Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi all, I'm Jess, and I hail from the countryside about an hour north of Brisbane. My husband Nick and I are currently living with my parents while we subdivide their acreage – then we'll be building our own home here, too! We love living in the country, it's so quiet, with birds and animals all around. We'll often take our cat for a walk around the property of an afternoon (no, not on a leash – he's just very much a people-cat and will follow you around everywhere when he's awake!).
Once upon a time I was going to be a research scientist, then I was a teacher, now I run my business full-time, making jewellery, blogging, and launching a new Aussie zine called *bespoke* (see here), all about handmade, vintage, photography, art, micro-business, eco-friendly goodness and much more – all in a sweet little A5 sized package that you can take anywhere! I also build the odd website for fellow crafters. In short, I'm amazingly busy, all the time, and love, love, love it!
Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use? I make sleek, contemporary jewellery using predominately recycled sterling silver – silver that is sourced from industrial processes and refined again to make eco-friendly metal! I love that I can use recycled materials in my designs. My work is modern yet fun – I want my jewellery to become people's 'go-to' jewellery – something you love to wear every day, not just put away for a special occasion. I've had many people tell me that their pair of Urban Eco earrings have become the pair they wear every day, which is fantastic!
I make my designs using tiny jewellers files and a sweet little jewellers anvil (it's only about 8cm long!). My hammers are my best friends, as they help me to shape and strengthen my designs. I also have a myriad of mandrels that I use to shape rings (including my square rings!) and bracelets. I play with fire every day, too, when I solder pieces together with my torch.
Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process? Oh, I honestly don't know where the inspiration for my designs comes from! Often a shape just comes to me, and I'll sketch it in my A4 sketchpad – or I might see a geometric shape and that will spark off an idea. Sometimes I'll just make stuff right off the bat while I'm sitting at my workbench, but most often I'll at least make a preliminary sketch of an idea.
I have quite a defined style nowadays, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it gives me boundaries in materials and style to work within; and a curse because at times I'll have an idea that won't fit at all with my current style... but usually I can figure out a way to make it work!
How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art? Until September 2008, I didn't think of myself as a creative person at all! I was a scientist, a teacher – a logical, rational person… and I never felt totally fulfilled.
Then, I went to Fiji. My boyfriend (now husband) Nick and I met a lovely fellow Aussie family. We became friends, and the day we left, the mother of the family gave me a novel to read – she'd read it, and decided to pass it on. I can't remember what it was called, but it was a story about a woman who owned a yarn store in New York. When I finished that book, I decided to try knitting… and that's where it all began!
I discovered that I LOVED creating, making, working with my hands. The previously empty part of my 'self' was filled, and I finally became a whole person. I went from knitting to crochet to beads to resin to metal... and fell in love with metalworking. The Epheriell style as it exists now really started to come into being in mid-2009.
How did you come up with your business name? Oh, that was an easy choice. I'd invented the name 'Epheriell' years ago and used it online, it seemed like the natural choice when I started my business. It's a mash-up of the words 'ephemeral' and 'ethereal'. I love the sound of it, and the ideas it represents.
What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?
My best help is the fantastic group of friends I have made online. The ability to talk together, share thoughts, concerns, triumphs – to have people to ask questions of – it's really important when you work alone at home.
Also – Google Analytics is a fabulous tool. It is so powerful, and allows you to really examine where the traffic to your site is coming from, what people are searching for, and a whole lot more. I definitely recommend people make sure they have that set up.
Also, twitter. Gosh I love twitter!
What's your best advice for someone starting up?
Just do it! Don't dither around trying to get everything perfect before you start – you won't. Just launch yourself out there, keep working hard on making more awesome work, and keep sharing it. Believe in yourself and your work – and always do your best.
Selling online, the absolute key is your photography. Learn how to take clear, captivating and enticing product shots. Never, ever use a flash! Have a consistent background and look to your photography – and stick to it.
Mostly – have fun! And take time off – this is something I'm terrible at, but I always feel refreshed for taking a break. It can be really hard to do when you are busy, but you have to realise that no-one is going to tell you it's your 'day off' – you have to make it happen. I got really sick for a day a while back (Nick said he knew I was really ill because I didn't even get on my laptop) and it made me realise that the world will not implode if I'm away from the computer for a day.
Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?
Join twitter, and use it (twitter.com/jessvanden). This is, hands down, the best thing I've ever done for my business – let alone my sanity! I have made so many friends (and sales) through twitter, and there is no way I could have launched *bespoke* so successfully if it wasn't for the power of twitter and the connections I've made. It even landed me a radio interview (watch here)!
Also - use facebook (facebook.com/Epheriell), and if you enjoy it, a blog (epherielldesigns.com). Make connections, promote and support other handmade sellers, and become a part of this awesome community. You won't regret it! The people in this community are so welcoming, supportive and wonderful!
Don't forget to keep creating – that is, after all, why you started this! New items will keep people coming back for more!
I do advertise from time to time, and it's a vital part of any business to do so. Just make sure you've thought about who your target market is before you launch into advertising – you want to make sure you're spending your money in the right places.
Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way? Let's start with packaging. In the early days I would buy my envelopes from the post office – way too expensive! Always make sure to buy in bulk, and have a good supply – and re-order while you've still got enough! That goes for all supplies, too. I remember once I got a huge run of orders, and had to delay them because I'd run out of silver. I re-ordered in what I thought was enough time, but my supplier was out of stock and we both had to wait! Lesson – make sure to have plenty of supplies on hand, and don't get them get too low.
Also, don't be afraid to contact your customers if you're not 100% sure about something – whether it's their name, address, an aspect of their order – I've neglected to do this once or twice when I've had a niggling question, and it's come back to bite me. Mail going to the wrong place, for example!
What do you like to do besides creating? I have always been a bookworm, so reading a good science fiction novel is right up there! I love to go walking, I find it's a good time to let my mind wander, and I often come up with great ideas. We used to live right near the beach, and I would try to go walking along the board-walk regularly – I miss the sea, but I love the quiet here in the country.
I also love cuddling up with my husband Nick and our cat, Gobbolino, and just chatting about the future, or watching a movie. We don't do this enough, as I'm always working – I think it's time to institute a weekly movie night!
What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website?
I love Aussie music – Sarah Blasko, Little Birdy, Powderfinger, The John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins, and many more.
Picking my favourite book would be like choosing a favourite child, but a few that come to mind are the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (can you tell I like long stories?). I also love anything written by Stephen Baxter and Ian M. Banks. And old sf by people like Asimov and Clarke. Okay, I'll stop now!
Most of my time online is spent working, but if I want to go skive off, I use StumbleUpon to find cool stuff. I also love reading fellow crafty blogs, of which there are too many to name!
What would be your perfect day?
Hmm, well, it would be winter in the morning, and I would have a big English breakfast and tea in bed with Nick, while a fire roared in our mountain cabin (and the cat would be purring and sprawled out on the bed, too). I would read for a while, then maybe do a little crafting – just for fun, you understand.
In the afternoon it would miraculously be late spring, and I'd step outside and suddenly find myself on a gorgeous calm beach, possibly in Fiji (I can't wait to go back there again) to go snorkelling on the colourful reef. As the warm evening drew in, my dearest friends from all over the country and the world would turn up to our cocktail party by the sea, and we'd eat and dance and laugh together.
Who is one of your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words? That Vintage - because Sophie makes beautiful things, all of which I want!.