As I have been growing the Junie Balloonie brand, I have been asked some curious questions.
“Where do you get your charms?”
“What company makes your glasses for you?”
I always respond proudly with, “We make them ourselves.” Sometimes people don’t believe me. Actually, more often than not people continue to question. To them I just say, “This is my art. It’s made by me.”
The truth is I do have a little help; Bessie, Birdie, and Brenda. Bessie and Birdie are my machines that I taught myself how to use (yes, I named them). Brenda is my right-hand-man, my Girl Friday, my amazing production assistant that works for pickles. Without these 3 ladies in my life Junie Balloonie wouldn’t be what it is. When I say, “WE make them ourselves,” I mean me, my 3 Bs, my husband, and my kids…right here on the shores of Lake Erie…in the USA…really.
I wanted to explain a little about my process so my customers know how much care goes into their purchases.
Glasses: I do not have a collection of images or a file of clipart that I just pick from and push a button to engrave it on a glass. I use illustrator software to create my designs. I draw them. I can spend several hours working on a design to get each line exactly perfect for glass engraving.
I do get asked, “How much cheaper would it be if I give you glasses to etch on?” I don’t do that and here’s why… Each glass is different. For example, there are several brands and sizes of stemless wine glasses. Each one of these would require me to precisely measure the glass size, shape, and curvature. Then I would have to create a template for that particular glass and do some practice etchings. I have a gazillion setting combinations for my laser and I have to find the sweet spot for EACH AND EVERY GLASS. Some brands of glass are too thin or too thick, too bulbous or too narrow, too flawed or too expensive. I’ve done countless test runs for the glasses I currently use and have found the magic setting combo for the perfect etch for my pints, stemless, and shot glasses. I also have champagne and stemmed wine glasses, but I do not feel comfortable putting them on the website yet. More styles of glasses means more storage space, another size packaging box, another size of shipping box, and more numbers for Mr. Spreadsheet (my husband) to run for us until we’re completely comfortable putting the product out there.
Jewelry: I started working with metals because I had customers that requested me to laser engrave special quotes or loved ones signatures in a material that they could wear. I started with laser engraving wood and acrylic and making simple bracelets or necklaces. These materials are nice, but not really solid enough for the significance of the special request. I made my son a bracelet with my dad’s signature. He treasured it, but it eventually broke because it was plastic. I can always make him another one, but I felt that I needed to do more. That’s when I found my metal engraver, Birdie. It was a LONG and frustrating process to learn her software and how to work the machine. She works the exact opposite of my laser (Bessie). I also didn’t know much about metal. I took a class at Flux Metal Arts that was fabulous! Kim, the owner of Flux, taught me so much in 1 day and I was ready to soar…or so I thought. If you don’t work a little each day on your art you forget how to do things and it becomes a problem. Luckily I have my very good friend, Brenda, who is a beader, a fabulous photographer, and is extremely creative. She knows quite a bit about metal arts as well. Together we figured out how to use Birdie and create our style of jewelry.
We don’t buy individual charms from a giant factory somewhere. Nope. We get our metal in sheets, cut them to smaller pieces to work with on the machine, create the art on Birdie’s software, run some tests to make sure each line will engrave perfectly, and then let Birdie do the work. We have a few different styles of engraving that I will get into at another time, but it’s not a fast process. After engraving, the smaller sheets of metal are marked, holes drilled, and cut into individual pieces. Then each piece is hand-sanded so the edges aren’t rough, run through a tumbler to shine up, and then finishings are added. Most pieces require a few more steps than that to create the exact look we want.
This is a much longer blog post than I had wanted, but our process isn’t simple and I wanted my customers to know that each and every item is created with care. If you buy a JB item you’ll know it’s more than a product to us. It’s our passion.