Don’t bring the tower, bring the wedding cakes!

graduation, graduation before getting married, MRS degree, master's degree, Vanderbilt university, outdoor graduation, getting married after graduationPicking up some wedding favors for my husband’s daughter was my tiny contribution to the major undertaking of her out-of-State wedding, bridal shower, graduation from college, and move to the Chicagoland area.  I was grateful to be able to contribute something, albeit small in the scheme of things.  Isn’t it true that if something goes wrong in the wedding process then all will be well in the marriage to follow?  I do pray so.

So check this snafu off the list of the journey to bliss.  Rebekah and Pancho will be fine.  But their precious wedding cake-shaped designer chocolates from our neighborhood chocolatier almost fell flat.  Literally.  My husband’s oldest daughter, Christina, and I needed to “go bumming” together Monday morning in order to coordinate her “to do” list and mine with one vehicle.  No problem.  Then my usual a.m. spaciness became our friend when I accidentally turned out of our neighborhood the wrong way.  With most of our minutes scheduled closely, I quickly dropped to the bottom of the errand list and it turned out to be a Divine re-ordering of things.  We “gotter done” and before long I was dropping Christina off somewhat early to her 2:15 p.m. appointment and headed to the chocolatier on the other side of the parking lot.  Yeah God.

I shopped for my own chocolate gifts then signed off on the bounty of wedding favors.  Strangely the invoice was marked, “100% donation per Cathy,” the owner.  Not wanting to pry (as you just don’t do when you are not the mom), I did not say anything at first.  The insulated bags seemed kind of light for 178 wedding favors of any size or substance.  Hmmm.  All I could think about was needing to rush them home so they would not melt in the car before my own appointments scheduled in the afternoon.  The smell of cocoa was intoxicating.  Yes, even I swooned although I cannot imbibe for medical reasons.  Sigh.

I pushed protocol aside and inquired, “what would prompt a donation of wedding favors?”  Rebekah had talked about touring their adjacent manufacturing facility but never working there.  Even as an employee, I had witnessed at least one gal having to buy her own chocolates at a paltry discount for a private party!  I unzipped the insulated bag and peered inside:  a gorgeous tower of several sizes and varieties of boxed confectionary with a golden bow taunted from within.  For a wedding?  Well, it’s not my business, right?  Maybe it is for the head table or something.  I paused.  Somehow it all still seemed weird.

The cashier blushed and confessed that there might be TWO orders under the name, “Rebekah Ho——-” She would double check behind the counter.  I had already signed my life away on the invoice and had slowly started to turn to walk out the door with my precious cargo.  Maybe the tissue paper under the tower of decadence was the actual favors?

This gal’s blushing probably flushed brighter as she found the two LARGE BOXES of wedding favors for our Rebekah.  I really could not see all that was going on in the dark, chocolate-colored showroom adjacent to the plush lounge next to the baby grand piano nearby.  Yes, I had signed for the wrong order!  I almost took home and rode with hubby-n-Christina 200 miles to the wedding with the wrong order!  The staff scrambled as I politely requested to inspect the contents of the new boxes.  My confidence now soared with the significance of my contribution to the wedding.  We almost had to share:  bite a tasting bar and pass it around instead of the more customary tradition of gorgeous table favors.  My heart raced with the possibilities. It would be so very wrong.  Thankfully the disaster was thwarted!

Yes, it’s the little things that can mean a lot in something so important as a wedding celebration.  I hope that this is all that goes wrong . . . and that Rebekah finds her wedding shoes now displaced in her cross-country move 1/2 day after graduation from college.  Such a dear lady after my own heart.  I moved 200 miles and got married to her dad 5 days later 7 1/2 years ago.  Crazy things happen when the best schedule meets the human spaciness of trying to execute all the tasks successfully.

Rebekah and Pancho will be fine.  They are beginning their married life with white-n-milk chocolate and we all know that chocolate makes everything better, eh?  JJ

Moving on with gratitude

Having just posted in every social media venue I can find, my Etsy shop online, and chatted with my Aunt Patty recently, the decision is final:  I am letting go of my hobby business, Trinity Jewelry by Design.

Sometimes when we are drawn forward to an exciting new opportunity, we simply cannot hold onto the things of the past.  I discovered this past week that the creative and entrepreneurial energy needed to make my new company, Two Step Solutions (TSS), a success will require my full attention.  Lord willing I will participate in one final public event (my fifth) this coming weekend:  a Fiber Arts Fest at a local farm and educational center.  How perfect.  Hemp, leather, and especially the friendship jewelry made from the Threads of Hope ministry will fit in nicely.  Perhaps I will find my niche at last?  So sweet.  Me and the farm animals, with Border Collies chasing the sheep around too.  Since it’s an outdoor venue, I should be fine with the adrenaline rush that usually comes with participating in an event.  I am looking forward to it actually!

fiber arts, fiber festival, Salomon Farm, Salomon Farm Park, Spring Craft Show, Farm Animals, Border Collies, sheep herding, sheep shearing, art in the barn

So humor me if you will with some pictures and a little reminiscing that captures the creative journey of these past 3 years.  I began making jewelry to have a low-cost, portable hobby I could pursue in our home office.  The first product was an adjustable 3-beaded macramé bracelet designed to represent the Holy Trinity.  These were born out of an activity I introduced to a missionary family who was visiting our home for dinner with their three daughters.  The bracelets were very basic yet also rekindled my experience with macramé over 30 years prior as a new graduate from occupational therapy school.  A macrame lamp shade and a couple of plant hangers were my own “occupational therapy” after moving away from home for my first job out of State.  Funny how things come back into vogue, eh?

macrame bracelets, adjustable bracelets, simple macrame, slider knot, 3-beaded bracelet, learn to macrame, Trinity Jewelry by Design
My first display in a professional office!

