What is your main craft, hobby or artist talent?
My main craft is jewelry making and wire-wrapping.
What other crafts, hobbies or artist talents (if any) do you have?
I often joke I'm a "Jill of All Trades" because there are few crafts I won't try at least once. I'm an avid - though still learning! - photographer. I also dabble in paper crafting, polymer clay, dollhouse miniatures and more. I enjoy being creative in general and participate in various craft swaps to give me an outlet for my crafty tendencies. My home is full of more craft supplies and materials then I can count. It's not uncommon for me to be found with glue, ink and/or paint "decorating" my hands.
How did you learn to do the crafts, hobbies or artist talents you do?
I'm an entirely self-taught artist. I've always been crafty ever since I was a little kid. Back then it was crayons and construction paper but you'd always find me making something or another!
I started beading and making jewelry specifically about 12 years ago now. It began with a routine trip to a local craft store and seeing a brand new display of beads and findings. Everything looked so pretty, so I bought some items - all of which were totally the wrong things! But, I just kept plugging away at it until I started to get a feel for how it all worked, what the tools were for, how to use the findings properly, etc. I'm one of those people who enjoys jumping in and figuring things out on my own. I usually do pretty well that way but if I get stumped, I will turn to Google and YouTube. There's an amazing amount of highly creative people out there who share good information. Twelve years later, I've learned a lot but I'm always open to new techniques and trying new things.
What is your favorite crafting medium to work with?
I love working with wire and gemstones. Specifically, my Tree of Life pendant has become the signature piece that I'm known for. I always enjoy making them and never run out of variations to try. The added bonus is I get to work with beautiful gemstones everyday! That is never a bad thing.
What is your craft or work space like? Is it well organized or messy? Do you have a dedicated space or is it spread out all over the house or office?
As we live in a modest apartment, I do the majority of my creative projects on the living room couch. Which can certainly make a mess! I try to store the supplies in my spare bedroom as best as possible though I am sadly in need of much more organization. I've outgrown my shelves and bookcases at the moment. When I want to work on a project, I gather up the items I need and bring them out to the living room and typically take over the couch. I do try to put things away when I'm done but I admit, it doesn't always happen as quickly as it should. :)
As for my jewelry supplies, I keep the bulk of it in the spare room, but many of my daily-use items simply stay out in the living room and several tackle boxes full of beads are found daily under my coffee table. I'm in good company though, since my fiance's art supplies are often covering the TOP of the coffee table. It's not hard for visitors to tell pretty quickly that we're a creative household!
Who and/or what inspires you? What is your creative process like?
I'm really inspired by Nature. I grew up in very rural Pennsylvania and spent large portions of my life playing in the woods across the street from my house. My Mom instilled a great love and respect for the Earth and Nature in me at an early age and that has really stuck. I love working with various gemstones because they are so very earthy and natural.
When I want to create a new piece, I normally spend some time looking at my beads and gemstones. I might try taking a few of each out and pairing them together to see how I like the combination. Many times, I have an idea in mind and I jump right in and see if I can figure it out as I go along. This is especially true when making my Trees; I'm so comfortable with the wire that my hands just know what to do without me over-thinking it. Working with the wire is very soothing and relaxing to me because I've done it for so many years now.
Is your Etsy Shop your main job or do you have another job?
PhoenixFire Designs started off as a hobby but has turned into my job and my passion. I have sold on Etsy - http://PhoenixFireDesigns.etsy.com - since 2006 but it's only in the past year that it's become my "full time" job. I had a serious medical crisis last year including major surgery and, as a result, I lost my day job. (They didn't hold it for me while I was recovering from surgery.) I didn't want this to defeat me though, so I'm trying to turn this hardship into an opportunity. My shop provides not only the means to help rebuild (financially/emotionally/physically) after the challenges of the past year, but is also a positive way for me to help contribute something beautiful back to the world.
How did you choose the name for your Etsy Shop? What meaning does it have, if any?
I've always loved the imagery and mythology of the Phoenix. It's been my favorite mythical creature as long as I can remember. I've related to the idea of growing and changing and building up from the ashes and challenges in life for many years. I like the idea of growth and change and knowing that ends can be beginnings as well.
