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Meet Cathy Stein of Eclectic Design Choices

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cathy Stein.

Cathy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Both of my parents were creative and artistic. They encouraged my creativity from an early age at home and with extracurricular opportunities. Even though my science and math interests predominated through college, work and while raising my family, I never lost my creative spirit. My mother helped me make my first necklace to complement an amber “spider” pendant that was a present from my husband. After that, she encouraged me to make some jewelry to include in a booth she had at an antique mall. Later we opened an Etsy shop focusing mostly on vintage finds and handmade jewelry. She was the major collector and I made most of the jewelry. I also began doing more photographic art.

After my mother passed away, I started to present both my jewelry and photographic art at local arts and crafts shows, in addition to running my Etsy shops. I found that many shows implied local and handmade while allowing vendors who bought at the market or sold multilevel marketing items. This led me to get involved with creating selling opportunities exclusively for local artisans under my other business focus, 817 Arts Alliance. I was also encouraged by a local artist to begin submitting my photographic art to exhibitions in the area. I have had several pieces selected to hang in various art exhibits around DFW.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Finding time to create can be a challenge. I seem to always have more projects in my head than time to tackle them. The other challenge associated with creating when I find the time to do it, since I only need so much jewelry and art on my walls, is what to do with it? (I actually have more art hanging on my walls from other artists than I do of mine.) Since my mother was a creative entrepreneur, selling those extra creations seemed to be the obvious answer.

Selling does not come naturally to me, though. I do not like pushy salespeople and thus, I do not want to be one. Also, pricing can be difficult. Once I started doing shows, I realized that many artisans do not price their work so that they earn even minimum wage. I want to be fair to my customers, however, I also have to be fair to myself. I had to learn that my customer is not someone who exclusively shops at big box stores. I cannot compete with mass-produced items. My customers understand and appreciate what it means to purchase a handcrafted item. They enjoy supporting local artisans and hearing the story behind the handmade items they purchase.

Marketing is also not my strong suit. Early on, I had a few inquiries about donating my items to silent auction fundraisers or the like. I took them up on it because their pitch of exposure made sense to me. I learned the hard way that these donations of my monetary and time investments rarely lead to follow on sales. I still donate occasionally. However, I now donate to support a cause that I want to support, rather than for exposure.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Eclectic Design Choices provides designs that add beauty and function to your life in the following areas:

Jewelry – My designs include OOAK pieces for your wearing pleasure that are made from natural pearls, feathers, gemstones, shell, crystal, glass, wood beads and more.

Home – Express yourself with my decorator pieces, signed wall-art, note cards, magnets, stickers and bookmarks.

Documents – Business cards, logos, programs, flyers and more are designed with your needs in mind.

My jewelry and photographic art are mostly inspired by nature with a sprinkling of my math and science interests thrown in. I choose the components for each piece of jewelry based on their individual beauty and combined appeal. I have a great appreciation for the beauty found in nature and fellow nature lovers will find this influence in many of my pieces.

My photographic art blends my experiences as a painter and photographer. I take each of my original photos and manipulate them digitally to bring about a wide range of results, including pencil sketches, block print style images, or abstract and psychedelic impressions of the original image. Nature, especially small nature, is a favorite subject. I have not invested in a high-end camera with lots of lenses, but rather have learned to be stealthy in order to take the photos I then digitally manipulate. Some photos are malleable and can have many outcomes. Others can only be pushed in one direction. I hope the artistic spin I put on my photographic art pieces will cause the viewer to do a double-take and come back and look more closely at the dichotomy between a pure photograph and some other media. In doing so, I hope my artistic impressions share my joy of the natural world with the viewer.
Some of my favorite creations have been in response to customer requests. One such request was to make a pendant out of a dead iPod. It turns out it had a special custom engraving on the case that needed to be featured. After much discussion and a few mock-ups sent to my customer, I incorporated the engraving on one side and a piece of the circuit board from the iPod on the other side of a natural wood frame I made from tree branch slices. A photographic art custom request that was heartwarming was for a first wedding anniversary present. The traditional first anniversary present is paper and my customer’s husband loved pencil sketches. I started with a photo from their honeymoon that was special and digitally manipulated it so that it looked like a pencil sketch. Perhaps I enjoy custom requests so much because, in addition to being creative, I also consider myself a problem solver.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I enjoyed learning and still do. While I looked forward to a new school year, I also enjoyed the freedom of summers. There was so much to do and explore. My favorite subjects were math, science and art. In high school, I had a friend tell me that when she first met me, she thought I was an introvert. I had to think about that for a while and realized that my tendency to observe before jumping in likely could give that impression to someone.

Pricing:

  • Jewelry and accessories range in price from $5 – $200 depending on design and materials.
  • Photographic art ranges from $3 bookmarks to $185 ready to hang photographic art images.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dan Dawkins
Leah Hood
Van Hutchinson
Cathy Stein
Larry Stein

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