Hello, everyone! Because this is a space where I often do reviews of things I am into, I wanted to start featuring some of my favorite ‘makers’—and not just the random companies I meet via social media. After all, it feels way better to support a small business that is offering one-of-a-kind designs and products rather than some faceless company who is cranking out mass-produced items.
Stephanie Catinella, owner and operator of ‘The Dwelling Gem‘ is our first ‘Meet A Maker’ for many reasons; firstly because I personally own two of her lovely designs, and then also because I like to champion women-run businesses and because I am confident that you’ll have a wonderful shopping experience with her! I hope you’ll enjoy this interview transcript between her and I—at the bottom, you’ll find a coupon code, so you can own a beautiful piece of jewelry for yourself (or to gift to someone else)!
*As always, here’s the disclaimer that this is not a sponsored post, and I did not receive any compensation to feature Ms. Catinella or The Dwelling Gem. I’m just very passionate about supporting small businesses and wanted to share her delightful work with you!*
APFE: What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
S: I created The Dwelling Gem when I was about 3 years out of college. I always continued to make jewelry after graduating, but it was only a few things here and there. I used what studios I could find through generous friends who had a butane torch and a make-shift soldering bench tucked away in the corner of a garage or work space. It was at the beginning of 2016 when I reunited with an old college friend who had a legitimate metals studio, but more importantly, she knew how to electroform, a new jewelry making method to me. So she taught me how to do it and got me up and running with my own set up. Being able to electroform really gave me the fuel and spark that ignited The Dwelling Gem. It let me make a decent amount of quality jewelry in a fairly short amount of time, and that’s what made me think, “Yes, I can do this.” And opening an online store is possible now because I can stock it.
APFE: What sets you apart from other makers?
S: I think what sets all makers apart from each other is their style and vision. If you are a real, genuine, artist/maker, you will naturally have your own unique style and composition. Obviously there are simple and classic designs that most makers will make, but in general, it’s just a style that sets us all apart from one another. I always identified my style as being clean yet organic. I love asymmetry and natural forms, but an overall clean edge is necessary.
APFE: Tell me about your background as a maker/artist and your education and work experience.
S: I really feel like I became an artist in high school. I blossomed a deep love for photography and became heavily involved in my high school’s studio photography class. I met my best friend, who is also an amazing artist/photographer, and together we did a lot of artsy things, and that just kept feeding into my creative nature. I ended up going to Towson University for a BS in the arts, where I majored in 3D Object Design. I studied everything from metals to ceramics, to 3D printing and mold making. Now I run The Dwelling Gem as a part time job, while I work full time as an instrument repair technician. The two worlds cross over pretty seamlessly, so it’s nice. Always making, always creating.
APFE: How would you describe your business?
S: The Dwelling Gem is a handmade jewelry business specializing in customized jewelry and uniquely eclectic, genuine, wearable (and decorative) art. Multiple mediums are used with different techniques. From traditional metalsmithing to electroforming (a process where you use chemicals, copper, and electricity to grow/plate copper onto stones and other objects), there are always a variety of designs and looks, but the end result is always something special.
APFE: What do you think you offer over your competitors?
S: Ugh! This is a hard question because the maker community and especially the jewelry community that I’ve met on Instagram is like family to me. We have a very tight knit community that is really eager to help each other out and try to achieve success and sales together versus clawing our way to the “top.” But what I have over some competitors is definitely quality and craftsmanship. Some shops don’t source the best quality stones or don’t have the proper knowledge of the trade to pick up on craftsmanship issues and details. When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, that stuff matters a lot with the overall product. I also feel like the overall design compositions of my jewelry and the way that I envision elements going together sets me apart from other makers. APFE-Note – I really really love this, the sense of community Stephanie talks about here. More communities should adopt such a closeness and want for each other to succeed.
APFE: What’s one skill that seems non-related to your field that you’ve found to be surprisingly most helpful?
S: I think being personable and outgoing is a weird “skill” that has really helped me in my field. Being able to put myself out there and really write what a feel and what I am thinking when I am talking about a piece of jewelry or sharing something with my customers/followers has helped me grow and sell my goods. After all, it is sales. People love someone that they can relate to, and in order to do that, you need to be able to share your life and kind of put yourself out there. Some people, especially the artist type, can be more introverted and not comfortable with doing that sort of thing.
APFE: How do you advertise/make people aware of your products?
S: Advertising is very difficult in this digital age. You’d think it’d be easier, but! because everyone is advertising all the time, people naturally become desensitized to it. I do most of my advertising on Instagram and a tiny bit on Facebook. I haven’t really paid to promote yet, but I haven’t ruled it out as an option. As I said, it’s a tough world out there when it comes to getting your products seen.
