Gretchen Diehl of BirdQueen Designs talks about her unusual medium and how she makes it all work.
ABI: What technique are you using to create your jewelry?
GD: I use ink-jet shrink film (plastic, specially designed to shrink in the oven) to make miniature replicas of my original drawings and paintings. My schooling is in fine art and illustration, so finding a way to translate my drawings into purchasable goods was very important to me. From start to finish, the process is:
- Create an original drawing or painting
- Scan into the computer
- Resize/ format to fit onto an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of ink-jet shrink film
- Cut and punch holes
- Spray with an acrylic coating to prevent smudging
- Add findings & wear!
When I brought my framed original artwork to craft fairs to try to sell, people connected with the images and the style, but didn’t have the money or space to commit to an original work of art. The shrink-film process allowed me to make my artwork affordable!
ABI: What are the greatest benefits of using this technique to being in business wholesale?
GD: The greatest benefit to using this technique is that I can reproduce any image any number of times. I also have the ability to make almost any original image into a piece of jewelry, and if I want to experiment with scale, I have that flexibility. I have changed the scale of existing items in my line, as well as color, and I have created multiple versions of a piece all from one drawing.
The medium also gives me the ability to respond quickly to customer requests. After hearing from 5 or 6 customers (one of them being my mother-in-law) that I should have a dragonfly necklace, I finally made one, and it has become one of my most popular pieces. I don’t have the ability to honor ALL customer requests, but I am currently running a contest (through October 31st) on my Facebook fanpage, where customers can send in an idea for a new jewelry item, and the winning design is added to the BirdQueen line, and the designer gets a copy for free. I’ve been trying to come up with engaging ways of keeping customers on my Facebook page, and this seems to be the best so far!
ABI: How do you feel about doing wholesale trade shows compared to selling retail at craft fairs?
GD: I prefer wholesale to craft fairs for a number of reasons. I really do love people, but craft fairs can be enormously exhausting. Retail festivals are also very weather-dependent, which can make you feel like you’re wasting your time. I have tried to cut down my participation in craft fairs to shows that have been very successful for me in the past.
I always do the Art Star Craft Bazaar, which is an absolutely fabulous show. The trick to picking a good show, is to make sure that (especially if the fee is high) you are getting your money’s worth in publicity. The girls at Art Star really know how to promote and how to curate a beautiful show.
ABI: How has teaching at the Art Institute of Philadelphia helped you in your business?
GD: My current professional situation is such a beautiful marriage of circumstances. I absolutely love my teaching job, and my students, and teaching at a college level gives me enough time to focus on other endeavors, like the jewelry line, and my fine art exhibitions. I am often assigned new classes to teach at AI, which means I have to gain pretty extensive knowledge about the subject, which I can typically apply to my jewelry business.
Over the summer, I taught a course in Fashion Sales Promotion for the first time, and I created my own example of the final project based on BirdQueen Designs, LLC. For the project, students were expected to create a calendar of promotional events and come up with social media promotions, both of which I have integrated into my own promotional campaign. The jewelry line feeds the teaching work as well. I have often used my personal experience as a jewelry designer and self-marketer to serve as examples in various classes.
I typically teach in the Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing, and Advertising departments, so the classes usually directly relate to my activities with BirdQueen Designs, LLC. I am also grateful that I get to teach, as my students are constant source of inspiration for me. The only problem is, I get so inspired that sometimes it is hard to focus. I have been thinking about designing a line of apparel with textiles created on Spoonflower from my drawings.