Designer Spotlight: Colleen G. Lentini
A brief story of what you do and why you do it:
I design and make Artisan Jewelry using a variety of materials including natural stones, lampwork beads, pearls, metals, etc. I seek unusual stones and pieces to use in my jewelry, including handmade art from other artists. Each piece I create is unique. I started making jewelry about 5 years ago, needing something to do in my spare time. Friends convinced me to sell at craft shows. My husband joined me and we use the opportunity to travel, meet new people and make new friends! Retirement should be a chance for new challenges and travel, not just sitting around doing nothing.
How did you get into jewelry design?
An artist friend talked me into taking classes from her in watercolor painting, then we both decided to try jewelry making. As an artist, my friend would never be satisfied with just “beading!” As a lover of unique, handmade items, just beading would never do for me either. I worked hard to learn different techniques, taking classes as necessary. Then my husband joined in and learned how to work with wire, making bracelets, rings, and miscellaneous items.
What makes your collection unique?
There is a lot of creative jewelry out there and it is very difficult to create something different and unique. I strive to find the unique stone or piece to incorporate into my jewelry. I particularly like the southwestern style of jewelry and have some suppliers who obtain beads and pendants directly from the Native Americans who make them. These are unique to anything I have seen in other vendor's jewelry, and I am happy to give credit where it belongs. I also purchase unique pieces from other artists (including pottery, raku, handcut stones, and lampwork glass) to help my pieces stay unique. My husband creates pieces with recycled aluminum and other wire than can also be part of a piece of jewelry rather than stand by itself.
What are your inspirations?
I am truly inspired by seeing what other artists create, not only jewelry, but any kind of art. It is truly amazing to see what artist can produce. I peruse magazines, online sites, books, etc. to get additional ideas. I never copy anyone's designs or anything I see, but do incorporate different ideas into my own. I love going to shows and talking to other jewelers and sharing stories. I am happy to share my suppliers and other information to help others, and other jewelers often do the same.
How are you making a difference in your life?
Designing and making jewelry, attending various Arts and Crafts Shows to show our jewelry, and meeting new people, having new experiences and making new friends is exhilarating! Traveling around selling our jewelry is something that my husband and I do together, which helps create a wonderful time in retirement for us!
What's something unusual about you that makes you “you”?
I grew up overseas as my Father worked for the Military. It was quite an experience. I went to a new school almost every year, making new friends and having new experiences. I worked hard for years as a single parent of 3 children while going to college. I excelled, but it was very hard. I had some bad experiences along the way, including being stalked and abused, discriminated against for being a woman, and being sexually assaulted. Working hard and growing in many ways made me the person I am today. Learning about people in different situations honed my intuitive skills which also helped to enhance my skills and abilities.
What's the biggest struggle in running your jewelry business like a business? OR What is your biggest success in running your business like a business?
One of the hardest parts of running a jewelry business is learning how to price a piece of jewelry and how to market that jewelry. I still find it hard to market our jewelry, which shows to apply to and how to market to local establishments. Taking photographs of jewelry is another very difficult thing to do. My business experience made it fairly easy to be organized about my business issues. I found a database that allows me to track all my purchases, and automatically compute the cost of each piece along with a wholesale and retail price based on a percentage. It allows me to track my inventory and print reports for tax purposes.
I retired from the Federal Government in Washington, DC, 10 years ago after almost 40 years of service. I earned an Associate's Degree in Management and a Master's Degree in Public Administration while working which allowed me to progress from a Clerk-Typist to s senior government analyst. My husband and I currently live in Sparta, TN. We have 5 children, 7 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild.