Meet the Maker: Jess Van Den from Epheriell

meet the maker

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Meet Jess Van Den, 32, from Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia, who runs her own handmade jewelry line, Epheriell, and also founded Create & Thrive, an excellent resource for creative business owners. Create & Thrive has become a huge part of my research and reading for both my blog and my creative business projects I’m working on, and I’m so privileged to share her story with you.

Jess has not only one Bachelors degree, but three of them – in Science, Arts and Education. Before she decided to turn her love of jewelry making into a full-time career, she worked as a traveling Science communicator for the Queensland Museum and her last position was a Manager at a Math and English tutoring center for two years.

She got into making jewelry in 2008 and started out buying components at Spotlight (the Michaels of Australia) and stringing pieces together.

“I didn’t really have any skills, but I slowly learnt more and more – and after taking a weekend silversmithing class, my course was set!”

At first, Jess was simply selling jewelry because she had so much of it scattered around and thought “maybe I can sell some.”  Her decision to make it a career was accidental, and might just be one of the best stories I’ve heard to date. She and her husband got married in 2009 and wanted to travel around Australia in a camper for a year.

“We converted an empty courier van into a camper over summer, but I had a huge saga of dental problems at the same time that prevented us from leaving. I had no job, so I just threw myself into the biz… and, well, the rest is history as they say. We never did get to go on that trip… but we will, one day!

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Her decision to name her jewelry line Epheriell was easy and simple, as it was an online alias she used for many years. She says it’s the mash-up of “ephemeral” and “ethereal,” meaning “lasting for a very short time” and “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world,” respectively.

A “greenie” from the way back, Jess ran a now-defunct blog called Sustainable Suburbia before starting her jewelry line, so its only natural (no pun intended) that she is dedicated to finding recycled sources for her jewelry. She struggled to find sources at first, but finally found a 100% recycled silver.

“I was keen to find a recycled source. All my sheet and wire is now 100% recycled. I’d love to find a source of recycled sterling silver chain, too, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Like many small business owners, Jess loves the freedom that comes with running her own business, but does admit that she does panic a little when business slows down a little, which fortunately does not happen to her too much anymore.

“Enough years have taught me that things always pick up again!”

After running her jewelry business for a few years, Jess decided to start Create & Thrive as a source of practical advice from people who thrived (again, no pun) in their handmade businesses. She wanted to get writers that were a part of the handmade business community and she will actually be welcoming six new writers in 2014!

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

“There is a lot of advice and info out there written by coaches, consultants, and marketers… but not so much written by people actually walking the talk of running a handmade business day-to-day.”

Jess and her husband, Nick, work in two rooms in a converted barn (she really is a greenie!) and her studio takes up the wall of one room. She has a desk with her computer and another desk for all of her jewelry work. She also has a soldering and buffing station outside.

She recently took a digitial sabbatical for a few days, which she credits for improving her workflow and she wrote about all the changes she is making here. She says that her routines, calendars and schedules ensure that she stays on top of everything, and even though it may not all go smoothly, she is usually able to get everything done.

Yup, that's an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

Yup, that’s an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

“I also have a fabulous Assistant Editor for C&T – Megan Eckman – and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Jess names jewelry designer Megan Auman and Business Strategist and writer Tara Gentile among her many mentors, but she can’t pinpoint where her inspiration comes from. She says that sometimes an idea will pop up fully formed in her head.

“Other times I’ll sit down with my sketchbook and deliberately doodle until I come up with something I want to turn into reality. My morning walk is always a good idea-generator, too.”

When Jess is not busy creating beautiful jewelry and motivating small business owners with Create & Thrive, she loves to read and is currently on her third Kindle. She’s mostly drawn to the indie fantasy/paranormal romance genre and science fiction, her first love. An amateur triathlete, she also runs, swims or cycles almost every day.

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

She and Nick also love going hiking, and traveled through all of the National Parks down the US West Coast this year. They have traveled all over the world, and Jess takes a little something from each place she has visited.

“There have been so many amazing places – each one with something unique. I loved snorkeling off the islands in Fiji; taking a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef at sunset; walking the streets of Paris and New York; hiking amongst the Redwoods in California; swimming in Crater Lake in Oregon; playing in the snow in Whistler, Canada… and the list could go on. The world is endlessly beautiful and I only wish I could see all of it before I die.”

Jess says that anyone who hopes to venture into the world of silversmithing should simply “just start playing.” She recommends taking an in-person course (something you might be able to find on Skillshare) and she also recommends checking out Flourish & Thrive for the business aspect, as she says they are focused on helping jewelers grow their businesses.

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Looking into the future, Jess hopes to grow Create & Thrive and to reach more people with the same mindset she has now – to give them practical information and advice to make their handmade businesses a success. When asked what she liked the most about the handmade community, she said “the warmth and support.”

“People are part of our community because they have a passion for what they do, which I love.”

She wants people to realize that they don’t have to stick with the same day job day in and day out, if it’s not something they love and enjoy doing.

If they have a passion or an idea that they want to turn into a business, they owe it to themselves to give it a red-hot go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and keep doing that job. But if you make it work, you get the satisfaction of waking up every day knowing you’re doing something you love, following your own path. No-one’s going to do it for you – it’s up to you. If you want it, go for it!”

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Find about more about Jess and her beautiful jewelry by visiting her at both Epheriell and Create & Thrive. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. My Meet the Maker series appears every other Wednesday and you can find out more about these lovelies by visiting me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I would love to keep this going as long as I can, so if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, let me know!

Momma’s Garden Project: The beginning of the end

garden

This is everything I pulled from my garden yesterday. To say my garden is a mess would be a huge understatement. I let it get away from me for a few weeks, and weeds took over everything. There are ants everywhere and it’s almost too much for me to maintain with the small amount of time I get to spend on it.

