Friday, September 4, 2009

Featured Artist: Crista Grasso of Amber Tortoise Creations


Artist/AmberTortoise Creations Bio:

I have always been a very creative person and studied art in college at both The University of Connecticut and Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Art has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I look for any opportunity to use creativity.
I started making jewelry as a small child, making string bracelets for myself and my friends, and never stopped! After years of making jewelry to wear and to give as gifts, I finally listened to the advice of my family and friends and started a business. AmberTortoise Creations was established in 2005, although it wasn't until 2008 that the business really took off when I was fortunate enough to find a wonderful shop in Storrs, CT to sell my jewelry. Since that time, I have focused all of my energy on making jewelry and now have a line of over 1,800 unique one-of-a-kind creations. I make new pieces every day and always challenge myself to create pieces which are different, timeless and beautiful!
The thing I like so much about jewelry is that it says so much about the person who wears it! It reflects your personality, your mood, your interests... It can say I am bold and adventurous, I am a little quiet and reserved, I am a happy person who loves life, or maybe that you are all of those things~ I know I am! A great piece of jewelry can reflect all of these characteristics and more but say different things on different individuals. It is the perfect start or finish to any outfit! Jewelry can be a great conversation starter, and the right piece of jewelry can draw people to you. Do you ever see a piece of jewelry and just know that you NEED to own it? It's as if it was designed specifically for you. That is what I am hoping my jewelry will be to those who see it!
My creations have evolved significantly since the string bracelets I used to make as a child. I offer a complete line of handmade jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches, matching jewelry sets, anklets, barefoot sandals, belly chains and handmade pendants. All of my jewelry is handcrafted using semi-precious stones, freshwater pearls, corals, wood, shell, sterling silver, pewter, copper and green elements such as seeds and limestone coral. I also love to incorporate vintage beads or focal pieces for a completely unique look. I occasionally make handmade pendants and findings out of pure silver polymer clay to incorporate into my creations. I draw my inspirations from the world around me, primarily from the beautiful and sometimes surprising color combinations and textures in mother nature. All jewelry is crafted in my Tolland, CT studio.

1. When and why did you start crafting?

I think I strated crafting as soon as I could move my hands! I have always been very creative and love making things with my hands. Textures and colors have always been very appealing to me, so I have done everything from sculpting to clothing deisgn to interior design to photography to jewelry making. I can first remember making jewelry as a kid- I used to make string bracelets for myself and my friends. I asked for a loom kit for my 8th birthday and learned how to make beaded bracelets. I made all my own jewelry (and clothes) for my prom and other formal events and eventually made jewelry for a few weddings, including my own. The main reason why I started making jewelry and doing many of the other crafts I have dabbled in over the years is that I like to be unique! I like to know that what I am wearing or doing is different from what everyone else is wearing or doing. I have never been afraid to stand out in a crowd and I always received so much positive attention and feedback from the jewelry I would create and wear, that I decided maybe I could turn my hobby into a career. I strive to keep my jewelry unique! Aside from a small line of limited edition pieces, each piece I create is a unique one-of-a-kind creation. That makes it hard for me to part with the pieces sometimes, but it makes me so happy to see something I created on someone who truly loves it, that it makes it okay.

2. What do you enjoy most about your crafting?

Everything! I love everything from picking out the perfect materials to creating a new piece of jewelry. I love taking a walk outside to look for inspiration. I love the feeling of the natural stones in my fingers when I bead and against my skin when I wear the jewelry I create. I love getting to be creative and trying new materials and color combinations and constantly learning new things.

3. How did you find out about Etsy and why did you start selling there?

A coworker told me this story about how her sister decided to quit her full-time job to pursue making pottery full-time. She told me a little about her, and all I could think was "this woman is living my dream". She sent me a link to her Etsy site- and I fell in love with her store and with Etsy. I loved that there was a place that creative minds could all come together to sell their crafts and ask eachother questions! I was so happy to have found Etsy and opened up my own Etsy store. I still tell everyone to check out Etsy since I think it is such as amazing place to go and browse, shop or spark creativity!

4. What is the hardest thing to do for your shop or you dislike the most about selling online?

There isn't anything I particulary dislike about selling online, but I do find the photography to be the most challenging. Taking the pictures is fun, but I find it difficult to get the picture to reflect the true colors and textures of my jewelry. It usually takes me about 10 pictures to get 1 I am comfortable with, so there is a great deal of work that goes into every picture I post in my Etsy listings.

5. Do you rely on Etsy to help pay bills or is it mainly for fun & extra spending money?

My goal is to eventually be able to design jewelry as my only full-time job and make a true career out of it. Right now, I rely on Etsy and the sales at Art Shows and the Offline Shops I sell at to purchase new supplies and market my jewelry. Every penny I make gets re-invested into AmberTortoise Creations.

6. Have you tried or do you sell in offline shops? Do you enjoy that more or less than Etsy & why?

Yes, I sell in 3 stores across Connecticut. The nice thing about selling in the offline shops is that people get to know me and my jewelry. They get to pick it up and try it on and see each piece exactly as it is. I have a "following" (or so I am told- hehe) at the local shops where I sell and people look forward each week for me to bring in new items. I also get many custom orders, since people have gotten to know me and trust my work. The benefit to selling online is that I am able to reach people all across the world and there is so much potential to find customers who share in my love of stones and texture and everything jewelry! So, I don't know that I like one more than the other. They both have their unique benefits and I am so happy to be able to do both!

7. Where else can you be found online?

Etsy Beadstore:

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

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