Marlaina Beers of MarlaBeeDesigns has been on Etsy since 2012. Her Etsy shop is a 5 star rated shop on Etsy and she boasts 17 sales and 175 admirers. I’ve personally known Marlaina for a few year now, as she is my daughter’s friend. I remember talking to her about Etsy and really trying to convince her to give Etsy a shot. At the time she had a website where she has made one or two sales but was not getting the exposure her beautiful items deserve. Today, I’m proud to introduce you to Marlaina and MarlaBeeDesigns.
Can you share with us a little about your personal story?
I am 23 years old with an associates degree in General Studies. I spent most of that degree taking Art classes and English Classes, my two best subjects. I live with my mother and stepfather, but I also try to be with my father, stepmother, and my little brother and sister whenever I get the chance. You will occasionally see my little sister pop up in my listings modeling necklaces or bracelets. I spend a lot of my spare time taking photos, watching Doctor Who, and playing with my pets. I have two Basset Hounds, Chloe and Gus, and a pet rat named Ellie. I am currently working on my jewelry portfolio so I can finish applying to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I want to go for Jewelry Design so I can learn lapidary work, metalsmithing and gemology. Right now I am limited in the types of jewelry I can make based on what is available for purchasing, but once I learn gem cutting and metalsmithing, the possibilities are endless!
What is your craft? and products do you offer in your shop?
I make handmade jewelry using vintage beads, gemstones and found objects. I don’t specifically have a popular product, because everything is one of a kind – I only make my items once!
What were you doing before you started MarlaBeeDesigns?
Before I started this, I was a little lost in what direction I was headed career-wise. My family had been trying to push me from taking my major in General Studies in college to picking a major that I can make a career with and I had no idea which direction I wanted to take. Now I’ve found my niche!
How did you get started in your chosen craft and what do you enjoy most about it?
I started out the same way most little girls do, with big, colorful plastic beads. I would spend hours making necklaces for my mom. (She still has two or three of them.) But like most little girls, I moved on and stopped beading. I hadn’t even thought about it until last year when I was snooping around in my grandmother’s basement. She has a lot of neat crafty and antique items hiding down there that I often like to explore through. I went down to sneak a peek and got caught while I was poking through some beads. My grandmother told me those beads belonged to my great great aunt who had gained popularity by making Cleopatra styled necklaces. She told me that all of those beads were very old, some even came from the 1950s! I was immediately enthralled, and when she asked if I wanted to take them home to try crafting with them, I jumped at the idea and found beading was actually something I was pretty good at.
(My two first bracelets made with those beads are still available here: www.etsy.com/listing/107420897/handmade-leaf-bracelet-vintage-bead and here: www.etsy.com/listing/107419945/honey-colored-leaf-bracelet-handmade)
I love adding my great great aunt’s beads into my jewelry. I feel like I am adding a part of history when I do. I also love when people give me their old jewelry to make something new with. My favorite part is seeing their surprised faces when they see the new piece that their old jewelry helped create!
Where do you get your inspiration for your products?
Ideas tend to just pop into my head as soon as I see certain beads and items grouped together. It is actually something I have to fix for when I go to FIT because they expect you to sit down and draw your designs out first, but my brain doesn’t work that way. What I will usually do is see the beads/items, get a basic image of how it should look in my head, and then I get to work, fixing any design flaws as I go. I am an “on the fly” kind of girl.
What makes MarlaBeeDesigns Green?
The majority of the items I create are made with vintage items or from jewelry that someone was just going to throw away. I also like to use shells, rocks, and sea glass that I find on the beach near my home. Its fun to scavenge, and it helps keep the beach clean!
When I ship out my items, they are always sent in bags, bubble wrap, and/or tissue paper that I have received either in shipments or with a gift I have received. You will always receive your item wrapped nicely in recycled gift tissue or recycled paper with a reused ribbon.
Where do you craft your products?
I had a wonderful craft room set up, however I am in the process of moving, so all you would be seeing is me sitting criss-crossed, beading in an empty room!
What advice do you have for Etsy shop owners who are interested in greening (making eco-friendly) their business?
Try looking at everything in a new light. There are so many things you can make using just about anything lying around, even things that would be considered garbage can be used to make something fantastic. Get inspired by the people around you that fit your customer base. If you have a child in your life, think of green things that child would enjoy and have him or her try it out. Have a business man around? What green thing could you make for his business? Have him try it out and give you his opinion. Also, if you do use found objects, vintage objects, or things that would be considered garbage, make sure you clean and sanitize them, if possible,and tell your customers about your cleaning process. It will ease a potential customer’s mind knowing that they are buying a clean item.
What is your biggest challenge running an eco-friendly business?
The biggest challenge I have is that I am very limited to what I can make right now. I don’t have all the tools and skills that would be ideal for me to create all the items I dream up. Once I learn to work with metal and get to tools to do so, I want to start making tiny wearable metal sculptures out of found metal objects and recycled metals.
Where else can we find you?