Today we’d like to introduce you to Shanna Steele.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Shanna. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I never actually intended to be a jewelry designer. I got my undergraduate degree from TCU in 1999. I was a Sociology and History major with a minor in Spanish. After undergrad, I worked on my Masters in Social Work at UTA for a bit.
I taught high school and became a caseworker. It was while I was working for CPS that I found I needed a creative outlet, so I didn’t go insane. I had a broken necklace and knew the basics of stringing, so I went to Michael’s and got the stuff to fix and redesign the piece. From there, I just started making and couldn’t stop. In 2006, I decided to quit the career I had studied and trained for. I took a part-time job in a bead and jewelry supply warehouse filling orders.
Being around all those beautiful beads inspired me to keep learning and practicing my skill set. Within a few months, I was offered a position in the design department. I created projects to post online with materials and instructions so others could learn how to create beautiful beaded jewelry. I quickly got into beadweaving and started publishing my designs in magazines like Beadwork and Step By Step Beads. I eventually became the purchasing, and product manager and beading once again became a hobby.
After my son was born in 2014, I decided not to go back to my full-time gig and instead to begin showing and selling my work. I started publishing my original designs again and began doing shows in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I had my first piece published on the cover of Beadwork magazine in 2017 and was named Designer of the Year by that publication in 2018. I recently found out I was accepted into the 2019 Fort Worth Main Street Arts Festival as an emerging artist.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Not at all. I have been rejected a few times. When I first went to work in the bead industry, I actually interviewed for a design position first, but the owner felt I needed a bit more practice and exposure to more materials before I could be offered the job.
The first few times I submitted my designs to magazines, I received rejection letters. Even have been named Designer of the Year by Beadwork magazine, I still receive rejections on project submissions from time to time. It’s the same with shows and festivals.
There are event organizers who don’t think my work is a good fit. In fact, I was rejected from the Deep Ellum Arts Festival just days after I found out I was accepted to the Main Street Arts Festival. I’ve learned not to take that too personally.
Honestly, though, the biggest struggle was getting started. I didn’t have a ton of money to invest, and I didn’t want to ask friends and family for help. So I sold what I had and slowly built my inventory. When I first started doing shows, I could fit everything I had on one folding table.
Now, I use two to three tables and have backstock, and I’m constantly introducing new collections or new pieces in current collections… but just a few years ago, I was forced to get really creative because I couldn’t afford to invest too much in inventory.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Steele Magnolia Designs – what should we know?
I am a one-woman show. I make everything I sell and sell everything I make. I handle all of my social media, photography, online presence, etc. And I have a four-year-old. (It helps that my office is a room in my house.)
I am really proud of the fact that I have had my work published close to two dozen times over the course of the past decade and that I was named Designer of the Year by Beadwork magazine. Part of the magazine experience is that I get to inspire and teach others and I love that!
To that end, I also sell kits on my website and try to teach one class a month at small businesses in the DFW area. It’s nice being able to help others learn to do something that I am not only passionate about, but that saved my sanity.
I also really love going to shows and meeting people and educating them about beadwork (which is a unique art form and one you don’t see too often). Seeing people make and/or wear on my designs lights my soul on fire. The fact that I get to do this for a living is the icing on the cake.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My father was the head of the art department at the Dallas Times Herald when I was growing up. I have distinct memories of him taking me to museums and teaching me about colors and fonts and letters. When I told him I was going to study to be a teacher and social worker in college, he was shocked. He saw something in me very early on and knew that I wouldn’t be happy unless I was being creative.
It took me a lot longer to figure that out for myself than it should have, so I am grateful to him for his influence and for believing I could actually be an artist for a living. When I went to work for Auntie’s Beads, the lead designer (Karla Schafer) and the operations manager (Karen Adair) took me under their wings. They are solely responsible for introducing me to bead weaving and for challenging me to go big or go home.
Also, the former managing editor of Beadwork magazine (Lavon Peters) was always available to offer words of praise and encouragement. I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I did in publishing my work if it wasn’t for my relationship with her.
And my husband… oh, the sacrifices that man has made to make sure I can chase my dreams. He takes great care of me, our son, the house, and the pets when I have deadlines and back-to-back shows. I literally could not do this without him.
- Website: https://steelemagnoliadesigns.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shannasteelemagnolia/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SteeleMagnoliaDesigns/