How to Go from Mish-Mash Making, to More Cohesive Jewelry?

by Andrea.
(Kalamazoo, Mi)

Hi all,

Thanks for all the advice, insight, stories, highs and woes. Hearing from and about all of you really makes me feel less alone.

Earrings on Andrea's "reclaimed hanging thing"  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Earrings on my “reclaimed” hanging thing

That probably set off some alarm bells and pangs of recognition from some of you, so I will share that I have debilitating anxiety, depression, and chronic illness.

I am also a recovering alcoholic, and I just celebrated four years sober! (But for the grace of God…)

I am writing today to ask how you all went from having a bunch of jewelry (and maybe “crafts”) to having a line, or at least a somewhat connected grouping of items.

Necklaces and pendants by Andrea  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

Necklaces & pendants

I know this has been covered in various ways, but I remain at a loss.

I started this whole jewelry journey because I wanted to make more affordable recovery, awareness, and motivational products than what the big companies sell.

I started out planning to solder, but ended up with a (still unused soldering iron, and shortly after mini torch) and metal stamping materials.

Bracelets by Andrea  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal


One of my biggest struggles is self doubt and overwhelm.

I find myself on Etsy looking at others’ art and telling myself no matter what I do it has been done better than I could do it.

So I decide I need something else. (Luckily I’m very frugal otherwise.)

At this point I have pendant trays with glass cabochons, metal, a sizzix, too many charms, a bunch of beads, a bunch of vintage items, shrinky dinks, organza ribbon necklaces, chain, memory wire, clay, magnets, coasters… and a typewriter.

I know, right?

Serenity necklace by Andrea  - featured on Jewelry Making Journal

I enjoy making these!

I have made some of all the different stuff but can’t seem to figure out how to land on one thing.

And once I do, what do I do with all the extraneous stuff that is taking over the house?

I know “do what I love” is probably the best advice… but what do you do when you don’t know?

And how do you decide what can go with what as a “line”?

Does that mean Any earrings?

Or any beaded things?

Where does wire fit in?

What if playing with clay is my current favorite, but I have a bazillion beads? (And a typewriter! πŸ˜‰

I’m hoping to do my first craft show in July, but it’s a garage sale and craft sale at the local expo center.

Otherwise the expo shows are booked for jewelry until next year!

Any help with anything is deeply appreciated.


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  • Andrea Frederick says:

    Hi there,
    I, too, have a problem trying to figure what seems best for me. I only do occasional flea markets who have a few vendors so it’s not a career for me, however I’m lacking in ‘artistic’ ability and find many things interesting. What I have done is do what you’re doing by looking at Etsy and other sites to see what you think might interest you. Then try to find a few things to assemble and see if they come out like you like. I’ve experimented with Steampunk, Victorian, up-cycled, Art-Deco period and many others just to see what seems to be most satisfying not only to make, but to have results I think are ‘sellable’. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help but I stopped trying to find a definitive look to make a certain ‘line’ and just try to add a little of my interests in most of my earrings.
    I’ve been happiest knowing that whatever I see on different sites, is not going to look like that particular piece so I don’t worry about stealing it.

  • Andrea, congratulations on your 4 years of sobriety! That’s wonderful to hear.
    I have a few thoughts on your question about pulling together a more connected grouping of jewelry. The connectedness you’re seeking can be done in many different ways. Here are a couple of examples:

    You mentioned that you love making pieces like your Serenity necklace. Jewelry with reminder words or encouraging messages like that are very popular. You might continue making your wide variety of jewelry styles – and include one of your encouraging messages in each piece. That would give your jewelry collection a theme that gives your pieces a sense of connection. You could even make some of your non-jewelry crafts to fit this theme, if that resonates with you.

    Or you might continue making your wide variety of jewelry – and use a uniform set of displays that create the cohesion you’re looking for.

    Or display your work in groupings – for example, a grouping of memory wire bracelets; a grouping of wire pendants, etc.

    Also, there is really nothing wrong with making a variety of items, or using a variety of materials to make them. That’s what creativity is all about. And if you force yourself to limit your creativity, you may find that it takes some of the joy out of making things.