So, when I was looking for a name for my fledgling side project to sell some of my work, I wanted something that could encompass many types of craft and yet would still be very "me." The name came very quickly and PhoenixFire Designs was born.
Why did you turn your hobby into a business or was being a business always in the plan?
The idea to sell some of my work came about initially as a way to pay for my hobby. By selling things, I could buy more supplies and get creative without it coming out of the budget. Eventually, it grew to be a side job for me; being more than just enough to cover expenses, it brought in extra income and allowed for a little more fun in life.
When I got sick and lost my job, I took it as the kick in the butt I needed to really try to run it full time. I had long wanted to focus on it more but it's scary to make that leap. In some ways, getting sick made positive changes in my life and now I spend much more time doing things I love instead of just doing a job I hate to pay the bills.
My fiance has been very supportive of me in this transition and helps cheer me on as I work on growing and expanding my business further. It's really helpful to have that kind of backing in your corner.
What is the best and/or worst experience you have had since opening your Etsy Shop?
The best by far is when my customers reach out to me and tell me how much my pieces have touched them. I've been lucky enough to share in so many deeply moving moments in people's lives as a result. From celebrations like the birth of children to weddings and more all the way to sadder moments like loss of a loved one. I've made Memorial and Remembrance trees to help those dealing with loss celebrate the lives of those who have passed and to keep them close to their hearts. Recently, I had a woman buy a pendant for her daughter which had a dual meaning; both helping her heal from a miscarriage and also celebrate her new pregnancy. Things like that leave me truly honored and flattered to have been a small part of such big moments.
The worst experiences in running a shop are when things go wrong. You get the occasional package that goes missing, or a problem in your personal life which delays things outside your control, etc. Those are the times when you need to evaluate the situation and be honest with your customers. Do your best to resolve the issue as fairly as possible and you can turn a bad situation into one where the customer will appreciate your help so much that they tell others and come back again in the future.
What tips do you have for other team members?
Be flexible! The more you can work with your customers needs, the better your shop will do. For example, offer customization options. Work with customer requests to make change to items, or to make a new item based on their ideas.
Also, be open to things like expedited shipping options. Sometimes customers wait until the last minute so have a plan on what you can do and deliver in short time frames - and how much extra it costs to deliver pieces in a rush.
Be fair, open and honest! Think about when you're buying something and what you like and dislike from sellers. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. This means acknowledging orders and questions, replying to emails promptly, and providing updates and shipping notifications so the customer isn't left wondering what's going on. This is especially true on custom orders where there can be delays in obtaining materials or creating custom pieces. If there is a problem, work with the customer to see what you can do to resolve it. Many times, it doesn't take much to resolve a problem and both you and your customers will appreciate it.
What tips do you have for new shop owners?
Take your shop seriously. If you want to make it work, you really have to put in the time and effort. Take good photos of your items, including some kind of size reference. It's hard to tell how big or small an item is by a photo online. Give details in your description; what it's made from, measurements, what exactly is included, etc. Try to show a variety of items or options because inevitably, someone will ask if changes are possible. (And if they're not, say that too.) Also, be clear about your policies like shipping times and returns.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not running your Etsy shop?
I really enjoy photography so I take advantage of living in Florida and frequent local parks, the beaches and other attractions as much as possible to hone my skills. I'm a big Disney buff and like heading over to Walt Disney World as well both for the fun and the photographic opportunities.
Where else can you be found online?
You can also Like PhoenixFire Designs on Facebook: http://facebook.com/PhoenixFireDesigns
and check out our blog:
What else would you like to share about yourself or your business?
I always try to put love and care into each of my pieces. I want someone to receive their order and for it to put a smile on their face. When they wear it, I want them to have a little moment of beauty they can carry with them. My wish is that my customers love my jewelry as much as I love creating it for them. PhoenixFire Designs might not be the biggest shop out there, but I think I've got positive growth and momentum and potential for more.
Most people never have a chance to do what they love in life. I love this. And I hope that I can continue doing it for many years to come.
Miss M. Turner, 35, lives in Florida with her guy and two cats. She runs her own small jewelry business, PhoenixFire Designs, which specializes in world-famous Tree of Life pendants, bird nest jewelry, bridal jewelery and more. You can also "Like" PhoenixFire Designs on Facebook for updates and special promotions.