“I’ve cycled through latch hook rugs, bubble gum wrapper chains, cross stitch, knitting and finally got hooked on making pendants and other pieces made with resin,” shares Seattle-based artisan Stephanie Ponder. “But when I saw examples of resin on Scrabble tiles, I knew it was something I had to try making.”
The writer/editor by trade admits that the act of creating things is a necessity in her life. “I dabble. I experiment. I play. Sometimes my efforts are triumphs. Other times … let’s just say that I’m 100% OK with prototypes.”
As for the topics that adorn her treasures, Ponder shares: “I favor hedgehogs, squids, elephants and ptatypuses. I gravitate toward the colors orange, green (the pukier, the better), blue and brown.” And she admits, “Things I have too much of: glitter, yarn, socks, eyeshadow and scrapbook paper. Oh, and distance between me and my Indiana-dwelling sister.”
It is a pleasure to feature the work of this Inkandescent woman who in the last decade “has battled with errant bubbles, resin that doesn’t cure, and paper that isn’t sealed properly. Nonetheless, each imperfect piece was a learning opportunity.”
“It’s amazing to see how an image will read when it’s reproduced in such a small format. It doesn’t hurt that the resin helps images pop. It’s also fun to see the effects of a little well-placed glitter,” she notes.
Scroll down for our game of 10 Questions with Stephanie Ponder.
PONDER PRESS PRESENTS: STEPHANIE PONDER’S ARTFUL PENDANTS — Transforming the ordinary into the sublime
Be Inkandescent: Stephanie, tell us about the moment you discovered that you wanted to be an artisan.
Stephanie Ponder: I’ve always liked to make things, but have wrestled with doubt in my skills. I discovered resin after playing with image transfers made with acrylic mediums. I immediately loved working with it and experiments with all of the ways it can be used. After amassing more pendants than I knew what to do with, I signed up for a table at craft fair at work and my stuff sold pretty well. Not that the money was my motivation, but I liked having a hobby that paid for itself. Anyone who’s walked out a bead store with a (very) small bag, the contents of which cost more than $100 know what I mean. As I made more pendants it only seemed natural to learn other techniques so that I could start putting many jewelry-making building blocks together in different ways.
Be Inkandescent: What was the first step you took to start your business?
Stephanie Ponder: Once I realized that I wanted to selling the pendants at local markets, I obtained a business license. I also started reading up on all of the things once needs to do, such as marketing, pricing products and managing business accounting and inventory. To help education myself, I’ve read personal-experience blog posts, talked to peers and attended local School House Craft events. It’s an ongoing process. Luckily, I love to learn.
Be Inkandescent: Was it an easy process, or did it take a while for you to get the hang of managing a business?
Stephanie Ponder: The only thing I feel that I really have an handle on is making jewelry. Even so, I have way more ideas than I do time. The bookkeeping side of it initially presented a big learning curve, but it was something I had to do—and do correctly—so I had good inspiration for mastering that.
Be Inkandescent: What were some of your biggest challenges?
Stephanie Ponder: Marketing myself is still my biggest challenge. I have a difficult time talking about what i do. It’s hard to accept compliments. I still struggle with thoughts that it’s a fluke that people like what I make. I shared these thoughts with someone a few years ago, who said that if everyone who makes art or crafts felt that way, we’ve have a handful of artists and that would be it.
So, I try to do what I do in honesty and truth, and that’s all I can do. People wanting to spend their hard-earned money is a bonus. I also try to get in regular doses of books, such as Kim Werker’s “Make it Ugly,” to help me address my regular fears and worries.
On a more practical side, I also find photography a challenge along with doing regular blog posts. I want to make things, the practical work gets in the way of that.
Be Inkandescent: What has been the greatest joy of being an artisan / small business owner?
Stephanie Ponder: The greatest joy I find in being an artisan is that sense of getting lost in what I do. I can spend hours pouring resin, stitching on beads or finding just the right color combinations, and feel that only a few minutes have passed. It’s my version of “mindfulness” to be lost in the creative process like that. And, I’ve learned that creativity really is a muscle. The more I use it, the more moments of inspiration I have. It’s a lovely and welcome cycle.
Be Inkandescent: How and where do you sell Ponder’s Pendants?
Stephanie Ponder: I sell my jewelry six months out of the year at the Redmond Saturday Market (redmondsaturdaymarket.org) in Redmond, WA. The area is home to many markets, and I am particularly fond of the sense of community I’ve found in Redmond. I try to do a few holiday shows in the fall. And, I have a small store front on Etsy; the store’s name is PonderPressDesigns.
Be Inkandescent: What do you think is the difference between starting a small business, like a jewelry business, vs other business opportunities?
Stephanie Ponder: Jewelry is tricky because it’s not a necessity. On the other hand, I understand that there’s a psychological aspect to sales and helping people feel good, and jewelry can help facilitate that. Because it isn’t a necessity, I find it particularly meaningful when my jewelry sells.
Be Inkandescent: What advice do you have for others wanting to start their own small business?
Stephanie Ponder: I think it’s important to just jump in. It’s easier to do what you love and teach yourself about the practical matters along the way. There’s a danger in getting caught up in the learning/fact-finding aspect and wanting to know everything before making a move. I’m a single-person operation (unless you count my mother who is the best spokesmodel a gal can have, thanks, Mom!), but I can see how outsourcing or delegating the less-than-fun stuff is the ideal way to go. Mine is also very small business, which is important to keep in mind when considering any advice I have to offer.
Be Inkandescent: You also have a day job. Tell us about that.
Stephanie Ponder: My day job is working as an editor for an international magazine. We’re a team of about 30, and we put out three magazine (U.S., UK and Canadian issues). The Canadian magazine is my “baby,” but I have a hand in the other two editions as a writer and editor. I serve as the books’ editor for all three. I’m a word girl, as my degrees are in German, Library Science and Journalism. While I don’t use the German much, the job otherwise fits my background quite nicely. I can be a bit of an introvert (hence the joy found in making jewelry by myself while listening to podcasts and audiobooks), but I like talking to both strangers and freelancers for work.
Be Inkandescent: If you had it to do all over again, would you start up a small business?
Stephanie Ponder: Would I do this all over? Probably. Maybe. The version of myself that makes different decisions is a stranger to me. I’ve heard from more than on beader that their love of making jewelry meant they soon had more necklaces, bracelets and earrings on hand than they knew what to do with, so they decided to sell it. I knit and crochet and sometimes paint or dabble in collage to be creative without attaching a price tag. And all of that really helps to satisfy all of my creative urges. I know I’d be making something. This path has led me to new friends, continued learning and unexpected adventures. It’s hard to say no to that no matter what.
- Pendants: $10 each, three for $20
- Bracelets: $15
- Hair barrettes: $25
Click here to shop at ponder.press.
Questions? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Stephanie has found that the tiles work really well with photos that have been resized. So if that’s what you fancy, send her an image of your favorite piece of art, your husband (or wife), your new baby, college grad, or your grandma, and she’ll create an original work of art for you to wear or share.