A new phase

Artist's view: A new phase

A new phase

When Betsy Waller decided to launch her own jewelry-making business, she was in a stage of transition.

Story: Christine Walsh

When Betsy Waller decided to launch her own jewelry-making business, she was in a stage of transition.

She chose the name MoonMade, as it seemed to parallel the lunar phases.

“When I started, I was transforming to a different state in my life,” the Champaign native said.

The other reason was her favorite material.

“I work a lot with moonstone — it’s the coolest stone,” she said.

Waller majored in photography at the University of Illinois and took several metals courses there. Unsure of what she wanted to do when she finished school, she mulled it over and decided to go to New Approach School for Jewelers in Franklin, Tenn., to become certified as a bench jeweler.

Jewelry was a practical way for Waller to use her artistic skills to make a living.

“Unless you’ve got a connection, it’s really hard to make it in the art world,” she said.

Waller then worked for some fine jewelry stores before taking the leap as an entrepreneur.

“It’s been exciting but crazy scary,” she admitted.

While Waller said she doesn’t consider herself good at drawing, she has dabbled in tie dye, print making and enjoys crafts like knitting and crocheting.

“I’ve always done anything I can get my hands on,” she said. “That’s why I didn’t make my jewelry business name too specific, in case I want to add more later.”

Waller promotes her jewelry on social media and sells it at Urbana’s Market at the Square, online at Etsy and at Urbana’s Bohemia, where she also works. She also does custom work and special orders and is currently doing a piece for a friend’s wedding.

“Sometimes people have things they want,” she said.

For example, a friend saw a pair of quartz earrings she had made and requested a similar pair be done as dangles.

She describes her style as minimalist.

“I never really latched onto a specific style until I started this line,” she said. “It’s made me look also at how I present myself. Most of the things I make are very delicate pieces.”

It can take Waller anywhere from an hour to five or six hours to create a piece of jewelry. She makes monogram pendants of various sizes for special order.

“Those take a significant amount of time,” she said.

Waller never sketches out her designs ahead of time.

“It usually comes to me as I’m working on it,” she said. “I just let it flow, let it happen. When I have a design in mind, if it’s something I’ve already done, I can kind of whip it out. At the farmer’s market I can make something while talking to customers.”

Waller gets her inspiration from many sources, including pictures, astrology and fine jewelry, especially vintage art nouveau.

“I just love all the gemstones,” she said. “I get all these ideas in my head based on stones.”

Waller’s future goals include working on a slightly larger scale.

“Right now it’s a lot of beadwork and small stone setting,” she said. “I’d love to have a huge studio with lots of equipment. Working in a fine jewelry store gave me skills; I may not have the equipment, but I have the knowledge.”

When Waller meets customers at Bohemia, they often have a person in mind when they see her jewelry.

“It works great for gifts,” she said. “It can be fancy or dressed down, too. I’ve sold to grandmothers and teenagers. I have a lot of mothers and daughters buy things in pairs. It’s kind of a sweet little keepsake.”

She has converted one of her bedrooms into a “quasi-studio.”

“The next step is to buy a torch so I can solder and do more in-depth pieces,” she said.

Waller participated in the Boneyard Arts Festival this year and enjoys making connections with other artists. She also meets other artists through her job at Bohemia.

“We do have a really great art scene here,” she said.