Meet the Maker
When her friend was in the process of selling his beachside home, Barb Owen-Boerger had the desire to create a keepsake memory for him. As for many of us, his home held many special memories which included the spreading of his mother’s ashes.
Barb was inspired to create – and Sand Bay Jewelry was the outcome.
It is always interesting to learn how one becomes inspired to create and how that creativity turns into an art form and business. I’m grateful for Barb for taking some time to tell us about her creative process.
Becky: I love that your jewelry has a strong sense of place. Has it been well received in your community?
Barb: Yes, it has. Like most communities in The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes – Minnesota, our community has a deep connection to the local lake, Rainy Lake. Sand Bay Jewelry featuring sand from Rainy Lake is a whole new way to express and share that connection and pride.
Becky: Do you receive many custom pieces to create? Have you had any “interesting” items that you have been asked to embed in resin?
Barb: Nearly all of the pieces I make are custom, actually. I think that is what draws people to the concept. When I embed the sand they contribute, the piece forever represents a physical piece of a place and time that holds great meaning.
Every sand tells a tale of geography, culture, adventure, and relationships. For this reason, I am frequently asked to embed cremation ashes of a loved one into the pieces. I can’t begin to express how honored I am each time someone trusts me with something so sacred.
Becky: Was the learning curve for creating your one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces difficult? You mentioned that failing and evolving has been more rewarding than you would have expected. Tell us more.
Barb: Looking back now, the early challenges seem less difficult and more humorous! I cannot believe how much my knowledge has grown. I still have several wonky early pieces that look quite rudimentary to me now. I keep them to remind myself that there is never a perfect piece or a perfect time to take the leap. And without sharing my early work and being open to feedback, I never would be where I am today.
What I find so rewarding is the unexpected beauty in every piece and the reaction of the person for whom it was created. How blessed am I to have total strangers invite me into the process of giving a one-of-a-kind gift to someone so dear to them? Every time, I just can’t believe that I get to do this kind of work.
Becky: Did you have any jewelry making experience prior to starting Sand Bay Jewelry?
Barb: During my final semester in college – for a degree not at all related to the arts, I took a “Small Metal Sculpture” class to satisfy a credit requirement. It was actually a jewelry making class where we learned to cut, form, solder and finish a variety of metals. I ate it up, graduated and 25 years later, I’m finally making jewelry. While I don’t get to solder, cut, form and sculpt for this jewelry, the experience has given me the knowledge to know what to look for in quality components. That has proven to be priceless.
Becky: Do you have a favorite platform that you like to market your jewelry? Instagram, Facebook, Etsy? Why?
Barb: I use Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy to market. I am still trying to determine which is most favorable. These have all been best for smaller custom orders. I market directly to wholesale customers. Personally, I like direct marketing better – I like meeting new people!
Becky: Do you do shows? If so, what do you like about face to face selling?
Barb: That has been a tough one. Because Sand Bay Jewelry does have such a strong sense of place, the inventory for each show would have to feature sand specifically from that area. I couldn’t possibly keep up! I’d say it’s the only drawback to the custom nature of this work.
I prefer creating face to face relationships overall. In the past, I have been invited as a featured artist (this still feels like a strange way to describe myself), meeting customers at shops that carry Sand Bay Jewelry. Everybody has a story to tell about the connection to their favorite lake, beach, vacation or adventure! Storytelling has a magical way of inviting another person into your joy. The connections made are sincere and meaningful. People are endlessly interesting. It is a natural way to create even more value and meaning in the piece of jewelry they purchase.
I am also lucky enough to work with a sales rep at the Minneapolis Market. When I attend, it gives me the chance to connect with potential wholesale buyers and to help them learn what makes SBJ such a unique way to tell their own story through Sand Bay Jewelry. I have learned so much about the wholesale market through my sales rep there.
Becky: Thank you for using Nunn Design Findings to create your jewelry. Why do you trust your jewelry to Nunn Design Findings?
Barb: In the beginning, I was choosing and purchasing findings willy nilly. I shopped by price, sometimes purchasing items from outside the United States. For a lot of reasons, that never really felt good, honestly. I also had a few terrible customer service experiences that put me into a position where my customers were let down.
After a lot of research and digging, I found Nunn Design and I have never felt more confident in the quality of the work I deliver to my customers. You will not find a better company offering components for this kind of work. The components are well made and sturdy – never feeling cheap or fragile. The Earring Findings are generously plated with precious metals and are nickel-free. The bezels are cast in lead-free pewter and also plated with precious metals.
The designs are timeless, with every new collection staying true to Nunn Design’s gorgeous organic natural style. The artisanal workmanship shows in the quality. The fact that Nunn Design is a woman driven business located in the USA makes me beyond proud.
It’s also important to state that the customer service I have received from Nunn Design has been outstanding. It feels like a conversation between two friends. That kind of customer service and support is simply remarkable.
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Thank you Barb for sharing your journey!
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