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May 7, 2011

Shop Talk: Violet & Blue

The Daily Star

---- — Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Jen Guzman of Violet & Blue, a jewelry business in Downsville.

How long have you lived in the area?

Almost a year. I left (New York City) and moved up to Downsville in May of 2010.

Tell me about your business:

My business is Violet & Blue, named after the Stevie Nicks song “Violet and Blue.” I sell my collection of one-of-a-kind, handcrafted jewelry that has been inspired by two things I am most passionate about: nature and rock ’n’ roll. My specialties include designing earrings, necklaces and bracelets from new materials but I also create designs by taking pieces of vintage jewelry and adding new pieces to it, sometimes called “jewelry upcycle.” My pieces have been worn by celebrities and rock stars.

Describe a typical day in your business:

If it’s a creating day, then my studio looks like a craft store exploded! I have all of my beads and materials spread out everywhere. I put on some classic rock, turn up the volume and go to work on my designs. I create custom orders by appointment, so I also have clients that visit me in the studio and we discuss the custom design I am making for them and go over options. If it’s an inventory day, I spend it taking photos of my latest designs, adding them to my catalog and listing them on my online shop.

How did you get started in this line of work?

I used to create jewelry with my mother when I was young, it was a hobby of hers that I thought was cool. We used to go to gem and mineral shows where we would buy beads and materials and then go home and create.

As I grew older, my interests changed, but my mom kept up with it. She passed away almost six years ago and it wasn’t until a couple of years after that I found her huge container of jewelry supplies. I made a necklace that day and have been designing regularly ever since.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I would like to see Violet & Blue pieces in local shops upstate, in trendy boutiques in New York City and on the pages of fashion magazines around the world. By then, I would also like to see my list of celebrity clients expand as well.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

I designed a piece of jewelry for one of my childhood idols, 1980s pop icon Tiffany. When we met, it was one of the only times I’ve ever felt star-struck. It was truly a dream come true to see her wearing one of my necklaces. I was lucky enough to design another piece for her just recently.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

When I first began designing I would envision grand masterpieces in my mind and then try to have it materialize in front of me. I learned very quickly that this was a fast way to burn out and lose direction and focus because all designs will have some form of restrictions. I’m getting better at determining these restrictions first. It allows the design process to flow more easily.

The most enjoyable?

I really enjoy creating custom pieces of jewelry. I love to get to know my clients and then interpret what I feel coming from them into a wearable piece of art. Because I believe jewelry is extremely personal and is usually linked to a story or a memory, I really try hard to capture a feeling or a moment. Every piece I design is meant to be for that person I designed it for. If I took the same piece and put it on a different person, it just wouldn’t look right. My most rewarding and happiest moments are when I see a client again, and they tell me since they’ve received my finished piece, they wear it all the time and have received so many compliments.

How do you define success for your business?

When you do what you love, it is easy to give 110 percent. In doing so, success is inevitable. I’ve been fortunate enough to have met and designed for some great people in the entertainment industry, people I’ve admired for a long time. Most of them have been repeat customers.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

My designs are one-of-a-kind, so unless I receive a custom order for multiples, I only make one of each piece. The exclusivity of my items is what I feel sets me apart. I think my customers like the fact that nobody else has the same piece of jewelry, it is completely unique to them.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

I have the greatest view of beautiful mountains and a waterfall from my home jewelry studio. I am surrounded by nature and that really inspires me. My peaceful surroundings allow me to work productively. Because my jewelry is available for purchase online, I am not restricted to working from a specific location as everyone has access to my work.

I also like how everyone knows each other where I live. It’s a very friendly community and positive feedback spreads quickly. I recently had a launch party for my new spring/summer collection at a popular local establishment and it was a huge success thanks in part to word-of-mouth advertising.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

Find what inspires you the most and create from there.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail