Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meet the Designer :: Brandi Hussey

"The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most." ~John Ruskin
Allow me to introduce jewelry designer, business owner and color enthusiast Brandi Hussey to you.

Brandi Hussey is the artist behind the CatiesBlue brand and brandigirl ::a life inspired by color blog. The moment I first laid eyes on this beautiful blog I was smitten. Descriptions such as ethereal... lush... romantic... airy... came to mind when I first landed there. With a charming eye for color and a savvy head for business, Miss Brandi's blog sucked me right in. It is on the top of my list of blogs to read every day as much for the tips that she provides as well as the feast for my senses.

{Ginger Necklace}
 It humbles me that I have come to be friends with Brandi over the past year. We have shared our successes and failures, our fears and our dreams. So I was delighted when she agreed to be my first interview for 2011.

ABS:: What is your background in this jewelry making? Did you take classes, get a degree, or are you self-taught?
BH:: A little bit of all three, actually! I used to make my own earrings growing up because I couldn't find ones I liked. Then, when I went to college and became an art major, I took a metalsmithing class thinking metal would speak to me (it didn't); I was awful at it, just awful. After that experience, I focused on painting till I graduated, and didn't approach jewelry again till several years later. That was when a fortunate visit to Hawaii led me to a bead store, which reminded me that hey, I really enjoy doing this. At the time, I was a jewelry rep for a direct sales company, but it wasn't until that vacation that I seriously considered creating jewelry of my own. It was a thought that festered and wouldn't come loose, so I did some research and started my business a few days after I got back home. Since then, I've taken a few classes here and there, asked questions from fellow beady friends, and dabbled with techniques.

ABS:: Did you always work with art beads in your jewelry? What type of bead is your favorite to work with and why? Who are your favorite bead artists?
BH:: When I started beading again, I didn't really know much about art beads at all, and truth is, I'm still exploring that world. But when I started, I knew that I loved gemstones and glass, so I focused on them at first; then over time, I stumbled upon borosilicate beads. Boros captivated me with their colors, and I couldn't get enough of them. They've been a favorite of mine for the last three or so years, and no matter what styles or techniques I try, I still come back to using boros over and over - I just love them. As for favorites? I love the work from Erin Davenport at Firelily and Pat Hernandez at AtlantisGlassandBead  for boros.

{Meri Earrings}

ABS:: You have an eye for detail and color and take beautiful photographs. You have a distinct style in your photography that presents your jewelry in a fresh way with beautiful lighting. Any tip that you care to share with our readers about photography? BH:: Thanks for that! Seriously, if you know me from my blog, I've mentioned a few times how I've struggled with taking photos. It's a constant thing that I work on, so I appreciate the kind words! As for a photo tip, natural light is your friend; I think everything looks better in natural light. My problem is, my house is pretty dark and the windows aren't positioned to let in a huge amount of sunlight. So, no matter the season, I'm out on my back porch taking photos. I'm pretty lucky that weather in Texas is fairly moderate, but I'll bundle up in the winter, or do shorter sessions during a summer heat wave. I've tried studio lights and light boxes, and wasn't really happy with the results. After months of experimenting and tweaking, I realized I liked natural light best.

{Miriam Necklace}
  ABS:: You also have a blog that is a visual treat for the eyes as well as a smorgasbord of business tips and techniques. Tell us about your blog, why you blog, what the best part of blogging is.
BH:: Aw, thanks! It's nice to think that my blog means something to others, the way it does to me, simply because of the amount of time I've spent crafting it. It's sort of like an ongoing art piece that I get to keep and give away all at the same time, and I look at it as my place to share inspiration and connect with people that I couldn't do (or do well) anywhere else. You can't really share like that on Facebook or Twitter or even a shop front; blogs are great because the format is wide open, and encourages a longer discussion, if you want it (which I do! Come say hi).

The best part of blogging is connecting with people - whether it's a regular reader or a first-time commenter, seeing that what you've written has connected with someone is amazing, seriously amazing. After a lot of thought, and trial and error, I realized that I liked that kind of additional layer or dimension of a person you can get from blogs - behind the scenes looks, personal thoughts, what they're obsessing about, what's inspiring them, what's next for them, that sort of thing. That's what draws me in as a reader, so that's what I try to do as a blogger. I also like a little variety, so I mix it up on my blog to keep things interesting, and I like sharing information. After almost four years as a business owner, I'm finding out that I know more than I thought I did, so if I can share a tip and save someone some time, awesome.

{Ringmaster Earrings}
 ABS:: There are a lot of romantic ideas about owning your own creative business. Do you do this work full time? What is the best part about being your own boss? What is the worst part?
BH:: Yep, I do create full-time, and let me tell you, it's both exactly what I thought it would be and nothing at all like I thought it would be. I like that I can work in my pjs if I want to (I like being comfortable, I'm not going to lie, and the UPS guy is used to it), I like that I only have to go down the hall to be at work, and I like that I'm in control of my workload and the projects I take on. But I will be perfectly honest - there's very little romance in it when this is your main form of income, and sales are slow, and you've got bills to pay. I also spent the whole first year as a business owner simultaneously excited and confused. I didn't know what I was doing half the time, and some of the lessons I've learned I feel like I've learned the hardest way possible. I was prepared to create and tap into inspiration - art school taught me that, as well as how I work as an artist. But art school did nothing to prepare me to actually make money or deal with all the outside-of-the-studio tasks. All of that I had to learn on my own, and it was a bit struggle to figure out taxes and pricing and branding and bookkeeping. Looking back, I wonder if my business didn't grow as fast as it could have, but I like that I moved at my own pace. I knew I wouldn't always struggle and that it would get easier, and it did. It's also hard to be down when work doesn't feel like work.

Best part: being the boss. 

Worst part: trying to find a good work/life balance. 
Second worst part: not having employees to do the tasks you don't like doing.

{One of Brandi's incredible photograph color palettes.}
 ABS:: Color is obviously key to what you do. Is there a color palette that you find yourself reaching for again and again? Are there certain colors that you stay away from? 
BH:: Color's a huge part of what I do, regardless of the medium! And I honestly like using all of the colors I can get my greedy little hands on, but I will say that I tend to use black, white, and browns the least. Most of my clothing are neutral, so I tend to choose brighter colors to work with. And I do like certain colors together, like aqua and green, but I try not to over-use that or any color combination.

ABS:: As a creative, I am sure that you are brimming with new ideas all the time. Any you care to share with us?  What is next on the horizon for CatiesBlue?
BH:: The biggest thing will be that Catie's Blue will have a new online home in February, and I'm really excited about it! I'm working on moving everything over to a new shop as I type this, and I anticipate a smooth, one-day transition on or near the beginning of February. I'm also experimenting with a new series of necklaces and bracelets directly inspired by the color palettes I do on my blog. Beyond jewelry, I'm working on turning a color e-class I taught last fall into a series of e-books, and there may or may not be something to do with photos later this year. We'll have to see!

Visit Brandi online:
BrandiGirlBlog - pretty awesome tips and pretty eye candy, too!
CatiesBlue on Etsy - for gorgeous lampwork and gemstone jewelry.
CatiesBlue - new website coming in February! Bookmark it now!

{Erin Necklace - the one that I have my eye on ;-)... after all it bears my name!}

I encourage you to visit Brandi's blog to learn great business tips, read her eBooks, and be inspired. Hop on over to CatiesBlue on Etsy and tell us what you favorite CatiesBlue creation is.

Erin Prais-Hintz writes about all things that inspire her at Treasures Found::Inspiration Is Everywhere. Her jewelry designs are one-of-a-kind made one-at-a-time. She collects quotes and dust and invites you to send her your favorite (quote - not dust!) to enjoytheday@tesoritrovati.com. Check out her brand spankin' new website at Tesori Trovati.


Patty said...

Fabulous interview, Erin, and thanks for introducing me to Brandi's Blog. I'm checking it out right now and already it's one of my favorites.

Pretty Things said...

Love your jewelry, love your blog -- just love!

swopemelmel said...

WOW, what wonderful style. I love these designs, I have been wanting to learn the trick for making these types of "clusters". Anyone have any hints??? swopemelmel@aol.com

Julia said...

Great interview!

JeannieK said...

Brandi really knows how to work those lamp work beads. Beautiful

Alice said...

Great interview Erin! I've been drooling over Brandi's mouthwatering jewelry for quite some time.

Simon and Ruby said...

I've been a fan of Brandi's work since I stumbled upon it about 6 months ago. Gorgeous! Thank you for all the real world advice and inspiration.

Brandi Hussey said...

Thank you all for such sweet words! Thanks to Erin and ABS for having me over. I appreciate you!

Siany said...

beautiful jewelry, great color combination, the shape, and amazing detail work.. bravo!