Where Women Create

This month, I’m honored to share my personal story and creative workspace in the summer issue of Where Women Create. This magazine showcases artists, crafters, and makers in a way that allows you a personal look at their space, but also shares their creative journey. I really enjoyed reflecting on how I got to this point in my life and all the things that added up to make it what it is today. I feel like I’m just getting started - there’s so much more I want to do!

Checkout the full story below see additional photos that weren’t used in the article. All photos courtesy of the talented Eli Warren.

I was born to create. My love of art and working with my hands started early in life, so early I don’t remember when exactly. I can recall peeling my sleeping mother’s eyes open before sunrise and begging her to come downstairs and draw with me when I was about four years old, and she, in all her love and patience, would do just that. I think that’s where my story begins, with creative and supportive parents.

Growing up, I couldn’t get enough art in my life, so my parents took me to museums often and signed me up for additional art classes after school, encouraging me to pursue it. My mom was a self-taught artist, and although she did it purely for her own enjoyment and to decorate our home, there was never any question that I could do it as a serious career if I wanted to, and I’m so grateful for that freedom. As long as there was art & design in my future in some shape or form, I knew I’d be happy.

After 4 years of intense design study & a wide range of fine art studio courses, I received my BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2005. Shortly after graduating I got married, lost my mom to cancer, and began working as an interior designer for a commercial architecture firm. My whole world changed in just two short months, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t creating with my hands. I never realized how important that part of me was until it went missing.

Knowing me all too well, my husband Josh encouraged me to open an Etsy shop and get back to making. That little decision changed everything. Not only did I get back to my roots as an artist and rediscover the joy of creating, I was now on a double career path as an interior designer and an entrepreneur, and these creative pursuits complimented each other in unexpected ways.

Working as as an interior designer, I had access to all kinds of outdated material samples like leather upholstery swatches and wood veneer. I took those miscellaneous odds and ends that were bound for the trash and gave them new life, once again, in a whole new way. My business name, “Once Again Sam”, hinted at my love of reusing materials, and although “SAM” wasn’t me exactly (those are my initials but nobody calls me that), it was someone I wanted to become. I wanted to start a new creative life, and not have to choose to do just one thing or have a single career. The freedom to pursue art, the encouragement I had growing up as well as from my husband, inspired me to go for it. ALL of it.

I chose not to choose a single path. I’m currently an interior designer, a fiber artist, jewelry designer & maker, entrepreneur, and published author. That list will probably grow with time. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, it’s that I want to do so many things. My greatest joy is creating and imagining, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a beautiful space for a client, an intricate design for a leather cuff bracelet, a life-like plant made out of wool fiber, or a fictional story about a soap-eating giraffe. I live to create. Any medium will do.

The majority of my time is spent working from my home studio running Once Again Sam, which has grown into a thriving small business that takes me to the post office 5 days a week and all over the southeast for craft show events. My husband Josh, who is responsible for putting the crazy idea into my head that I could actually start a small company, is my my business partner.

A good portion of our home is dedicated for Once Again Sam workspace. The dining room isn’t used to entertain anymore, it stores inventory and displays for craft shows. My husband and I share an office, where we do accounting, photo editing, etc. Upstairs is my studio, where I do final assembly, product photography, store materials, and ship orders. The basement is our workshop wonderland. Josh and I both enjoy working with wood, so we’ve got all our loud messy tools and machines down there, including my favorite tool, the 90 watt laser cutter.

Just as my days are a combination of many things, the same can be said of my handmade jewelry collection. My work marries basic hand tools with high tech equipment, and common materials are often mixed with the exotic. I still use a lot of recycled leather material in my jewelry designs, just like I did when I first opened my Etsy shop in 2009. Sometimes I do the cutouts by hand, other times I leave it to the laser cutter.

I enjoy learning new skills and have a long list of things to try. My husband and I took a wood turning class together a few years ago and have enjoyed getting into wood turning. I’m finally getting the hang of sculpting modern pendants on the lathe. I’ve also taken up painting recently, and my series of landscape pendants feature a panoramic painting that’s cut up into sections so the owner may wear an original piece of art any day of the week. A huge portion of my business revolves around custom jewelry. Customers can order a pendant featuring a portrait of their child, favorite animal, or home state, etched into painted wood. With a wide range of handmade options, there’s truly something for everyone at Once Again Sam.  

