Looking at the local fashion scene, we're seeing more names come up through the jewelry field. Not just your standard array of welded works and random gemstones linked together; we're talking crafty works that incorporate ordinary items and transform them into awesome pieces you may enjoy wearing. One of the leading names in this area has been Dead Candy Boutique, headed up by founder Athena Mansfield. She has done exceptionally well on Etsy, and is currently displaying random pieces in IconoCLAD in downtown SLC. Today we chat with Mansfield about her creations and recent success. (All pictures courtesy of Dead Candy Boutique.
Dead Candy Boutique on Facebook
Gavin: Hey Athena, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a very outgoing creative artist that uses a wide variety of media. I come from Utah, my great grandparents were pioneers who came with Brigham Young. I have been told I am very fashionable and I have also been told I am super crafty!
Gavin: What first got you interested in art and crafts, and what were some early influences on you?
I was a major latchkey kid; my parents divorced when I was 11. I attended year-round school and had nobody to babysit me when I was off-track. When I wasn't using my parents' video camera, I was crafting. My mother used a plethora of craft kits as babysitters—anything from the rainbow-colored sand bottles to lizards made from pony beads!
Gavin: What was the major influence that pushed you toward jewelry and trinkets?
Honestly, the biggest thing was, as a teen I purchased jewelry from booths at Liberty Park on Sundays. I loved them so much, when they would break from heavy use I didn't have the heart to throw them away, so put it in a bag in hopes I could fix it one day! One of the biggest things was a rock concert. I wanted to dress to impress, and made an epic ankh necklace from bone hematite and wire. Then the major influence that has made it the way it is now is the need to make gifts for a gifting community. When I was 18 years old, I was dragged to a festival in the desert called Burning Man. Fresh out of high school, I found myself staring at nude people, orgies and art. I knew I was home, and knew what I wanted to contribute to what I call faith in humanity: Gifts! For years I have made gifts for this festival, and I give that the most credit.
Gavin: What was it like honing your craft and finding out what worked best for you?
I have a very strong work ethic and I am completely self-taught, minus my metal smithing class. I have always had this deep desire to create and design. Lots of trial and errors. I find out by just doing it.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start your own business, and where did the name Dead Candy Boutique come from?
I knew I just had to be my own boss someday,
because I have a real hard time with people telling me what to do. I love to do what I want, when I want to! The name, I struggled with for years. I always wanted to include my first name somehow, but it just never worked or sounded right. After using candy sprinkles in my jewelry and my love of skulls and bones, I was driving one day and it just came to me. I even remember screaming out the window, which is part of my creative process.
Gavin: What was it like for you to build your first line of items and get the ball rolling on selling them?
I remember getting the idea for guitar pick earrings when I worked at a bleak music store. It was very easy for me because I had sold things on eBay before, and I just thought, why not jewelry? All it took was a little time and effort and I was selling them like mad.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new item?
Most of my ideas come to me when I am in a new place, or driving. I love to drive windows down/music up—my ultimate freedom. Usually, I randomly think of something when I am not even trying, and I get excited and I immediately write or draw my idea in a notebook! If I could only recommend one thing for an artist, it would be to always carry a notebook. So if you see me driving and I scream "mini macaroon," feet out the window, don't worry about it!
Gavin: Where do you usually find the items you use to make a new product?
All over, literally! I could walk out my door and find flowers. The beauty of the media that I use is that I could make anything into a piece of jewelry. I do get supplies from every craft store and online. ... I even make some of my product completely from scratch. Sometimes my jewelry-making starts by taking a picture with a film camera!
Gavin: At what point do you decide whether something is working or not, and do you push on and make it work or take it apart and use those pieces for other items?
This really depends on how bad it is. I really strive for quality, because I hate when we buy all these things and they don't last. I strive for quality, long-lasting products, so if it works, it works; if it does not, then I don't trust it. However, I am always recycling and reusing when I can.
Gavin: What made you decide to go more toward Etsy selling rather than set up your own shop?
When your first starting a craft business and its on the smaller side, Etsy is amazing to very easily set up shop. I feel as if it is a stepping stone to something greater. With my goal to have my very own online shop, some of those services are expensive. With Etsy,
it's affordable, and you get to have it now
. All of the details are already figured out for you, and you just have to fill in the blanks!
Gavin: How has it been for you breaking into the craft scene and getting noticed around town?
There is so much competition out there, especially when it comes to jewelry. That Portlandia
skit comes to mind [when they say] "she's making jewelry now." I have done shows all over town, Farmer's Markets, etc. The best way I have come to realize is just by wearing my own stuff! Every day, people come up to me and ask me where I got my feather earrings. They always seem dumbfounded when I tell them I made them.
Gavin: Do you plan on expanding your line in any way down the road, or are you happy with what you're producing now?
I feel that I am almost to a point that I can start working on my own line of clothing. However, I am looking at only using materials that are not harmful to the environment, like organic cotton and recycled materials. Some day, even cosmetics!