Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Saara Reidsema, and I live and work in San Francisco, CA with my handsome husband, Frank Lee. My parents and grandparents were jewelers, so it made sense that I was named after Finnish designer Saara Hopea Untracht, who was married to Oppi Untracht. Oppi wrote what some consider to be the jeweler’s bible, Jewelry: Concepts and Technology.
My parents were creative artisan jewelers and worked from home. I was never told, “You can’t do that.” Instead my parents would say, “Okay, go do it, and let me know if you need help.” When I was 6, my 9-year-old sister was too afraid to go to bed at night because she had watched vampire movies on Creature Features. I decided to protect her from the evil undead by making wax crucifixes that my dad then cast in silver. My mom gave one to my grandmother, who owned a retail jewelry store, and soon Gramma started placing orders.
I worked for a large Bay Area repair and manufacturing sweatshop for 6 years. I was paid by the piece to repair all kinds of jewelry, set stones, and finish rough castings. I learned most of my finer skills there and how to be very quick at the bench — and how to swear in Vietnamese, Spanish and Farsi! I can technically make just about anything, in regard to jewelry, but am just now exploring design and testing my understanding of metal and stones. It’s kind of funny: I am working in the reverse order of most people, who design first, then develop their craft. Ten years ago my mom would give me a batch of wax rings to cast in gold. She would get upset with me because I would inevitably true up the shanks, even up prongs, and basically turn her rings into pieces that looked commercial and ruined her designs — but now I get it.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Cooking is a passion, so I started a pop-up/underground restaurant that allows me to get my food groove on. I also do small product and event photography for friends and acquaintances. While I am working at the bench I listen to books on MP3. My husband and I also attend most of the local film festivals.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I have never defined myself as an artist. I believe that, more often than not, there is a solid line between art, craft, and skill. But to answer the question in a general context, I finally realized a year ago that, in order to be happy, I needed to be self-employed. I am most satisfied when making things. Creating objects that people have an emotional connection to — you can’t beat that!
Please describe your creative process.
The majority of my business is custom work, so collaboration and working with rough concepts to produce a piece of jewelry is a huge creative motivator. I am a process junkie. Any excuse to buy and learn new tools is exploited. For example, I bought a tap and die set for a custom sapphire and gold earring plug. Since I often recycle clients’ stones and metal, custom design allows me to work in a larger variety of stones, metals and alloys than I would have available for my personal work.
Right now I am having a love affair with fabricating through fusing, especially high karat gold, platinum and fine silver — it is a simple but newish process for me and incredibly satisfying. I also work in ceramics and am finding that I can now work metals like clay. Ironically, people think some of my stuff is made from PMC, which I have not yet added to my materials!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A funky gold cuff bracelet my grandfather made for my grandmother in the ’70s.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Don’t be afraid to just go for it. Even if your photos aren’t the way you want them to be, or your banner isn’t perfect, keep pushing forward. Spend some time on the site and learn from other people. Etsy has an amazing community that shares its resources, so make sure you utilize it!
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
Every time I think of a new feature, you guys beat me to the punch! I love Etsy and how it is constantly evolving. I’m thrilled to be a happy passenger on the Etsy Train.
How do you promote your work?
So far most of my business comes from word of mouth. I have a website, just started a Facebook page, and I’m a very lax tweeter. I also have a short video made by my husband. I plan to participate in a number of retail and wholesale shows this year.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I would like be successful at having lured/nagged/worn down my husband (a brilliant designer and architect) into designing a jewelry line, a lamp line, and a drawer pull line, and possibly a ceramic tile line. I’d also like to be in my studio, puttering about with a wild, messy garden nearby. Oh, and in that studio I would like a laser welder, a CNC mill, a 3D printer, a fat cat, and a lazy dog.