So, here is what I’ve learned from my first garden:

  • You don’t need to plant everything you see at the Nursery
  • One garden bed per new mom
  • Maybe don’t even start with garden beds. One garden pot per new mom
  • You don’t need an entire six-pack of peppers. Start with one pack.
  • Look at when it’s good to plant something
  • Think about what you actually eat and decide to start there

I am going to make hot sauce with most of the peppers and then dry the rest. But, it’s almost too consuming for me right now. I shouldn’t have taken on such a big garden for my first time, and I should have dedicated every Sunday to it, like I planned.

I’m going to pull what is left next weekend then I will probably take the plants down before the frost hits. I’m going to get the rest of my basil out now and make all my pesto, then maybe downsize to a smaller herb garden that I can put in front so it will be sheltered from the rain.

At least I can say that I was able to give a lot of family and friends gifts from my garden, and we haven’t bought tomatoes in a long, long time! It was an awesome learning experience and I’m so glad I started it. I have truly learned that to be good at anything, you need to put a lot of time into your practice. This will help me on so many levels, and I’m not sure I would have seen this so clearly if I had not started my garden.

The best part of it all – I can finally get into canning!

Grow Write Guild #5: Listen to your garden

growwriteguild_banner

Sometimes, I find it really hard to write a post about my garden. Aside from talking about what new plants are sprouting, there is not much left to say. And even that can be rather boring at times. That’s why I have really taken a liking to the Grow Write Guild over at You Grow Girl.

It’s cool to be able to read about other people’s gardens and to check out what they have going on, and it gives me something different to write about each week. So, this week’s prompt is: What does your garden sound like?

I am extremely, extremely lucky that my garden is located in the country. I don’t hear the cars driving by, I hear birds flying from tree to tree. I hear the dogs barking inside their crate and playing around. I hear the windmill creaking and the door leading to even more acreage, creak as it opens and closes by itself.

On most weekends, I hear my boyfriend and his dad working on their trucks and walking back and forth to the garage. If there is a light breeze, I’ll hear the plants swaying back and forth and if I bring my daughter with me, I’ll hear her obnoxiously loud bouncer as she jumps around.Sometimes, even as all this is going on around me, I don’t hear anything. I just close everything out of my mind and focus on the task at hand, ridding my beautiful, beautiful sanctuary of all the weeds!And sometimes, when I’m pulling out those weeds, I find the most exciting thing I have seen in a long time.  A RED TOMATO!IMG_3859I have attempted to plant tomatoes before, but they never worked out. This is my very, very first time I have had a red tomato! And I don’t even like tomatoes. But, I do love salsa! And my boyfriend is a tomato fan, so I put them in his sandwiches. They’re also good for pizza (duh) and homemade pasta sauce. I planted six tomato plants and they all have tomatoes growing, so I think we’ll be good on tomatoes for a while, may need to even give some away.
IMG_3861 IMG_3865 IMG_3874Not only are my tomatoes finally showing some life, but so is everything else! I did have to pull some herbs as they weren’t growing, but everything that is planted right now is growing wonderfully! The potatoes should be good to pick soon, and my spinach is finally showing some potential.

IMG_3866

Seriously though, look at those green wonders!

IMG_3864 IMG_3870The only thing that I’m a little worried about is my compost. It’s taking a while for all the fruit and veggies to compost, and I’m realizing that I should have probably cut them into pieces before throwing them in there (oops), so I’ll be doing that in the future for sure. It will take a while this way, but at least it will be ready for my next crop.IMG_3871If you have a garden that you love writing about, be sure to check out the Grow Write Guild, and that site in general. Share links to your garden in the comments!

Momma’s garden project: week 6

growwriteguild_banner

A couple weeks ago, I was introduced to what might be the most amazing thing I have ever found, The Grow Write Guild by You Grow Girl. It was started by Gayla Trail and is an online garden journal. Every two weeks, you get a new prompt that somehow relates to your garden. This week’s prompt was: Describe your fantasy garden.

Well, my fantasy garden would be in the same place it is now. I love the area it is in, it’s all blocked off and just for my little plants. But there would be more to it. The fences would be lined with avocado trees. There would be a blueberry bush and my strawberries would be out of control.

There would be a stone pathway into the garden and there would be a little garden area for Cecilia where she could grow what she chose, and tend to it. Then she would love tending to her garden so much that she would be inspired to tend to mine.

I would have a pineapple tree and a banana tree upon entering. There would be flat, dark rocks everywhere and in the middle would be this amazing table with running water streaming down the middle and watering the plants below. I saw the table on Pinterest and it has since gotten lost in the shuffle. But that table will be mine!

There would be a bench (of course) where I would read my book and sip tea while the sprinklers did my job for me.

Ah, fantasy.

IMG_3526

While I’m working on my fantasy garden, here’s how my for real garden is going. The tomato plants are getting bigger so I finally had to break out the cage. I only have one cage for now, so the biggest plant got spoiled. The others will just have to wait. We got in some peppers….sweet!

IMG_3524

IMG_3494 IMG_3500

Now for the sad part. I posted some beautiful broccoli pictures last week, then I was saddened to learn that those flowers in the pictures were actually bad. What? Since when are flowers bad? So, I had to break off that part to let it grow some more. My strawberries took a definite pooper, so I had to take them out of the planter and into the ground.

IMG_3504

Look at that sad basil. Makes me sad to know my basil is so sad.

Look at that sad basil. Makes me sad to know my basil is so sad.

You can find more fantastic garden ideas on my Pinterest and you can see more garden pictures on my Facebook page.

So, how is your garden doing?