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!

Meet the Maker: Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

As part of my creative business journey, I have included another series on my blog. It’s called Meet the Maker and it’s where I share awesome stories from some of my favorite makers. This is to help inspire and motivate, but to also help promote the handmade community. I believe that if we all come together to support and promote each other, amazing things can happen.

And just by happenstance, the very first maker in my Meet the Maker series is the lovely Amanda Wright from Wit & Whistle. Not only does she have the best name in the world, she also prints on anything from pillowcases, hand towels, greeting cards, journals and more.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Amanda, 29, graduated from the North Carolina State College of Design in 2006. There, she learned a valuable lesson: don’t give up if something doesn’t turn out right the first time.

Every project goes through many drafts before completion. Design is a process with many steps, and not all of those steps are nice to look at!

Ain’t that the truth.

After graduation, she got a job at a design firm and while she loved where she worked, she wasn’t allowed very much creative freedom. While she had a few clients that were more open-minded, others weren’t as cooperative, which is something she admits she didn’t learn about in design school.

They’ll slap a big ugly logo onto your beautiful design and ask you to rearrange your masterpiece until it’s unrecognizable. Each time that happened it was a painful stab to my creative spirit.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

She started designing cards in her free time, under the name Spawn Studio. To her surprise, her card sales took off, and her husband Daniel encouraged her to quit the design firm and work on her greeting card business from home. It took a few months of him pushing her, but she finally made the leap in 2009.

While she’s not a fan of all the math involved with running your own business, she does appreciate the flexible hours.

I relish the freedom to work on what I want to, when I want to. After all, the creative urge doesn’t always strike between the hours of 9 and 5!

With more time to create when and what she wants, she keeps a running list of ideas in her head. Then when she is in a creative mood, she will pick from the list.

I do most designing in my sketchbook. Then, I scan my drawings into the computer and add color digitally. I started out printing, folding, and cutting all my products myself, but now I work with a local printer to produce most of my goods. That way I have more time to create!

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Making her own schedule allows her a few creative brain farts from time to time.

Sometimes there will be a multiple week stretch in which I wonder if there’s even a speck of creativity left in my body. Usually the cure is to step away and do something else for a while. I might repaint a room of the house, bake something, snap some photos, or come up with a DIY project for my blog. When I get back to designing, my brain fart has usually dissipated.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Brain fart or not, Amanda is motivated by her desire to constantly improve. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she is never completely satisfied with her work, which drives her to keep practicing.

It’s cliche, but I want to be the best I can possibly be. I want to make the most of this amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams.

A Regina Spektor fan, Amanda will sometimes listen to music while she is designing, but her studio time is usually spent listening to podcasts, like Relic Radio‘s rebroadcast of science fiction radio shows from the mid 1900s.

They’re cheesy in an endearing way. They always make predictions about the distant future (1997), and they’re always way off. (We are supposed to be living on Mars with robot slaves by now.)

Amanda would describe her work as “pretty with an unexpected touch of crassness,” and sometimes, the crass can be a little too unexpected, like she learned with her biggest card flop – a Mother’s Day card for new moms.

The front said something like “POP, CRACK, GROAN, SNAP, RIIIPPPP…” and the inside said “It’s a good thing you have nice birthing hips.”

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Always wanting to improve, Amanda is taking a crash course in Calligraphy with Molly Jacques on Skillshare. She is also working on spiral notebooks, her 2013 holiday line, notepad designs and even her Valentine’s Day cards. With all this going on, she admits she has a hard time relaxing.

Even when I’m watching TV I have my sketchbook in hand. My husband and I try to go on a big trip every year or so—preferably to someplace where I can get a new stamp in my passport. It’s nice to force myself out of my comfort zone and experience something totally new.

Amanda says that being a small business owner has taught her not to over-think it. She didn’t follow the normal process of writing up a business plan and getting everything figured out before setting up shop. She slowly started putting her work out there, and it has continued growing.

Maybe that’s not the smartest business advice, but it has worked pretty well for me. If I had tried to figure everything out in the beginning, I would’ve been overwhelmed and given up!

As if sharing her story was not enough, Amanda is also offering a 15% off your purchase at her store. Just click on the coupon below! If you want to learn more about her, you can connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

If you have an idea for a good Meet the Maker profile, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #meethtemaker or simply tag me in your post! And you can find more inspiration for my Meet the Makers series and creative business journey on Pinterest!