We are excited to introduce you to our friend and jewelry artist, Julianne Tiegs. She is a Bend, Oregon based artist with a heart for ending human trafficking and empowering women. And we are teaming up with her to offer a select jewelry collection in support of Sudara’s mission to create living-wage jobs and opportunities for freedom. You can see more of her beautiful work here.
Jules, would you mind sharing with our readers how this collaboration with Sudara came about and what first connected you with our work?
Anticipating retirement after nearly 25 years of service in Special Operations in the US Army, my husband, Jeff, wanted to bring his special set of skills to the fight against human trafficking. In conversations with my husband and private reflection, I struggled to figure out how my skill set as a jewelry artist might help in the fight against human trafficking. In the course of all of this, Shannon’s husband learned that I was a jewelry artist and asked to see some of my work. He chose a beautiful wrap bracelet for Shannon as a gift. When Shannon and I finally met, one of the first things she said to me was how many compliments she’d received on the wrap bracelet and how much she loved wearing it. This conversation led to another and eventually to the mutual agreement that a collaboration with Sudara made a lot of sense. I was excited to think of the possibilities and how I might, in some way, be part of helping Sudara to empower victims of human trafficking.
As a company, Sudara is big on empowering job creation for women. And we love working with other entrepreneurs, especially women! Can you tell us a little more about your life and how you came to start your business designing these beautiful pieces?
I’ve always liked art. I took every art class available in school, including my favorite, jewelry making and metalsmithing. I married young, and my boyfriend, soon to be husband, Jeff, joined the army right out of high school. As a 20-year-old military wife I dabbled in several artistic fields including culinary and pastry arts, and as a lover of animals, professional dog grooming. But for the past 20 years I have been a mother and wife first. As with many military families post 9/11, we have spent a good part of our lives serving, moving, supporting, and enduring numerous deployments overseas. Raising children, homeschooling, and supporting a spouse who is fighting terrorism in war zones leaves little time for other personal pursuits. But as the kids got older and more independent, I started to think about jewelry again. I had some really interesting ideas for pieces but wasn’t sure exactly how to create them without a major glass-working studio. I contacted a local artist and teacher in the small community where we lived, and she encouraged me to start playing with some different materials. That was the moment I became hooked. With a small, kitchen table set up, I started doing cane-work in polymer clay to create what I wanted to do in glass. The results were super exciting and easily drew me back into what I loved so many years ago. From that point forward I started taking classes with local artists in bead work and metalsmithing to refresh my memory and improve on some of my techniques. In addition to tapping into the wisdom of other artists, I am primarily self-taught. I have spent countless hours reading, studying, and practicing techniques.
As I wore my jewelry, people started to notice it and wanted to know where they could buy it. This was the push I needed to recognize that I may have a way of both indulging my artistic passion and turning it into a business. I have been known to sell a piece right off my wrist. I set up a Facebook page and started showing off my finished work. Next thing I knew I was receiving private message requests to buy them. I continued to use social media as a way of getting my pieces out into the public eye. I love observing my potential clients, to listen to them and understand what types of things might inspire them – what they might want to wear close to their heart. A few years ago I was invited to participate in an art show in Charlotte, NC. It was a great learning experience. I created pieces specifically for my audience, to reflect their interests and passions. The show was a big success and a great way to develop a larger audience. I have also donated quite a few pieces to important causes to include a recent auction fundraiser for Guardian Group and their effort to fight sex trafficking in the US. These opportunities not only help the intended cause, but offer additional exposure. I love that I can use my skills as a jewelry artist to help others. It’s a fantastic motivator.
What does the design process look like for you? And where do you draw your inspiration from when coming up with new designs or pieces?
Often the design process starts with my environment. I am frequently inspired by things around me. Over the course of Jeff’s military career, we’ve moved to a variety of different places, I found myself intensely drawn to locally interesting things. For example, when we lived in Newport, RI, I did an etched jewelry series on the migratory ducks of Narragansett Bay. I also became fascinated with the angel art that decorated the early, very distinctive colonial gravestones in the area. I incorporated some of that art into metal etched jewelry. One of my favorite projects involved recreating the stonework angel art in a copper necklace and earrings for a descendent of one of the families of early colonists.
Living in Jerusalem, I was fascinated by of the ancient jewelry and beads in museums. Beautiful beadwork is a common site in Israel. Motivated by this, I created the majority of my jewelry in intricate, time-intensive beadwork. An ancient 2000-year-old Roman glass is often made into gorgeous pieces by Israeli artists as well. I created some of my own Roman glass jewelry using beadwork as a capture, combining both locally inspired aspects into one.
Wrap bracelets like those available in the Sudara catalog are among my favorite designs. Creating the bracelet is actually making order from chaos. I have a big pile of beads, a tangle of linen thread, a bundle of leather cord, and a button. The slow, time-intensive, deliberate weaving involved is almost a form of catharsis. The process is meditative, allowing the mind to purge worry, to become quiet and focus on the beauty of the beads as well as the ritual and routine of the pattern. And from out of that process comes a beautiful, wearable piece of art.
Do you have any advice for women who would like to start their own business or maybe pursue a “passion project”?
Being a busy mom and wife, who put everyone and everything else first my whole life, I rarely made time to explore my passion. I’ve learned the hard way that if you put your passion on the bottom of the list, time will get away from you; the opportunity to nurture it will rarely happen. I often found myself creating late in the night after everyone else was asleep. I relished those hours after midnight when the house was quiet and I could fully devote myself to my passion projects. But working under those conditions is challenging. Make time for yourself. Ask for help so that you can pursue the things you love in addition to your family. It’s not selfish. It makes you a better person. It makes you more available to your loved ones when you know you’ve got that little part of your day that you can devote to your passion undisturbed.
Any additional thoughts about the collaboration with Sudara or your work?
I’m very excited to partner with Sudara. What Shannon has built as a self-sustaining company that is devoted to helping victims of sex trafficking in India is a model of business brilliance, stewardship, and love. She makes a big difference in so many lives, by offering beautiful, comfortable products that people love, and I am proud and excited to create some complimentary jewelry designs that go perfectly with her line. My heart goes into every handmade piece. Every strand of linen, every bit of leather cord, every piece of wire, they are all hand-worked by me personally. I am a bit of a perfectionist and nothing leaves my hands until I feel it is just right.