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Conversations with Liz Juneau

Today we’d like to introduce you to Liz Juneau.

Hi Liz, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In 1999, I was just starting my career as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Louisiana. I attended college as an older student and was married with a son who was a freshman in high school. I have always been a creative person. For example, doing crafts such as ceramics as a child, collecting vintage and antiques for my home and expressing myself through the clothing I wore. I had just spent 4 years devoted to school and studying which didn’t leave much time for creative endeavors. At about the same time my two sister-in-laws had started a jewelry design business and were quite successful. They were hosting home parties and selling their stock quickly. They offered to teach me some jewelry making techniques so I could assist them with the production side of the business. Not long after that, they both decided they would not continue this business and asked if I would like to purchase their tools and supplies. I said yes! I started designing and making my own jewelry not knowing what direction it would lead. I started selling it mainly because when I wore the pieces people commented on them and I literally sold them off my neck, ears and arms.

I worked as a renal dietitian and at one of the dialysis units I worked at there was a great group of employees. Our clinic manager offered to host a party on a Saturday in our conference room. That was the first time I set up all of my designs in one place and sold them. Many of those former coworkers who purchased jewelry that day are still great customers today!

I continued to make jewelry while working a full time job as a clinical dietitian at the VA Medical Center. I called it art therapy for many years because it helped me through some difficult times in my life. It was a place where I could escape and lose myself in jewelry making. I stayed up many nights into the wee hours because I was in the zone and did not want to stop.

I continued to sell directly to customers and also did home shows, sold to various stores, museum gift shops, galleries, etc.

In 2013, I moved to Savannah to take another position with the VA. I found a great group of creatives here and being an artist helped me acclimate to my new city. Eventually, I found some new outlets for selling my designs while continuing to sell through social media and online. I wanted to build my customer base here so I decided to host my own home party and invited a neighbor artist to join me. That was the start of many art shows that I have hosted and participated in. In fact, we started an artist collective called Rock, Paper, Scissors where we used homes and commercial spaces to showcase our work and for people to meet the artists. They were quite successful and people really enjoyed the atmosphere we created. In my experience, many people love knowing who makes the handmade art they purchase and what are the meaning, techniques and inspiration behind them.

In 2018, I quit my full time job which allowed me to devote more time and energy into my art and business. Most of my designs are one-of-a-kind which is not the best business model for production but I really like coming up with new looks and I purchase beads and other components in small batches.

My business is called Archipelago Jewelry. It’s an analogy between a chain of islands and a chain of beads. I love turquoise and blues and the beach is my happy place so the name fits.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way. There were times when I had no time for jewelry making because of other life commitments. Also, as I mentioned there were times where jewelry making was a saving grace for difficult times and I was doing it more for myself than for any business or financial profit. My husband died in 2009 and the period before and after that was difficult. One of the challenges is finding the right market for selling my work. I have had my art in various shops and galleries around Savannah, some more successful than others. I am currently in one new shop in Rincon. I tend to sell better directly to customers but finding the shows that draw the right customer base is also challenging. I have participated in the last three SLAM (Savannah Local Art Market) shows and they have been terrific. Also, of course, COVID has affected the ability to have home shows but I participated in one hosted by a friend before Christmas and it was great to be making those customer connections again.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a Jewelry Artist. I am known for the many one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets and earrings I make. I use many non-jewelry, vintage and natural components in my designs which make them really unique. I am most proud of the connections I have made through my jewelry business and being an artist. It has opened up a whole new world that I would not have had access to otherwise. I think what sets me apart is my use of asymmetry, color combinations and interesting components.

Also, I make jewelry that is meaningful. I have a line of jewelry made from recycled glass and silver solder. I make pendants, earrings and pins. I place natural components such as butterfly wings, pressed flowers, feathers and use art and vintage papers, dictionary print, etc. These can be customized and personal items such as photographs, locks of hair, and fabric included along with meaningful poems, words, or quotes. These have been some of my best sellers. They really speak to people.

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
Well someone recently was surprised to learn I was a dietitian/nutritionist. I still do some part-time work in this area for the local farmers market. Also, cooking is another creative outlet. I cook gluten-free and it takes some creativity to prepare food and meals while avoiding gluten. I am also an avid collector and thrift shopper and have a booth in an antique/vintage/art market called Merchants on Bee.

I am also a collector of natural elements such as wasp nests, insect wings and feathers. Because people know this and that I use these in my art, I get gifted with sometimes strange and unusual specimens. I have come home to find snakeskins, Carolina Wren feathers and a turtle shell left at my door

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Image Credits

Kim Turner
Liz Juneau

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