Eventually in my TJ by D journey, I discovered the world of YouTube videos.  Amazing!  You can learn just about everything including better knotting techniques, the value of better materials, how to take better pictures, branding, and so more right from your home computer.  Etsy furthered my training with it’s excellent resources, support teams, and a relatively user-friendly ecommerce site to get you online before the world.  But none of it would have ever happened if my Aunt Patty wasn’t already on Etsy with her own shop, Patches and Pockets.  Her initial instruction gave me the courage to start a steep learning curve that would de-mystify much of what I did not know about the internet.  I am so grateful for her willingness to show me the way!

double macrame, macrame bracelets, Trinity Jewelry by Design, toggle clasp, hemp, hemp bracelet, natural hemp, handmade jewelry
One of my first favorite designs as I transitioned to better materials.

And so there I was in the middle of the night when I felt the best and was most productive, making hemp jewelry.  I tried selling the precious stone jewelry of an acquaintance but it turned out that my shop wasn’t right venue for either of us.  My own skills got better; I learned to take better pictures which is critical to success online.  It would be two years before I started experimenting with leather lacing then leather wrist bands.  As time went on I sensed that I needed more of a niche product or at least one that would have more utility in daily life than jewelry.  I wondered if I might expand into leather tooling or perhaps making leather holsters for women?  Etsy had allowed commercial manufacturers into their marketplace and the competition from cheaper overseas companies diluted the quality of work in my media and vastly increased competition.  Handmade items made in America seemed to be valued less just as I was developing my own style, my own branding.  I joined “handmade” sales teams and implemented the strategies that they suggested but it didn’t seem to make much of an impact on my business.  Then my sleeping patterns changed and I lost my creative groove.  My personal health situation had become more complicated as well.

macrame bracelets, wrap bracelet, handmade bracelet, hemp, macrame, triple wrap bracelet, Trinity Jewelry by Design
Mixing all my favorite knotting techniques became my niche for a time.
chevron weave, macrame bracelet, charm bracelet, simple macrame, learning to simplify the design, Trinity Jewelry by Desing
Learning to simplify a design is harder than it looks!

I believe it was the Lord who inspired me to start Two Step Solutions.  I was praying for direction with my jewelry business, consulting close friends, and checked in with my Aunt Patty over those few months too.  My Aunt had already let her Etsy business expire as she pursued other volunteer opportunities with her local gardening group and hospital auxillary.  Hmmm.  Maybe it was time for me to pursue a venue that would look more like my former profession of occupational therapy yet incorporate all of the skills that I had learned over these past 3 years?  Indeed.  As it turns out, the vision that the Lord gave me for TSS will bank on most everything I have ever done including enduring a serious illness.  Wow Lord!

Threads of Hope, ministry jewelry, jewelry fundraiser, Trinity Jewelry by Design, Phillippines
Threads of Hope Friendship Bracelets get a T J by D touch.

A couple of weeks ago I had an unusual conversation with a jewelry customer who claimed that the bracelet that she had purchased from me had broken in two places.  By the time I received it in a plain business envelope in the mail, it was completely destroyed.  I was so hurt that I almost gave up TJ by D that week.  I had already launched the TSS website and begun working on my Business Plan, eBook, and Trademark.  I knew in my heart that I would be leaving the jewelry business yet I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  After several unusual “Conversations” as they call it on Etsy with my customer, I decided to act decisively and resolve the situation with confidence instead of acquiescence.  I refunded her money in full.  Then I saw a sign in front of a local venue called Salomon Farm Park for their Fiber Arts Fest.  Very quickly an “exit strategy” came into view.  I even had a few creative nights around this time simply enjoying my craft again.  I would participate in one final event, network the heck out of it, and letter go.  What a great way to wrap things up!

leather wrap bracelet, chevron amethyst, leather beading, leather lacing, purple leather lacing, purple leather bracelet, Trinity Jewelry by Design
My most popular bracelet on Etsy was sadly put to rest after it could not be repaired.

Some of the details of this transition are a bit vague yet so I’ll just put Trinity Jewelry by Design up for sale and see what happens.  Lord willing I am hoping that about $225 will come in this weekend to pay for my filing fee at the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office for TSS.  I found a Law School who is ready to file the application via their free clinic.  Alright.  I know what that means.  Better get hustling Just Julie!  It’s time to sell some jewelry and get my studio in order.  Sometime soon I may be moving on with gratitude and perhaps a few colorful sparklies will linger to adorn my own wrist, my own neckline too.

beachy necklace, beach necklace, summer necklace, handmade necklace, Threads of Hope, adjustable necklace, Trinity Jewelry by Design
Another fav purchased by a friend that combined a Threads of Hope Friendship Bracelet with pink hemp cord.

Of course I’ll be keeping a few of my favorite creations just for me you know.  I love this stuff!  JJ