APFE: Do you have a separate space for making?
S: I have two making spaces! I have a half bedroom in my apartment that I have converted into my electroforming studio, and then any silversmithing is done at my repair job work space. Luckily I get an acetylene torch at my bench, so on breaks and off the clock, I can work on my own projects, like jewelry. I feel pretty lucky with that set up.
APFE: What do you do when you’re not making jewelry?
S: Hahaha, well, that’s not a lot of time because, if I am not fixing an instrument, I am usually making a piece of jewelry. But I do enjoy just sitting back and watching TV with my fiance or going on a walk/bike ride around town. The city we live in is just so perfect for biking and outdoor activities; we try to get out as much as we can when I’m not grinding. I also love playing with my cat, Meechy, can’t forget that!
APFE: Do you have a mission statement for your business?
S: No mission statement at the moment, to be honest. I don’t necessarily believe in them, and I feel like a mission statement is a corporate America thing… No corporate America here, please and thank you! AFPE-Note – I love this. Down with ‘The Man’! Ha!
APFE: Who is your business inspiration? And creative inspiration?
S: Probably other makers on IG and Etsy who are just like me but actually make a living off of their art and their art alone. Those people really inspire me, and I hope to get there one day with The Dwelling Gem.
APFE: Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
S: Well, I’ve only been open for about two years, and I’ve doubled what I did the first year I opened. So I can only hope that things just keep growing. As long as the business keeps growing, then that fuels my need to evolve my work and keep pushing the creative envelope, and I dig that. I just want to become the best that I can be at my trade, and I think opening this shop will aid me in achieving that.
APFE: What do you do with your profits?
S: So I’m not that good at keeping track of my spending versus purchasing because I most certainly do have an addiction to buying crystals and stones at this point in my life (haha), but the profits really go towards supplementing my everyday life and needs. Ever since I opened my shop, I haven’t lived check to check, and at this time in America, I think that’s all a lot of us can hope for. For this year though, all jewelry profits are specifically going toward paying for my wedding because I’m getting married November 3rd, and my LORD its expensive. APFE-Note – Heck yes it is! And also CONGRATULATIONS!
APFE: Do you have employees? If not, do you plan to?
S: I don’t have employees, but I would love to have at least one of two of them in the future. Specifically for marketing, running my social media account, and making my Etsy listings. Those aspects of this aren’t that fun for me and can be very time consuming.
APFE: How would you describe your customers?
S: My customers are the people who care about genuine jewelry and quality products. They care about supporting handmade and the real people of this world who are working tirelessly to make their visions and share them with anyone who will appreciate them for what they are, wearable treasures of art. My customers are bold and will most likely love bigger styled jewels because I do not shy away from creations that carry weight and remind you that it is there, on your skin, adorning your body. My customers are the best.
APFE: Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
S: I think they come to me for my originality and stone selections. In the jewelry world, you probably think, “Well, a crystal necklace is a crystal necklace. How many different ways can you really make it?” A TON of different ways is how you can make it, and a ton of different crystals is how you can style it. And I have all those thoughts, techniques, and crystals, to make that happen. My vision is only mine, and when people buy from me, they are getting true intellectual property!
APFE: Related to the previous questions, why choose handmade goods over fast-fashion/mass produced goods?
S: SO MANY reasons to ditch mass produced and buy handmade. Not only are you getting a higher quality product, but it’s just so much more exclusive and genuine. One of my favorite ways to look at it is, when you buy handmade (esp. jewelry) you are purchasing a piece of that artist’s heart. You are always going to have that in your jewelry collection, and it’s something that can get passed on forever! I will be dead, and my jewelry will still be circulating in this world. That is such a cool thought and reality. You’re a part of that when you buy handmade. Plus, if its truly handmade, every piece is one of a kind. Even if it’s replicated and there are multiples of the same design, there will be tiny differences that will still make them unique and truly one of a kind. And you can’t beat that.
Thank you so much to Stephanie for answering my questions and for being the first ‘Meet A Maker’ featured here!
All ‘A Place For Everything’ readers can take 10% off any order with code MEETTHEMAKER valid through May 31st, 2018! She has many amazing designs to offer, and as the owner of two pieces myself, I fully recommend that you scoop up something! Her designs also make most excellent gift ideas!
If you would like to be featured in the monthly ‘Meet A Maker’ profile, or you know a small business that you’re passionate about, please head over to the ‘Menu/Contact Page’ and introduce yourself/a business you’re enthusiastic about!