Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Shop Feature!: Star*Art Jewelry

Meet Pamela Troutman, she has been beading since 2000 and is the passionate and caring owner of “Star*Art Jewelry”.   Star*Art Jewelry opened in 2006 and is an Etsy shop that specializes in custom and functional beaded jewelry while providing excellent customer service.

Pamela has a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from the University of Mary Washington where she learned engraving, drawing and painting, but she did not want to be a starving artist so she minored in Cartography (map making) and served the Department of Defense (DOD) for 34 years, retiring in 2014.  While employed at the DOD Pamela made lanyards to hold the identification badge she wore.  Star*Art Jewelry was born when her co-workers noticed the colorful necklaces and began placing orders. 

How did you come up with your Etsy Shop name?

STAR*ART was born when my passion changed from running a Shelter That Adopted and Rescued (STAR) ferrets to making jewelry.  When I met my first husband, he wanted a ferret as a pet.  We got one from someone who did not want theirs anymore. Then we went to a pet shop and bought it a friend. Other people heard we had ferrets and word got around, and when people no longer wanted their ferrets, they gave them to us.  At about 8 ferrets I said, “We can’t keep them all” so I started a ferret rescue.  At that time, the local animal shelters would not accept ferrets.  After 9 years, and 1300 ferrets placed along the east coast, plus working towards research to approve a rabies vaccine, ferrets are now being accepted at the local animal shelters and I closed my rescue in the late 1990’s.

The year 2000 was a big year for me.  I remarried, and became an instant grandmother.  I looked for a creative outlet that would fit in my townhouse and my time schedule and beading was that outlet.  I started simple, just making beaded necklaces for my ID badge.  Co-workers started to ask for lanyards, and STAR*ART was born.  Why STAR*ART? Well, I didn’t want to change my e-mail address at the time (starferrets) so I incorporated my previous hobby name with my new passion.

You began your venture in jewelry making with bead stringing, how did you become interested in other types of jewelry making?

Through the Northern Virginia Bead Society (NVBS), I took a class from Sherry Serafini.  I was then hooked on bead embroidery.  My first embroidery design was for a NVBS Bead Challenge in 2008 – we were given a bag of beads and had to use them ALL. From these odds and ends in the bag I created “My Elephant”.  

How do you market your jewelry?
“Custom and Functional Beaded Jewelry for Work and Play” is the tag line for my lanyards, but I think it applies to my beadwork as well.  Unique, never repeated, simple and elegant.
I use Etsy as a web site – for customers who see something and then think about it later – they can come back and purchase it.  Other than custom lanyard orders, I rarely sell off Etsy.  Most of my sales are at church craft shows or at ART A La Carte Gallery and Gifts in Occoquan.
I do post on Facebook – a lot of people enjoy my posts on the progress of something I’m working on.  I do not blog, unless you count some of my “Show and Tell” processes on my Facebook page.

You describe your custom jewelry as functional and comfortable, what is your design process?
Many people don’t think about customization, but I love being able to feed the artist in me by taking their desires and make something JUST FOR THEM. It means more to the person who wears the jewelry if they had input, and the closest I had to dissatisfaction was one person who wanted brighter colors, so I exchanged the piece and she was very happy.  I’ve done running themed lanyards, animal themes, names of children… the possibilities are endless.

The functional applies to my beaded lanyards – when you remove the clip it looks like a necklace.  The comfortable applies to my beadwork – I don’t use crystals much because they are sharp. I am very particular about what touches the back of the neck – nothing pointed or rough. I mainly use large clasps or magnetic clasps so the necklaces are easy to put on and take off. I don’t make things too heavy. I do put every piece of jewelry on to see that it hangs well, is balanced and comfortable.

Many of your pieces have interesting and unusual pendants, how do you meet the challenge of keeping your jewelry affordable yet interesting?
I shop on eBay, thrift shops, and such places for things I can bezel or embroider around.  If you don’t mind waiting a month for delivery, there are lovely gemstone cabs on eBay for just a few dollars.  I do a lot of embroidery or bead weaving in front of the TV, so instead of counting the hours spent to make something, I count the number of fire line threads I pull from the box and base the price on that.  I work with a “two-arm” length.

What is the story behind your “Pay It Forward” listing?

I believe in helping out a good cause.  It is also a way to find a home for some pieces that I can’t bear to tear apart but no one seems to want to adopt for themselves.  I am proud of all the jewelry I make, but sometimes the right person has not come by to adopt my piece.  These orphans become donations, because every piece of jewelry deserves a person to wear it.

It is evident that you know great customer service is critical, what are the top three ways you ensure customer satisfaction?
Ask questions, give suggestions, and offer refunds or exchanges. For example, I have a person who saw a bead woven necklace in the...
...but wanted it in other colors to match her “Mother-Of-The-Bride” dress.  I wanted to know what she liked about it – the drape (Russian spiral is a softer drape than peyote), the sparkle, the pendant?  Then I told her I had pendants she could select from, but maybe she would prefer me to use a pin or heirloom piece she already owned.  She loved that idea.  We will be meeting in the middle of May so I can see the dress in person, match the beads, determine the length and weave, and see what she brings as a focal piece.  This will be a great opportunity for me to take timeline shots and post progress reports on Facebook.  Also, create a listing on Etsy showing an example of my custom made process for necklaces (versus lanyards).  I do not offer refunds or exchanges for custom made beaded pieces, but I do for everything else.

What has been the most difficult thing about starting a handmade business, and what has been the most rewarding?
The difficulty is getting the sales. There are so many jewelry makers on Etsy.  There are too many beautiful designs.  It is difficult to stand out, this is one of the reasons I wanted to join the EBW team – the monthly contests, even if I don’t enter every one, inspire me to create something outside my normal thought pattern.  I find the monthly challenges get my creative juices flowing.  Those contests are also bringing people to my Etsy store.  So far, no sales as a result, but the boost in views and likes might pay off one day.  Sales are okay at the gallery because people can pick up and try on my pieces, something you can’t do on-line.  I do not teach or have my own pattern line so I do not have name recognition; I specialize in one-of-a-kind pieces.  Finding that one-of-a-kind person is the challenge.  The most rewarding thing is the custom orders – few and far between, but ever so worth it.  I enjoy making people happy and I love to create what they cannot do for themselves. 
Pamela Troutman is proof that necessity is not only the mother of invention but she is also the inspiration for creativity.  

 This is where Pamela gets creative:  

One of Pamela’s beautiful pieces:

To see more of Pamela’s beautiful work, visit the links below.

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