Interview: ASTERrisk, an Etsy jewelry designer

Today I’ll be interviewing Alisa a jewelery designer who has a shop called ASTERrisk on Etsy.

She has an organic feel to her jewelery, and the designs are really inspired by nature.

WHO I AM AND WHERE I GREW UP

ASTERrisk on Etsy, Jewelery Designer

"Nan's Floral Gemstone Pendant" $25 USD

My name is Alisa Webster, and because I know you’re wondering, that’s where the ASTER part of my brand name comes from. A for Alisa, ster for Webster.

The risk is attached, not only because it’s catchy and my logo can be found right there on your keyboard, but because I was a little nervous about putting my designs – a piece of myself – out there, open to criticism and failure.

I’m 40 years old (wow… still getting used to how that sounds); the wife of a great, hard working, and supportive husband; and the mother of 4 amazing kids who can always make me laugh!

I grew up in a small town in Idaho, where I learned to enjoy the outdoors and nature.

I still love… LOVE… to get away from humanity every once in a while and head to the mountains, the desert, the beach, or anyplace that is available, beautiful, and quiet. I now live in Southern California, a place like no other.

I am often amazed at the vast array of things to see and places to go, both urban and rural.

It’s an incredible place to be!

HOW I GOT INTO THE JEWELERY-MAKING BUSINESS

"Mixed Metal Ring" - $18 USD

About seven or eight years ago a friend of mine invited me to take a jewelry class with her.

Up until then, the idea that a person could make their own jewelry had never entered my mind!

The class fell through, but I was intrigued.

So I bought some beading magazines and watched some tutorials online, and I was hooked.

At the time, I was living in Tucson, Arizona, which is a great place to take up this hobby, as there is a lot of artsy-ness (not really a word) there. They also have the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show every February, which is just so huge and amazing, I can’t even tell you.

Google it.

For several years I made jewelry just for gifts, and some for myself.

Or I should probably word that, “I made jewelry for myself and a few gifts,” but I didn’t start selling it until early 2009, when I decided this addiction should start paying for itself.

WHAT MAKES ME WAKE UP IN THE MORNING

I have always enjoyed making stuff. Anything, really.

It’s kind of exciting when a new idea hits me, and fun to watch the idea change in my head as it develops.

"Garnets in the Rough" - $133.50 USD

Sometimes I lie in bed thinking about a design and how I might go about creating it. Then I make it. Sometimes it turns out just the way it looked in my head, sometimes it turns out better!

Sometimes it turns out worse, but that’s sort of depressing so we wonโ€™t talk about that….

The things that drew me to jewelry are:

1) I’m a girl.

2)ย There are so many styles, choices of materials to use, techniques to learn, and endless design possibilities. I could not get up every morning to the same old thing day after day.

Couldn’t do it. There will always be new methods to learn and skills to master, and that’s what keeps things interesting.

Much of my inspiration comes from nature.

I’ve made jewelry out of textures on leaves, bark, rocks, seashells, etc. I love earthy, natural looking things. But sometimes I get in a sparkly shiny mood too!

SOME OF THE CHALLENGES I FACE

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is that there is handmade jewelry everywhere you look. My online shop is on Etsy, a website for all things handmade.

"Silver Flower Ring" - $30 USD

Just now I took a look, and my Etsy search for jewelry came up with 1,616,672 items.

Granted, about 35 of those items are mine, but that’s still a lot of competition! Getting seen takes time and effort, and is often frustrating.

Which brings me to my next challenge: I am a mother of four children, as I mentioned.

It’s hard for me to justify spending too much time on the computer reading and commenting on blogs and forums, on facebook and other social networks, searching online for hours for that perfect bead or component, and basically doing things that I’m always telling my kids are wasting their time. Also, craft shows are just plain hard for me.

They are time consuming, require a ton of inventory, and require that I act like a salesman.

I mostly like making the jewelry, the rest is work.

WHAT I LOVE THE MOST ABOUT MY JOB

I definitely love the variety and the opportunity to learn new things.

I love the freedom of making the things I want to make. I wouldn’t want to have a job that was completely structured and redundant, that would get old fast!

IF I WEREN’T A JEWELERY DESIGNER, I’D BE…

Some other things that interest me are art, history, literature, and those sorts of things. But I really have no desire to be a teacher, so that makes those areas tough.

It would be fun to be a curator of a museum, or a writer, or an archeologist. An archeologist would be awesome!

WHERE DO I SEE MYSELF IN 5 YEARS?

I hope to have progressed in all areas of my life; to have improved myself as a person, strengthened my family, taken time to help those around me, and continued to learn and grow in those things that I’m passionate about.

I THINK MY JEWELERY IS SPECIAL & DIFFERENT BECAUSE…

"Sterling Silver Wrap Ring" - $25 USD

A large part of what I make is one of a kind, and even the pieces I recreate are never exactly the same.