  • Carol Arndt says:

    Dear Rena, I Really connected with your response. My own creativity usually begins with an inspiration piece which I remake with my own spin and different materials. I will make several usually until I loose the fun and move on to another inspiration piece. Sometimes I attempt something that does not work out or I don’t enjoy creating. I best let it go, move on after all what we are most interested in is the fun of the creative process. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Ani says:

    I feel your situation. I used to get so anxious I broke out in a rash. Something I did this year is to group my pieces by color, whether on a vendor table or in a shop. Say, with a group of purple I use some amethyst stones or flat rocks that add pizazz to my display of purple jewelry. You could also use a colored glass or dish. Another thing is when I am making pieces, I make a suite; that is 1 necklace, 1 or 2 pair earrings and a bracelet of each medium. Bag them together and log them as finished pieces. During the winter I make a loose plan of what I might want to make for the season to help with my ordering and helps to feel organized. That is what has reduced much of my stress.

  • David says:

    I just make what is fun for the moment. I’m learning polymer clay, but enjoy working with wire more. I take new designs for friends to critique and perhaps purchase. Tastes and styles vary so much that a selection is a good thing.

    You say you make lots of beads. Maybe you can sell them or trade for items you’d like to have. That said, it’s hard to have too many supplies. You might consider adding letters to you beads so that you can string up your thoughts on necklaces. And don’t restrict yourself to single levels.

  • Kim says:

    Congrats on the sobriety! You’ve accomplished such a great feat there and should really be proud of yourself.

    Everyone is giving really great suggestions.

    Maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to come up with a cohesive line. I think it comes over time just naturally. Maybe think about how your pieces DO work together (which is basically what everyone is saying) and don’t stress so much that they don’t.

    You made them all of the pieces, so there’s one way they go together right there. πŸ™‚

  • Hi Andrea
    You sound like most of us when we started our journey. A. Be patient. B. Read your sentence “I started jewelry because I wanted to make more affordable awareness motivational jewelry than the mass produced”. THAT is where you should go. That is your motivation. That is your beginning. That is your inspiration, your purpose. You found it, you believe it, now just stick with it. That is your core for making jewelry. Keep that theme. Use all your components. Wire wrapped. Solder. Beaded. All can be inspirational, motivational. All your ideas for all components won’t come today or tomorrow. The good thing is jewelry components won’t expire. They may come later. Components come and go with popularity but can always be incorporated in some way for something new. Gather inspiration from others on Etsy then make them your own. You’re creative I can tell by what you said. You just need to take a direction, make a decision. Try one direction for 6 months and if doesn’t inspire you to stay there then go another direction. All successful artists whether jewelry or anything start some where and develop into different directions with TIME. Which brings us back full circle, to be patient. Do you have children? When my son was young he wanted to play soccer because everyone else was. I signed him up. He got bored in 3 weeks and wanted to quit. In that short period of time he could not get the feel for the sport, the rules, the game. My rule was never quit what you start until the end. When the season was over, he could quit. By then, he understood the rules, the game, how to adapt to the sport. He liked it and stayed. If you pick something pick a time period before you change to something else and you will eventually find something satisfying. Give your passions time to develop, then if they don’t feel good after a period of time, then change. But give it enough time. It will come. None of us found our “niche” overnight. Best of luck to you. I know you can do it. I have had my own obstacles to overcome and feel very blessed and successful in the artist business. You can to!!!

  • Paula Clouse says:

    I am one of those ” jack of all & master of none” , I dabble in a variety of jewelry arts. Everything from basic stringing to beadweaving off loom and on, to chainmail. I love to repurpose odd items and rejuvenate the old, broken vintage jewelry. I bead covers for pens, wine bottles and ornaments. And when I can’t think of anything thing else to do, I find something to turn into a new display for my pieces. Like an old metal basket, an antique glove holder or the shutters off a window (my current project).
    No one told me I should stick with one style of merchandise to sell. If I had, I’m not sure which ones of my wonderful customers I wouldn’t have met.

  • Andrea says:

    Thank you all so very much! I got teary reading all the responses. Every suggestion resonated with me, from learning to commit to one thing for awhile to really get a feel for it to letting where I am at physically and emotionally be my guide. It’s when I really try and force something that I end up giving up.

    I also deeply appreciated the reminder of what made me want to start doing this in the first place… funny, I wrote that sentence but didn’t really “get it” until it came from you.

    As always Rena and everyone, your support continues to encourage me, whatever obstacles I face.

    Thanks again!

