Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview Series: Week 19 – Bits Off the Beach

Greetings one and all!

Another technical diffuculty came my way a couple of days ago, in the form of my computer making scary noises and then not working.  I have a functioning "rig" right now, and I ordered new parts for a new system to build.  Until that is built, I won't be posting much on Facebook (as I've indicated), though other than this little blurb at the top of these lovely minnerviews, I have them all set to post on time – for as many as I have at current.  Until I have the new computer built and set up, other posts will be sporadic.

But, that's another story, and shall be told another time.

Today, I bring you Jo of Bits Off the Beach, who offers findings of beautiful beach glass and beach seeds crafted into gorgeous jewelry and such.  Unlike most jewelry makers, her materials are not ready to go – quite a bit more work and artistic wonder goes into these pieces, as they are hand-drilled for perfect placement and effect.  But I'll let her share the details!

Name: Jo Watkins from BitsOffTheBeach
Craft:  Jewelry + plus whatever :)
Favorite material (or medium, whatever you want to call it!):  As the name implies, I love using the bits of things I find on the beach.  Sea Glass,  Sea Beans, Shells, Pretty Stones, Driftwood.  Add some of the gorgeous beads and charms that are available and you have endless possibilities.  Most are one of a kind as each piece is shaped and colored differently so they all call for using them differently.
Most Popular Seller (whether it be online or at shows): Sea Glass necklaces with assorted sea themed charms  have been the favorite, with my sea glass earrings running a close second.

Sea Glass Necklace in Pastel Colors of Aqua, Green and Yellow Beach Glass
A very simple design with stunning results!

Mine-ICON What got you into your craft?

BitsOffTheBeach The over abundance of bowls and vases filled to the brim with sea glass and shells etc.and wanting to share them in a different way.


Mine-ICON How did you learn your craft?

BitsOffTheBeach I took a class in  Basic Jewelry Making back in school (umpteen years ago)  and the rest is mostly self taught through trial and error.
The first necklace I made was from the very first sea bean we found. It looked just like a miniature hamburger and we had never seen anything like it.  We talked to the locals in Hawaii and they said it was good luck to find one. Once I got home I researched what it was, cleaned it up and I surprised my husband with a necklace made out of it. He has worn it for almost 12 years now.  I have had to restring it a couple of times but it is still that original little hamburger seed.


Sea Bean Necklace, Hamburger Seed and Crystal Sterling Silver Pendant Jewelry
I've never seen a seed like this, but if it brings good luck, sign me up! It's wild!

Mine-ICON What about YOU? Who is the artist behind those wonderful items?

BitsOffTheBeach I grew up living on the beaches on Bainbridge Island Washington. They were the perfect playground as a girl and I got my love of all things beachie from a pretty young age.  I constantly had my pockets full assorted treasures that I had collected. Now I have "addicted" my husband to the past time too and we spend many of our vacations and a lot of weekends enjoying just walking along the ocean's shore and seeing what has washed up for us that day.


Silver and Black Beaded Earrings, Espresso Bean Bead in Flat Black
I usually eat Espresso beans covered in chocolate, or drink the Espresso… but they are really quite lovely in raw form!

Mine-ICON What is a typical "working" day for you? How does it usually start and end? How many hours do you spend crafting? How many hours do you spend on other things? What about distractions? I know we all have them! Do you usually accomplish all you wanted to?

BitsOffTheBeach Monday through Thursday I try to spend at least the morning either working on my shops or getting the word out on what I am doing.  Then I take a break and get the chores done around the house, cleaning shopping, laundry, gardens etc. After that I feel like the day is my own so I can work on new pieces or ideas without feeling the pressure that I should be doing something else, and I can just enjoy the process. On nice days, ( sometimes rare in the Pacific Northwest ) I will take whatever I am working on outside and work at the picnic table on the deck and soak up some sun at the same time.
Weekends vary depending on what we are doing. I try to spend time with family and check in on the shops just in the morning and later in the evenings.

Mine-ICON What happens when you Oops? Everyone gets one sometime or another! Do you get frustrated and destroy/start over, or do you go with the flow and see what comes out in the end?

BitsOffTheBeach A lot of my designs start out with an" Oops". I get an idea in my head as to what I want to do with a piece  but sometimes it doesn't translate into the piece well. If it is just something simple to fix ( an extra jump ring, or adding or subtracting some elements),  I can usually figure out what is wrong and work with it until it is what I envisioned. Sometimes when the first idea doesn't work another idea comes along from the mistake that even looks better, but there have been a few  pieces I have totally taken apart and started over with. I love it when those ones finally comes together and it becomes something amazing.

Lava Rock Earring Wire Wrapped in Antiqued Copper - Chunky Style - Mother's Day
I've never worn lava rocks, but I do think they are incredibly stunning when presented well – like this, for example!

Mine-ICON What is your design process like? How many tries does it take to be happy with the final product?

BitsOffTheBeach I usually start with the focal piece, like a piece of glass or sea bean then see what colors and finding work best with them. If it is complicated design I usually try it out with an inexpensive wire to see how it looks first and then replicate it for the final product with a better metal.  If it is a simpler design I just go for the good stuff the first time, though I have come to regret that a time or two. :)
Right now I am putting together a sea glass and silver bracelet.  I first gathered everything and laid it all out together in my little tray to see how it looks. Now I need to get the glass drilled and put it all together... which leads me to your next question…

Handcrafted Turquoise Stone Bracelet, Links of Gold and Natural Stone
It's so rare to see someone work with natural Turquoise, instead of the picture perfect blue variety.  It's such a beautiful stone in its natural state.

Mine-ICON What is your greatest roadblock, be it government regulation or that little frustrating thing that just likes to sneak up and stop you in your tracks? Broken needle? Jump ring jumping out of your pliers? Thread knots? Cats? Dogs? The family hedgehog rolled about in your yarn basket?

BitsOffTheBeach My biggest heart break (roadblock) is breaking a piece of glass. Here this beautiful piece of sea glass has spend years and years growing smooth by the oceans currents until it is just perfect, and when I try to drill it for my piece it snaps in two. It is so disappointing.  I learned about better drill bits now and I rarely break them now, but it is still crushing when it happens.

Mine-ICON All important pricing... Do you have a formula? Do you wing it? Do you feel your work justifies your prices?

BitsOffTheBeach My pricing is based on the cost of the material,  wires, beads, chains, etc that are used with my  beach findings. Plus my time for the creative process and the time it takes for the not so pleasant bookkeeping part of the business.   I rarely ever add in the cost of the glass or sea bean unless it is a very rare color or unusual piece.  The time I spend on the beaches looking for the perfect treasure are priceless to me and I am happy to share that with others.  
I love each piece that I make and believe my prices are fair. A lot of my pieces I am a little bit sad to see sell, like sending a favorite child off into the world. And I hope they all go to good homes.

Purple Sea Glass Charm Necklace - Hawaiian Sea Turtle with Beaded Pendant on Sterling Silver Chain
I fell in love with this beauty.  Purple sea glass is very rare to find, and this design puts it on prominent display so well!

Mine-ICON And of course, is there anything else you'd like to say to our "viewers at home"?

BitsOffTheBeach My shops are at
Bits Off the Beach on Zibbet
Bits Off the Beach on Etsy
or you can find me on Facebook.


Thank you, Jo, for sharing the beauty that nature offers us in your work, and your wonderful story with us all! Be sure to visit Jo's links to her shops, and like her gorgeous work on Facebook!

Until next week, thank you one and all for reading!

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