

I had a whole year to organize and gather my inventory, this meant taking a lot of trips to different countries and hand selecting my merchandise.  All my displays are kitchen tables that serve as  my store display, wood bowls originally sold for dips and appetizers, they hold beads, tea candle holders, and so on, all designed and installed by me and my team.

I love how your store features both jewelry supplies and finished jewelry.  Who makes all the jewelry that's for sale?  Can people request custom pieces?

Most of the jewelry is made in-house.  We do outsource some, and also carry few other artists that use to be our students :)

Do you offer classes?

We do offer classes on jewelry making.  We also do parties, my website has little info about those,

What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome in owning your own shop?

Obstacle hmmm..... let me come back to that one.

How do you decide what to include in your shop?  Do you research styles that are trending?  Are there any websites you look at to figure out what's in style?

How do I decide what to put in my shop... what I like I buy haha, that brings me back to your previous question, I do have to buy things I don't like.  In the beginning I really was buying only things I liked, I did not want to carry dyed beads, plated findings; I wanted to carry high end merchandise, but my customers kept on requesting less expensive option, so I had to  go against my purchase choice and think from the customers' perspective and it helped my business grow, it really did.  Somehow we do stay on top of trends, through our travels, fashion shows, fairs, our customers, etc.

I'm so thankful Dajana had the determination and creativity necessary to start such a beautiful jewelry supply store in Old Town Chicago!  If you're ever in the area check her out at 1361 N Wells St, Chicago IL.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Shop Exposé: String a Strand on Wells

Today my friend Katy and I went to String a Strand on Wells, a fabulous little jewelry supply store in Old Town in Chicago (String a Strand).  It's a great local spot with an eclectic mix of jewelry supplies, finished jewelry, and accessories.   As soon as I moved to Chicago, I scouted out places near me that I could use to pick up some unique pieces, so I walked around and found this little gem.  It's in a great area for food - I LOVE the Italian spot Topo Gigio nearby.  It's also around the corner from Chicago's famous comedy venue Second City.  Here's the store:

I love how the store is laid out with little dishes full of treasures.  They have some really unique pieces!  My favorites are tiny hedgehogs that I put on a gold chain.

Dajana, the owner of the shop, has her own handmade jewelry for sale throughout the store.  She specializes in gorgeous gold necklaces that look wonderful layered with other necklaces.  She has a great idea for displays: velvet over cork board in a frame. 

Here's another shot of her handmade jewelry:

 Dajana also has some beautiful accessories throughout the store, like masquerade masks:

One of my all-time favorite stones is druzy agate.  She has a great selection of gold plated druzy chunks in various shapes and sizes.  She has these in a million colors - definitely worth checking out!

Katy and I had a ton of fun poking through her gems and wound up finding some little treasures to take home and incorporate in our Etsy shops.  Check Katy out at!

Katy found a beautiful strand of gemstone beads.  I'll post what she makes with them once she puts something together!  I got some charms for gold necklaces (the aforementioned hedgehogs, a pineapple, and a ballerina).

Here's a shot of some of her charm necklaces.  She has these in numbers as well:

Overall, it was a very successful trip to a local Chicago jewelry supply shop!  Dajana has a great store with a beautiful layout.  I have a ton of respect for her grassroots shop - look out for my interview with her in my next blog post!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Edgy Bridesmaid Necklaces

Music: Chicago by Sufjan Stevens (

There's something eternally beautiful about a gemstone created by the earth and left raw.  When I was young, I had a rock collection that has evolved over the years into this:

I love these geode slices because they're a peek into a tiny little world.  They seem magical to me, like a fairy's home.  I love how they are glammed up with the high-shine gold plating, taking them from an underground cave to a designer's showcase.  Like Mumford and Sons getting dolled up for the Grammys.  

 I made this particular set for a chick as a special order on Etsy.  I hope she loves them, because it was very sad putting them in the mail!  This is the curse of my art - I get too attached.  And these delicious little nuggets are easy to get attached to.

Check out my other pieces here: Landon Lacey on Etsy