  • Hi Andrea,
    Congrats on your sobriety. I too am a friend of Bills. 35 years.
    At least we are here to make our dreams come true.
    Serenity is such a powerful word.
    I think the inspirational words are a great start for you. How many people in the rooms would love that. Inspirational words are great. Your pieces ca be a powerful message plus a beautiful piece of jewelry. One day at a time.
    Patti Underwood

  • Natasha Burger says:

    and as someone not from the rooms, but a friend, those words work for the rest of the world too! Put that typewriter to good use! PS congrats! PSS would you expect any other four year old to know what they wanted to play with all the time? no? so don’t be so hard on yourself <3

  • Izzy says:

    Hi Andrea, I too am a friend of Bills and named my business Serenity Now ?
    First, we’re able to do this because we’re sober, I try to always come from that place of gratitude. I also found AA charms on Etsy and my amazing friends in the rooms are loving them!!
    I found a ton of great advice on they offer so much free business advice and tutorials.
    Something I’m doing that’s been a huge help is I put posterboard up on the wall behind my work station and any ideas I have go on there but I also put my little positive sayings on there, like little cheerleaders rooting me on!
    I had an idea for your typewriter. I like to write a little sentence about the piece on a card and attach it to it, it would be a great retro feel if it was typed on an actual typewriter.

  • Barbara Smith says:

    I have been a friend of Bill’s for more than 16 years. Making jewelry and now selling some of it has really enhanced my recovery! I too have become overenthusiastic in purchasing supplies. Right now what I have done is focus on certain themes as the year goes on. I made some patriotic items which will continue to sell through Labor Day. I have been making some pet-related items for a show at my vet’s. I have supplies on hand for fall colors and breast cancer items for October. Then on to holiday designs. Gradually I am drawing on a wide range of my “stash”.

  • Fabia says:

    You’re not alone. I’ve struggled with this too at the beginning but I just figured that I’ll make what I like and what I have in materials. I too looked on Etsy before I opened up my shop and was overwhelmed. I can’t be like everyone else but I do notice that ppl like many different styles. You hope they see your stuff and like it/buy it. I’d say just make what strikes you at the moment. That’s what I do. Best of luck!

  • Katrina says:

    Sometimes it’s good to have a variety of jewelry to sell because it gives your customers more options. I offer rings, pendant necklaces, bracelets, earrings, a whole variety. It actually works good having the variety because at shows I usually sell a mix of my items. So don’t get discouraged having variety, it’s a good thing I’ve learned!

  • Channon says:

    Hi Andrea, I love the name my favorite grand daughter named Andrea shares it. I love your story. I have been diagnosed with social anxiety, clinical depression, PTSD and recently Fibromyalgia.
    With all of that, my daughter recently lost her battle with leukemia after 13 years. I have been in my grieving mode for about 6 months before her death and now it has been one month and one day. Crafting is the only way that I got through it all.
    There is something to be said about grabbing a pile of this and that and mking something beautiful out of it. It takes me away from the pain and discomfort and gives me some kind of release.
    Funny twist here, I also work for a Mentsal Health crisis center and I get to share my type of “therapy” with those who I come in contact with.
    I do not only make jewelry, but I have branched out and decided that I want to learn as much about my creativity as I can, so, I also can do pyrography, wood carving”I make amazing walking sticks”, carpentry, metal smithing, leather work, and I’m just waiting to see whats next.
    I say let your creative side go wild!!! If nothing else you won’t have to worry about gifts for a while.

  • Channon, I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter. And I’m glad that you’ve found such a great variety of creativity to pour yourself into. I so agree, creating things is truly a therapy. I love hearing about the wonderful ways you’re using your artistic talents!

  • Kathryn Henley says:

    I’ve been making jewelry for quite a while and I make what I like. I do most of my shopping online at Etsy and other bead suppliers. I also look at what people are listing on Etsy and other sites for inspiration. Twice a year, usually Spring and Fall, I just “browse” through beads, and findings and buy what jumps out at me. Then, when it all comes, I sit and play with the pieces until I’m happy with the earrings, bracelets or necklaces. Someone once told me not to make something just because someone else makes it or “its the thing”. I think by choosing things that as I put it, “Speak to Me” is what makes my style. It’s important to know that not everyone likes the same style so you can not please everyone. You will have your own following. Making jewelry is a hobby for me but of course, if I want to continue making it, selling is important. Hope this helps.

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