MAKER STORIES // LEANNE GRUENDING OF BYOND THE LOOKING GLASS GEMS
Tell us about you and what role HANDMADE plays in your life…
Handmade is so incredibly important to me! I’ve always been “anti-name brand” and when I discovered the incredibly rich local market scene that exists in Saskatchewan (and the fact that I could get custom pretty much anything) a whole new world opened up for me! It means so much that my dollars are supporting a local economy, while I’m getting EXACTLY what I like.
What is something fun, interesting and/or personal about you and your business?
All of my designs are inspired by mantras, which are quotes from some of my most favourite books and each collection (jewelry season) is inspired by the book those quotes come from. I began with Alice in Wonderland (which is where my flamingo logo comes from) and and I just finished off The Alchemist for my Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Each collection has cohesive elements from the novel. For example, Alice in Wonderland was filled with light, innocent and loving stones like Rose Quartz, Moonstone, Aquamarine, Chrysocholla, Citrine, Amethyst with accent elements like hearts, teapots and charms with other whimsical elements. The Alchemist was filled with circular elements and tassels to compliment the plot of the novel with warm, adventurous stones like Sunstone, Turquoise, Citrine, Labradorite and Amazonite.
How did you get interested in becoming a maker? What do you love about it?
I have always felt the compulsion to make what I cannot find in the market. Apparently, according to my mom, I’ve been making my own jewelry since grade 5. This is actually the second element of why I chose the flamingo for my logo. Right around the time I was thinking of taking my jewelry public, a friend told me I was a flamingo in a sea of ostriches. I’ve always been that oddball that needs to wear what I believe, which is why I need to create.
I love that I can create something that actually means something, rather than a design that is a copy of something and made in China in a factory. Where’s the soul in that? What I love about being a maker is the ability to not only create my own designs, but share my heart and my interpretations with my local community. What I love the absolute most? Connecting beautiful souls with the gems and designs they have been searching for.
What is it that you specialize in within the crafting/handmade goods world?
My specialty would be that I create hypoallergenic jewelry, sterling silver and 14kt goldfill, semi-precious gemstone creations where the design is on-trend and at a reasonably affordable price point. I find many jewelry designs either overpriced or cheaper quality. As someone who literally burns when I wear a plated chain too long, it always seemed unfair that I was paying 5 to 10 times more for something boring, just so that wouldn't hurt me.
Describe your artistic community and how you think people in your community see you.
Oh goodness, I’m not too sure! I would love to hear what they have to say though! Hopefully they would describe me as someone who knows their stones and is passionate about what I do.
What stories do you have or struggles have you overcome that will encourage the development and strengthen the identity of the Canadian-crafted industry?
I have definitely gone about taking my hobby public in all the wrong ways. I’m very fortunate in to have an excellent day job that has deeply subsidized my jewelry company. I would never recommend anyone do what I have done! When I started I out I bought allll of the crystals so I could create whatever I wanted without having to plan it out first. This is a HUGE no-no, but anyone who knows me wouldn’t be at all surprised that this has been my business journey. As my company gets older (we just turned 2!) I am working towards my goal of solid market research, a budget, learning about photography and planning each collection before I start creating it. It’s difficult to rein my creative self in like this, but I have realized that it will, in the end, actually make my collection and brand more cohesive. I’m still struggling with marketing and investing in things like photoshoots, advertising and models and of course time management, but I’m finding that it helps to have a schedule and do a bit at a time, focussing on particular areas on particular days. For example, Marketing Materials Monday is when I create all of my online posts for the week and save them all as drafts in IG that I'll cross post. Photography Sunday is when I try to take as many photos as I can so that I will have material to share in the future. I never realized just how much time goes into the admin side of running your own business-- it's substantial!
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