Friday, October 15, 2010

Etsy Handmade Division Talk About Blog

Here is our monthly Etsy Handmade Division Talk About Blog:
Tell us about yourself - how did you get to where you are now with your skills?

(If you want a shorter version- read our bio on the right hand column)

Jon Watson, grew up in the South, went into the army at 17 and then off to design school. For over 15 years he was a graphic designer and worked at many well established firms. I must say, not being biased or anything, but he was a kickass designer and very good illustrator to boot.

Here's some examples of his design work:

Jon's first love (I think maybe even a little more than me) is motorcycles. In fact when we met, we moved out West so he could go to motorcycle mechanic school, but he soon found that being a mechanic sucked the fun out of his passion, so he went back to graphic design.
After a few more years of bouncing from job to freelance to design firm, he got bored of sitting behind a computer. At the time I (Mary Spencer-Watson) had a very good job making a decent income, so I told him to shoot for his dreams. Do whatever he wished. He toyed with lots of different ideas including being a landscape designer.

Somehow he came across the idea of metal. He'd always enjoyed working with his hands and making things more than sitting still so it sounded like a good idea. We looked into classes for him to take at the local university. But, one day he came home and told me he found a metal show and asked if they needed an apprentice. Strange enough they did. The job paid less than $10 an hour, but it beat actually paying for shcool and he'd be learning first hand. We decided he'd go for it. He quit his job and was ready to start. The next day the guys called him back and told him he couldn't hire him. He was afraid he wouldn't be able to pay him. So, Jon worked for free for something like 6-9 months then got hired on and worked there for maybe 2 years. That was in 2005.

That's how he started in metal. He soon was making amazing scluptures and I knew he'd found his calling!In 2007 he bought his own equipment and we started a company called The Metal Gardener.

I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and Painting from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I was recrutied out of school by Hallmark Cards in Kansas City to be a line manager for greeting cards. Interestingly enough, it was something I had wanted to do in highschool, then forgot about it. I only know this because we had to write a letter to ourselves at the beginning of our senior year, then we received it when we graduated. I completely forgot about it until years later after I had already left Hallmark I happened upon it. Strange, but true!
I was lucky, I got to travel all over the country and even to Europe to research since this was before the internet (am I dating myself). Even though I didn't do art myself, I worked with artists and photographers, writers and editors and people from marketing, accounting and many other business functions. It was the ultimate coorporate job complete with a cafeteria, great 401K and lots of people to learn from.
Once I hit 30 I ventured off to Atlanta to pursue a freelance career. In what I wasn't sure. I worked as a floral designe, graphic designer, prop artist and faux painter. That's when I met Jon.
We moved out to Arizona for his motorcycle schooling and I worked for Lisa Frank ( a little girl's stationery and craft company)  as a craft artist. I got to make beaded jewelry, yarn, and other craft product for kids as well as write the instructions. I also worked with the photogrpaher to style the girls for photoshoots.

I left there and worked as a graphic designer for several years at a printer which was great because I learned a ton about prepress, and since it wasn't a design firm, I pretty much got to design as I wished without much direction. I worked on some fun pieces there.
I then worked for a puzzle company "MasterPieces Puzzle Company" for over 5 years. I was fortunate enough to start their board game division as a Product manager and worked with game developers all over the country. This was too fun since I held focus grops with kids to play the games and see if they liked them or not. Plus I went on several trips to China and learned to work with foreign vendors.
Finally I moved to a Michigan based company that had it's kid's craft and stationery divisions in Tucson called Colorbk. I was the Senior Product Manager. This job was more about costing and workign with our China office and far less creative than my other jobs had been, but it helped me learn more about profit margins and how much my lines were actually making. I worked there less than a year when the company abruptly shut it's Tucson office and I was laid off. This was in Nov of 08. I stuck around until Feb to help with their transition and it gave me time to consider my options.

I took this as the opportunity to do what I'd always dreamt of doing. Start my own business. I wasn't sure what it was going to be until Jon walked in one day with a metal buckle he had made. That was it, a handmade metal accessories line. We launched a full line of buckles at the Pool Tradeshow (affiliated with MAGIC one of the largest fashion tradeshows in the country in Las Vegas).
We're still working diligently to make a go of it. Every job we've had has given us the confidence and ability to begin our own thing. It's beeen such a great journey and we hope to continue learning and exploring. Jon and I couldn't be happier with how things have turned out!
Together we make a great team, and hope you enjoy watching our adventure as we expand our business and follow our dreams!

Please see the rest of my team and how they got started on their creative adventures:

Tess Norberg/ Nova Designs:
Bill Martin/ Purified Art:
Sand Fibers:
Emily Watson/ Metal Emily:
Susan Moloney:
Alice Istanbul:
Jewelry by Natsuko:
Tosca Teran/ Nanopod:
Bella-Bijou Jewellery:
Beth Cyr:
Lisa Hopkins Design:
Metalriot/ Thomasin Durgin:
NEDbeads/ Nancy Dale:
Tamra Gentry -
Rosy Revolver/ JJ Papke-
Alisa Miller-


  1. wow, Mary, what a fantastic journey you both have had!!!! So many wonderful experiences. And here you are now, making wonderful accessories. I want at least 1 of each! :)

  2. Thank you for sharing! I have been working as a graphic designer for the last 10 years and it is so inspiring to read about your backgrounds.
    Very cool that you found this passion together and I wish you both the best of luck on your continued journey!

  3. Wonderful post! So great to learn more about you and your history.

  4. wow! you've done a lot of cool stuff!!! great post! :D