That’s the nature of handmade items – every piece has a character of its own. There will be imperfections and irregularities, but that adds to the uniqueness. If you want something flawless, buy it at Zales.

Also, you have the option of requesting something specific, maybe something with special meaning for a personal gift, or just for yourself.

When I make a requested piece I never make it again for someone else. Sometimes it’s tempting; there are some creative people out there who would be talented designers themselves!

But the idea and inspiration came from you, and belongs to you.

HOW I MAKE MY JEWELERY

I use PMC (precious metal clay) in a lot of my jewelry.

It’s awesome stuff! It’s clay that’s made from very fine silver powder. You can mold it into whatever shape you want, let it dry, and then fire it either in a kiln or with a butane torch.

The clay is burned off, and the silver powder is sintered together.

What’s left is fine silver, which is 99.9% pure silver, as opposed to sterling, which is 92.5% pure. Then it’s ready to be polished.

Polishing is kind of exciting because I get to use a power tool!

Interesting molds and textures are so important in making unique PMC jewelry. Sometimes I buy them, but I really like to make my own.

For instance, I have molds I have made from tiny flowers and leaves from my yard, saguaro cactus ribs, an ancient Roman coin circa 69-79 (the person who owns that coin will remain nameless because she doesn’t know I made a mold of her coin. She might know now…), and lots of others.

These are some of the tools I use when I work with PMC. On the left is my butane torch, on the right is a small rotary tool I use for sanding and polishing, and the blue and peach pieces are examples of molds and textures I have made. The puzzle piece on the bottom is PMC that has been shaped and dried, and is ready to be fired.

These are some of the tools I use when I work with PMC. On the left is my butane torch, on the right is a small rotary tool I use for sanding and polishing, and the blue and peach pieces are examples of molds and textures I have made. The puzzle piece on the bottom is PMC that has been shaped and dried, and is ready to be fired.

This is the puzzle piece being fired. It takes about 2 minutes of this for the silver powder to sinter together.

And this is the finished product: a bracelet from my Autism Awareness line.

In the last year or so I have begun to make some jewelry using sheet metal.

I mostly use sterling silver, but also brass and copper. I love the rich colors and textures in a nice hammered and antiqued piece of copper or brass. And… Bonus!… Copper and brass are much more affordable than sterling. With any sheet metal, I can create jewelry that has a completely different look from PMC. The ring featured in this article is an example of jewelry made from brass sheet and copper wire.

Here are some of the tools I might use when working with sheet metal. Various hammers, paste solder, decorative metal stamps, and tin snips. In the background you can see sterling, brass, and copper sheet.

I also make beaded jewelry, and do a little wire wrapping. Almost exclusively, I use genuine gemstone beads. The only exception is the occasional Swarovski crystal. In most of my jewelry, that part is the finishing touch. It’s the necklace that completes one of my pendants, or the bracelet that goes with the focal piece or decorative clasp I made. It’s how I accessorize my accessories!

Some of the essentials for beading and wire wrapping: an assortment of pliers and wire cutters, chain, jump rings, wire, and of course beads.

And here is an example of beading and wire wrapping.

MY TYPICAL DAY

Did I mention that I’m not a woman of structure? I don’t really have a daily routine that I stick to.

I work by myself and from my house, so there’s a lot of flexibility there. Some days I only do computer work, some days I spend making jewelry, some days I just do laundry and go to the grocery store. There are a lot of variables involved.

Actually, I do spend time on the computer every day (weekdays); updating my shop, ordering supplies, posting comments and new listings on my Facebook page ( just in case youโ€™d love to become a fan!), and communicating with the cyber world through blogs and forums.

I work on jewelry often, but not daily. Jewelry days always go by fast, because suddenly I’ll look at the clock and it’s the middle of the afternoon. Then my kids come home so I’m off work!

HERE ARE MY BEST TIPS FOR ASPIRING JEWELERY DESIGNERS

First, you need to know it can be expensive and frustrating.

You’re not going to be immediately successful, and you’ll probably go for stretches where you don’t sell anything at all. There are millions of people out there, and the majority of them will never buy anything from you.

But there are many who will.

The trick is just to find them. If you believe that you have something other people would be willing to pay for, then stick with it and go find those people.

Second, you need to love what you do. If you don’t love it, then you will hate it.

Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜€

ASTERrisk GIVEAWAY: MIXED METAL RING – $18 USD

CONTEST IS CLOSED. CONGRATS TO STELENE!

We couldn’t just leave you drooling at the end of this post without something, could we?

Here is the ring you will receive in your size:

INTERESTED?

The contest is open WORLDWIDE and ends NOVEMBER 19th 2010 at midnight EST.

THIS IS HOW YOU ENTER:

@brokeinthecity is giving away a Mixed Metal Ring from ASTERrisk (http://bit.ly/cVaxvi). Click here to enter –> http://bit.ly/9n9TiA

GOOD LUCK!!

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.