Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Grimes.
Heather, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My great grandmother and father both dabbled in the art of stained glass and I, at a very young age, developed an infatuation with nature. In 2011, I took a trip to New York and found a store there that sold bags of butterfly wings from damaged specimens they had been mounting and framing. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but bought them anyway, knowing I could find some use for them eventually.
I started making jewelry with them with store bought, pre-made lockets but wanted to do something more intricate and my dad had his old soldering station materials laying around our garage workbench, so I started some trial and error experimenting. Friends started noticing the jewelry I was making for myself and asking if they could buy their own pieces from me and so on and so forth.
What started out as a fun way to preserve some beautiful, natural materials became my main source of income in the following years. Now in 2019, I have an established base of customers that I see at almost every trade show I do, and seeing that kind of support is very encouraging and reassuring that I am creating jewelry that brings others joy and excitement.
I can actually see people’s faces light up when they tell me how many compliments they get on the pieces they have purchased from me, and how much it means to them, and that’s a very rewarding thing for me to say the least. I still work at Curious Nature in Phoenix a few days per week, and they were also the first store to carry my jewelry before I worked there!
My boss and I are great friends, and he has helped me become a better business owner and pushed me to expand. I now sell to over a dozen brick and mortar shops throughout the country.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
With any business there are struggles. Although, I feel like mine so far has been pretty minimal. There are a lot of jewelry artists in the modern world of online marketplaces like Etsy, and it can be difficult to really stand out in a medium as broad as stained glass, but what really sets Dream Wings apart from all others is the quality and the affordability.
When I started Dream Wings, I was in college and didn’t have a lot of money to throw around. I wanted to be able to give people around my age the ability to wear fine jewelry without having to spend an arm and a leg to do so. I also try to really drive the message home to my customers that they aren’t just another sale to me and that every Dream Wing’s piece is a labor of love that they are giving a home.
The learning curve on soldering and learning to work with my materials has been the biggest challenge I would say. Some butterfly wings are more sensitive to heat than others and will burn and show discoloration if you work too quickly on them, so patience is key. Some wings, like those from Morpho butterflies, are tissue paper thin and easy to ruin before you even get them in the glass! This can be extremely frustrating because even though they’re dead, some of these beautiful butterflies are expensive.
Even now, when I have almost seven years of experience under my belt, I still mess up from time to time. It’s important to know that no matter how long you’ve been doing something, there is always more to be learned, and no artist is perfect. I have picked up tips and tricks here and there from the owners of the stained glass supply store I frequent and am always looking to expand my knowledge!
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Dream Wings – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Dream Wings is a tribute to the undying beauty of nature.
I preserve natural mediums like butterfly and moth wings, shed snakeskin, feathers, and pressed flowers to create unique and modern stained glass jewelry. All of the insects utilized come from insect farms, where they have died of natural causes. Snake shed comes from local pet stores and my own Mojave ball python, Noro. The pressed florals from florists across the nation.
All together, it’s about a ten step process to prepare a piece from start to finish using the Tiffany method of stained glass. I hand cut and buff my glass, wings, shed, and florals, then use copper tape to sandwich them. That copper tape is then smoothed out (or burnished) and carefully trimmed with an X-Acto blade. Soldering is next, which is the most ‘risky’ step in the process, as it can be finicky at times (if you overheat lead-free solder it will become chunky and will stop melting, thus ruining your piece)! Then the pieces are polished and cleaned, and patina is applied for a dark finish. Each chain is attached, and the finished piece is polished one last time!
I am most proud of my amazing customers and the dedicated fan base they have created. I love hearing their stories at trade shows like PHX Flea in downtown Phoenix of how they found out about my business through friends and how far word travels. I hear endless quips about how many compliments they get in a day when they are sporting their Dream Wings jewelry, and that always puts the biggest smile on my face. Each and every one of them is as unique as each piece of my jewelry, and I always enjoy helping them pick out the perfect necklace or pair of earrings to fit their personality and ‘look.’ Sometimes, it honestly feels like a little cult-like crew we have created! It’s fun.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I feel like my future plans are always changing. I notoriously involve myself with a lot to projects and obligations, usually to my own detriment. I play guitar and sing in a band (Rotting Yellow), and have two jobs with Dream Wings and Curious Nature at the moment. Trying to juggle those has become increasingly difficult as I get busier and the demand for jewelry is higher. It’s a good problem to have though, I suppose!
Going forward, I plan to keep expanding and reaching out to more shops throughout the U.S. Selling to my current 12 definitely keeps me busy in my down time and I have lovely friends who have helped me out around the holidays during my ‘busy season,’ but other than that, it is just me balancing all of this and running my business. I might eventually have to hire an assistant!
No big changes are planned for the future as of yet. What’s nice about owning your own business is that you can decide when you want to take time off, so I plan on doing more of that and traveling this year. And as always, I am looking forward to the next PHX Flea which is already coming up on March 2nd this year!
- Pieces start at just $30.00 and go up to $150.00 for very detailed and intricate pieces
- Shipping is free if you use the code FREEVOYAGE – just for your readers 🙂
- Website: www.dreamwingsjewelry.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @dreamwingsjewelry
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dreamofflying/
Jacob Grimes (Astral Photo – astral.photo on IG)