My creative journey is just getting started. I never could have guessed I’d be where I am now, and can’t wait to see where my creative careers take me in the future. Starting something can be the hardest part.

American Made Finalist

I was finishing up lunch with my husband at our favorite Indian buffet when I got the email informing me I was a finalist for the 2015 Martha Stewart American Made Awards. I read the email several times through before the words truly sunk in. Once they did, I got lightheaded and my hands started to shake. I never expected my delicious chicken makhani to come with a side of such incredible news.

Thousands of talented makers are in the pool of nominees each year, and just small percentage make it this far. The program puts the spotlight on emerging makers, those who have dedicated their lives to their craft, and are striving to succeed as creative entrepreneurs. It’s a huge honor to be a finalist in the Style / Jewlery category this year, regardless of what happens next. Being recognized in a national competition of this caliber is a pretty big deal for a little business like mine. These things don’t happen everyday!

Because of my big big news, I was lucky enough to be featured on Studio 62 with Jamarcus Gaston recently, and share about my media experience in a blog feature with the ever-so-informative Academy of Handmade. I was also able to share my story on local talk show Your Carolina

Martha Stewart and her panel of 16 judges have gotten me this far, but the rest is entirely up to voters like you. Would you please take a moment to send some votes my way? We set up an easy-to-remember sub domain that takes you directly to my nomination: www.vote.onceagainsam.com and once you create a login on the Martha Stewart American Made page, you’ll be able to vote up to 6 times per day until October 19th. Winning something like this would change my business forever, in so many fantastic ways.

Thanks a million!

Spring Is Here

The months leading up to spring are my most creative time of the year. I’m done with holiday orders, things slow down a little on Etsy, and craft show season is behind me, so my mind is freed up to think, while my hands are freed up to experiment with new ideas in the studio. This year, on the first day of spring, I launched several new handmade jewelry collections I’d been working on and developing throughout the dreary winter months. Here’s a recap of all things new at Once Again Sam

Geometric & Geometric Florals

An addition to my most popular collection, Curious Cameos, these designs are more abstract than their predecessors. Inspired by textile patterns, these designs are done in vibrant colors for spring. I used my laser cutter to etch the intricate designs into hand painted wood, then set the wood in a metal bezel. The pendants, earrings, and rings are all very easy to customize. 

Geometric & Geometric Floral Designs

Geometric & Geometric Floral Designs

Dipped in Color 

For this clean modern look, I combined exotic and dyed wood veneer with matte acrylic paint. I love the contrast of the wood with the paint. This collection, like the rest of the cameo-style pendants, uses commercial settings in order to keep the price affordable, and are easy to customize. Available as horizontal or diagonal, which can be done on small & large pendants, earrings, and rings. 

Dipped in color series

Dipped in color series

Painted Wooden Pendants

Laser etched maple and walnut wood is painted then sealed with Danish oil. These designs are geometric and are created through a process that reminds me of painting by number. The lines are etched into the wood with the laser, then I painted in each block of color after sanding the wood. There’s no setting to contain the wood, only a simple pinch bail to string it onto the chain. 

Painted Wooden Pendants

Painted Wooden Pendants

Turned Wooden Pendants

Recently, my husband and I took a woodturning class, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Turning is my new addiction! These pendants are made from mostly exotic woods, and a brass tube goes through the top of the teardrop shape, giving the necklace some structure and a modern touch, while also providing a place for the brass chain to loop through. Each pendant is one-of-a-kind, and are limited in availability. 

Turned Wooden Pendants

Turned Wooden Pendants

Once Again Sam Press:

Recently, I was honored to have my jewelry featured on Southern Living’s The Daily South, and get the chance to join Jamarcus Gaston on Studio62

New Generation of Makers

Recently I've been corresponding with a very talented 11 year old girl in London, Ellie, who's just getting into the crafting world. She's off to an amazing start with her Etsy shop called Befuzzled. I was glad to share some words of wisdom with her on her blog about making a living with your hands, inspiration, and lots of other stuff too: http://befuzzledlondon.tumblr.com/

I ordered one of her cute little plushy toys a few weeks ago. The s'more with the curious face is on it's way to me! Can't wait to put it in my studio so it can smile at me while I craft away. I'm so glad to see a new generation of makers at work, younger than ever, and I look forward to watching how Ellie's creations and brand progress in the future. Be sure to visit her shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/befuzzled

Photo credit: Befuzzled

Photo credit: Befuzzled