November 30, 2010

Jewelry Design Success Stories

Meet Brandy Thomason of Bella Vita

The “who, where, and how” behind fabulous jewelry designs is just as interesting and inspiring as the jewelry itself. This month we’d like you to meet Brandy Thomason of Bella Vita Handmade Jewelry. Brandy is a successful and free-spirited jewelry designer living near Little Rock, AR, with her partner, Matt, and their adventurous puppy, Arlo. Her online store encompasses three very distinct lines of jewelry that feature semi-precious gemstones, vintage glass, and found objects. Brandy’s jewelry is breathtaking and quite an inspiration.

Check out her designs at Become a fan of Bella Vita Handmade Jewelry on Facebook. And, peruse her blog, where you’ll get lost in her rich, colorful photos and meet her darling puppy, Arlo.

We managed to catch up with Brandy and ask her a few questions. Here are her answers:

When did you discover your talent for jewelry design?
I discovered my love for jewelry design early. When I was 12 years old I made friendship bracelets with seed beads on floral wire. By the time I was 14 I practically lived at the local bead store where I learned to macramé, properly crimp beads and much more. I received many compliments on my jewelry and began selling it in high school. I thought my interest in jewelry was just a phase and that I would soon get tired of it. I went away to college and earned my degree in Interior Design. I enjoyed it, but after my first job in an architecture firm I decided it wasn’t for me. Before long I found myself heading to the local bead store in Little Rock to fill out a job application! I started there the next week. Then I dug out my old bead boxes and made enough jewelry for a little Christmas show at a friend’s house. I got so much praise I decided maybe I should pursue jewelry design. I started Bella Vita Jewelry in December of 2008. Over the last two years I have come to realize that this is what I am supposed to be doing. It comes so naturally I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

(psst . . . click on the link below to read more).

How do you choose where to sell your jewelry?
This is a tough question. I used to hit the pavement asking lots of places if they were interested in selling my jewelry, and pretty much accepting anyone’s offer to do so. But not so much anymore. I learned that most shops want to consign with a 50/50 split, meaning you’re basically wholesaling your jewelry to the stores but they don’t have to commit to buy it or even sell it once it is in their store. These days if I do consign I look for shops with a 40/60 or 30/70 split. I also sell wholesale but have a minimum purchase requirement. My favorite way to sell is on my website, or at trade shows and trunk shows. I love meeting my customers and telling them all about the piece they are taking home. Selling and representing your jewelry is the most profitable. I travel all over Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri selling my jewelry at trunk shows and craft shows. I hope to have a studio and boutique all of my own sometime soon.

What has been your greatest success
My greatest success to date was a feature article in the Saturday Home & Style section of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in June of 2009. The article was about the Recycled Jewelry Workshop I was teaching at a local bead store. One of my students works at the newspaper and asked if she could write a story about me and the class. Of course I agreed, but little did I know I would be on the front page of the Home & Style section. I was very honored and know my family was really proud of me too.

If we were to visit your studio, would we see a neatly organized workspace or messy mountainous piles of beads?
Depends on the day … I have a large inventory of beads, findings and vintage goods. I keep it all organized in storage containers, but when I’m working really hard or when I’m really inspired my workspace is usually completely cluttered. I definitely work better when I can spread everything out. My dream is a studio with endless counter space and room for open containers of beads, jewelry findings and components everywhere. I do have to take a few moments from time to time to organize and clean up a little bit. Too much chaos makes me nervous.

What is one piece of trusted advice you would give to someone just starting their jewelry business?
It is so easy to get frustrated and question yourself. I do it all the time. When I get really down I try to remember there is someone right around the next corner who is going to lift me back up and remind me there is a reason I’m doing what I’m doing. I work full time at Bella Vita, plus another part time job to make sure my rent’s paid. Running your own business is hard work but totally worth it. Stay true to yourself. Don’t take on too much, but work hard. Aim for success.

What is your favorite Nina Designs jewelry finding?
My favorite Nina Designs jewelry findings are the sterling silver and vermeil lotus flower and buddha charms. I also really like the angel wing silver charm.

Brandy's Studio where she creates all her jewelry!

Delicate Balance available at Bella Vita

Bella Vita Earrings

Would you like to participate in our Customer Success Stories blog series? We’re hoping to share stories of your explorations and successes in jewelry design. It’s easy. We send you about 25 questions, you choose 5 to answer, and we share them with our readers. It’s inspiring, fun, and motivating. To participate, email me at

  • Kim

    I love this idea and I loved Brandy’s story. What is most inspiring is that she is a real person, with a real job, real bills and real life, just like the majority of us. She loves what she does and is true to herself, gets to do some traveling which is very inspiring. Oh and most of all, her work space looks just mine! Keep ’em coming, I’m nosey like that 🙂

  • Thanks, Kim! We have more stories in the works. Look for them about every other month or so. If you’d ever like to participate, just let me know.

  • I love this story! Brandy has beautiful pieces!! Thank you for an inspiring piece confirming to follow our hearts 🙂