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Hand-stamped Expressions

Motherhood inspires clearly unique, personalized designs.

Inspired by her son and her new role as a mother, Shealyn Smith became a designer of hand-stamped jewelry and other personalized charms.

When her son was born at the beginning of 2011, Smith wanted to find the perfect necklace for her new role. Unable to decide, she instead invested in a hand-stamp starter kit that would allow her to personalize her own jewelry. She had so much fun with the process that she opened an Etsy shop called Clearique Boutique. She started—appropriately enough—by making Mother’s Day necklaces.

“Now I stamp whatever I can get my hands on, and I make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, wind chimes and key chains,” Smith says.

Hand-stamped names

Hand stamping is the art of spelling and creating designs on metal with a steel rod and hammer. The steel rod has a letter or symbol on one end that makes an imprint into the metal with the blow of the hammer.

With this technique, Smith creates words and sayings on metal disks or other objects, like spoons.

“It is actually a more elaborate process than some might realize,” she says. “Before you even begin stamping, you have to carefully pre-plan where each character will be placed in order for the finished product to come out looking neat and complete.”

“I want to stand apart and also give my customers the luxury of having items that are not owned by hundreds of other people”

Many of Smith’s creations are custom ordered and often include the names of her customers’ children. In fact, one of the things that sets her designs apart from other hand stampers’ is that she offers a “nickname line” on her creations.

This came about because she has as many as 12 nicknames and cute sayings for her own son, and she knew other mothers would like to add some of their favorite nicknames to their personalized charms.

Smith also offers designs with some of her favorite sayings such as, “I love you to the moon and back.”

A stamp above the rest

As her technique improved, Smith researched different metals and upgraded to higher-quality materials. She also branched out by trying new materials that no one else was offering, such as wood and bone.

When her father’s birthday came up, she wanted to give him a handmade creation that reflected his love for hunting, so she sawed off discs from a deer antler and attempted to stamp the bone.

“The stamping took really well to the piece, so I decided to start selling them,” she says.

Smith is careful to come up with her own designs, rather than follow others’ ideas.

“I want to stand apart from the crowd in my creations and also give my customers the luxury of having items that are not owned by hundreds of other people,” Smith says.

Plus, her creations are meant to be memories, keepsakes and maybe even heirlooms, she notes. They’re not something that can be purchased in any superstore.

At the heart of the matter

Smith likes using Etsy as the venue for her shop, which—for the most part—runs itself, she notes. It allows customers to browse and read at their leisure.

“It gives the customer and myself time to build a good business relationship, and I can get an idea of who they are and what they like to make a piece that is uniquely them,” Smith says.
“It’s about having the opportunity to create something meaningful and something cherished for someone else”

But Smith loves to use a variety of venues for reaching out and sharing her creations. She uses Facebook to run promotions, and Tophatter to communicate directly with customers. She’s also “addicted” to craft shows and local events, she says, because she can meet her customers face to face and create their orders on the spot.

“I think it gives customers a great appreciation for the art of hand stamping when they can see it happening and coming to life right there in front of them,” she adds.

There are pros and cons to all the different marketing opportunities, Smith notes. Craft shows allow her to physically see and talk to her customers, which gives her a glimpse into their personality, and communication is much quicker than through, say, email. But making connections face to face limits her to only a fraction of the market’s population.

Social sites like Facebook allow her to “be a person and let loose on the funner side of owning your own business,” and Pinterest gives her an opportunity to spread her products across the Internet “like wildfire.” The downside might be, however, that the communication is perhaps more tedious. She likes to maintain contact throughout the whole creation process so her customers know how far along she is in making their order.

“I send them photos of the item they will receive and give my customers time to decide, and even change their mind, if they like,” she says. “I do not rush any of my work, and this brings quality product and satisfied customers.”

Clearly, Smith shows a deep interest in connecting with people and giving them something that will be treasured. She says her business isn’t about trying to get a lot of sales.

“It’s about having the opportunity to create something special, something meaningful and something cherished for someone else,” she says.

And that’s what got her started in the business in the first place. She was so enamored with her own son that she understood the desire to have a personalized item that would capture the love between people.

Visit Clearique Boutique.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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