An Interview with Jean Yates

Feb 4, 2008

Jean Yates's jewelry designs regularly appear in beading magazines, including Stringing, Beadwork, Simply Beads, and BeadStyle. She also recently published her first jewelry design book, Links. Jean lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband Jim and three of her five sons. Jean's emails and blog are so warm and friendly that I feel like I have known her for years, but the truth is that I've known her for less than a year and I've never met her in person. What's more remarkable is that I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels that way!--Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor

 


Michelle: Jean, you are one of the most prolific designers I know! Are you always creating? How did you get started creating jewelry? How much time do you usually spend designing each week?

Jean: Wow. I didn't know I had that reputation! I cannot NOT create, however. I guess that the combination of having children with disabilities and a desire to express myself have come together to make me the person I have become. If I am not taking care of my children, I am writing or making jewelry. I have never added up how much time I spend working on jewelry each week, but I am thinking about jewelry or actually designing it possibly four hours a day on a slow day. On an intense, more serious day, Yes! I definitely clear the decks and put in as many hours as I possibly can, taking into consideration the fact that, with my husband's help, (we are a team), I really have a seriously complex home life that ALWAYS, always, comes first. For example, our older son with autism developed seizures last year. We had to deal with that in a hard, painful way. We are still dealing with it, but he is much better. He is on many medications and they are working pretty well. Thank God.

Michelle: How has your family life influenced your design career?

Jean: Well, as you can see, it was on my mind before you even asked this question! If you have "special children" or any sort of situation like that in your life, it really makes you think a lot about what is important to you. We have reassessed our values and we just live the way we must.

Another aspect of family, however, which is important to me and always will be, is my own childhood and my family memories, which I cherish. As you will see in my book, Links, my family, and my memories of my family, play a huge part in how I draw out my own personal creativity. It is that sort of thing that I hope that other people who read my book turn to when they are inspired to create their own designs.

Ivy's Necklace
by Jean Yates

Michelle: Speaking of your childhood, I've noticed that some of your designs like Ivy's Necklace (a free project on Beading Daily) are were inspired by books you read as a child. Plus, I know you were an English major in college. How does your love of language influence your work?

Jean: I am a total word freak! I read my entire childhood. When I met my husband, I would ride around in his truck (he is a builder) keeping him company, and reading 600-page books while he worked. I even like single words--not just books! I like words which sound "pretty" to me, like "ineluctable". How weird is that! Typos used to upset me when I was a kid, and I still can spot a typo in a book from a mile away, but I try not to flip out over it. You have to grow up sometime, I guess!

Michelle: One of the things that strikes me about your work is how beautiful all your materials are. You seem to have a knack for unearthing special beads and findings before anyone else discovers them. Do you have any shopping tips for Beading Daily readers?

Jean: Oh wow, that is such a nice compliment! I am a born researcher. Before I taught myself to make jewelry, I studied it. I was fortunate as a child to have a family where jewelry was respected, in a way. I received my first piece of jewelry when I was twelve. It was a major event to get this gift. It was a gold bangle bracelet, inscribed with "for Jeannie" and it also had the year. I got it for Christmas. I still have it.

I would study my mother's jewelry, in particular her antique jewelry, for hours. Good thing I did, because a lot of it was stolen in the 1990's, unfortunately. However, I remember all of it with great affection.

Flower of Bollywood Earrings
by Jean Yates

When the Internet became available to me, and the online auction sites sprung up, I was ready to seek out lampwork and polymer beads. That actually is how I got the name for my website. I was sick of just being "jean" online, when everyone else had a name with a moon or a dog or cat in it. I felt as if I didn't deserve to win certain beads! So I became "PrettyKittyDogMoon" and I figured I had all the beads covered which I wanted, and I could tough it out with the best of them when it came to bidding! And I did!

I also like to take a favorite beading magazine and sit with my computer. I will go through the magazine, and if I see something, for example an ad or an article, which catches my eye, I immediately go to the site and check it out. I have found many websites through magazines which have become preferred sites of mine.

Keys to My Heart by Jean Yates

One final way I use the computer is by remembering outstanding online shops and returning to them regularly. We are talking weekly. I get a lot of ideas when I see new items for sale. I also sign up for email newsletters from certain stores I particularly like.

A shopping tip I would suggest to your readers is to get to know the people behind the stores. I have actually made some dear friends this way. You must not have an "agenda". This is not about being greedy or making some sort of a deal. This is about humans connecting to each other. It can really be nice, and add to your shopping experience to know and ultimately love the people you are buying from.

Michelle: You recently published your first book (Links: Inspired Bead and Wire Jewelry Creations) which includes some chain maille and other wireworking designs. Is wireworking your favorite technique? What do you love about it?

Jean: Yes, I LOVE wire working! It is my favorite technique! There is an easy explanation for this: I don't like things which break or fall apart, and I don't know how to solder. Stringing is something I am good at at this point, but I am really comfortable when wire wrapping! Therefore, I wire everything I possibly can, to everything else! I figure it's not going to go anywhere if I do a bang-up job of wire wrapping a design I have created. Chain maille is great for staying in place, as well. It's really hard to pull apart. That is why I learned how to do it. I also think it is really pretty. I just love weaving chain maille. I find it very relaxing.

Blue Moons Over Pluto by Jean Yates

Michelle: I find it relaxing to bead while watching TV. Do you bead while you watch TV? If so, is your beading influenced by what you watch?

Jean: Concerning the influence aspect, I would have to say pretty much "no". The things we choose to watch have NOTHING to do with what I end up creating. For example, if we are watching Seinfeld, I do not design something with a Seinfeldian bent. When I am working, I am blocking out whatever is on TV, and then, when I am finished working, TV is like a reward.

Michelle: I like going back to the first entries in blogs and seeing how people got to where they are. I love the title of your first blog post ("Whoa! What was I thinking?") I was surprised that you had been blogging a little under a year. How has blogging changed your life? Any tips for would-be bloggers?

Jean: To be honest, I actually had places before this blog where I used to write, so I was familiar with the concept of blogging, and the transition from journal - type places where I wrote just melded from one to the next. If you only knew how many journals and blogs I have had it would possibly surprise you. Some were just for fun; some were more serious. One I still write in anonymously and I have been writing there for almost ten years!

Blogging has changed my life in the sense that more people know me. And I . . . get more people I can love! Because I am always in the house, knowing my "peeps" is such a cool thing! It's touching to me that I have a group of wonderful people who check me out off and on! I really think that is great!

As for tips for would-be bloggers: I would say, number one on my list is be honest! Never be phony. Don't write as if you are selling something (unless you ARE selling something, and the reader can see it sitting right there). And make that a short post! Make it fun for people to come to your site. Ask questions so they are intrigued, and possibly respond--like "What is your favorite dessert"?, or something. Have fun, and ALWAYS respond to your comments, if possible. Go to your commenters' pages and find out who they are. Sometimes they are astoundingly cool people. YOU are not the only person who is all that and a bag of chips!  


Thanks, Jean! For more about Jean Yates, check out her blog, prettykittydogmoonjewelry.blogspot.com and her website, prettykittydogmoonjewelry.com.


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