I work primarily with sterling silver, and don't always have a plan for my creations, but I think that works out best, because you end up with a design that is truly unique. Each piece starts with a sheet of sterling silver and is cut, hammered, embellished, antiqued and soldered using traditional metalsmithing techniques. Although I will "duplicate" certain designs - you can be assured they will NEVER come out exactly the same!! I love custom orders, as it involves you, the customer, in the design process. Together, we can take an idea and make it into a truly inspired and one of a kind, treasured piece of art. I take pride in each piece of jewelry I create and I guarantee quality craftsmanship. Rustic, with a kind of imperfect, organic look and feel - that's the beauty of handmade.
My name is Renee, aka Casual Gal. I've been married to my wonderful, supportive husband for 16 years.
I haven't always been a jewelry maker. After college, I did the "9 to 5" in banking, but it began feeling a little mundane and monotonous after 6 years. So, feeling the need for a "fun" job, I went in to the restaurant business, and literally started at the bottom as a server assistant (aka busser!) I moved up to server, then to server trainer, and soon found myself as the head trainer in my store and then corporate trainer. As a corporate trainer I was able to travel and train employees of new stores opening up around the country - it was a lot of fun.
I then had an opportunity to move to Las Vegas and wait tables in a restaurant in the Caesar's Forum Shops - great money, and I got to meet a lot of celebrities. The best one for me was Clint Eastwood - nice, nice guy. He is the only star I ever asked for an autograph. He signed a napkin to me - He's a good tipper!!
Las Vegas was fun and exciting, but...
Next stop - Grand Junction, Colorado. I've been here since 2000, met my wonderful husband, got married 16 years ago and I had the pleasure and honor of helping to raise his two boys - they were 7 and 9 when we got together - they're now in their 20's - how time flies!
Pre Casual Gal
It all started back in 2002, I was waiting tables, and worked the lunch shift so I could be there for the boys when they got home from school. On a weekend trip to Ouray, Colorado, I watched a woman beading necklaces and thought I could do it as a hobby and sell them. I set a budget of $20 a week and would spend hours at the one bead store in town deciding which beads I wanted. This store was also an antique store, the poor boys would go with me on Saturday morning, and were bored out of their minds because I wouldn't let them touch anything, but they were so good.
I went on a beading frenzy - beads covered the kitchen table, the coffee table, the floor... I named my new company Beads & the Bear (I collected little teddy bear knick-knacks.) I applied to have a booth at my first Holiday Festival in December 2002. I needed a display - in comes my very talented fiance. He actually built me a 5 foot bear! I didn't sell much, but I sure learned alot!
For the next few years I continued doing flea markets and small shows with my beaded jewelry and started incorporating semiprecious gemstone beads and Swarovski crystals. I then discovered Italian Charms, and included them in my jewelry creations, and I also became a reseller for Rada Cutlery. I really enjoyed the shows and selling my wares.
After a lot of research on the internet, in magazines and books - I decided I wanted to try to work with sterling silver. November 30, 2005 I purchased my first piece of SS, some solder, a plumber's torch from the hardware store and a fire brick...
Casual Gal is Born!
I am self-taught and I started my "silversmithing" career in December 2005 - in my garage - on the floor! I melted a lot of silver on that floor. Every now and then I would get a perfect solder seam, but I quickly learned that the plumbers torch, with it's wide, not hot flame was not the way to make jewelry. So.....TOOLS!! I started amassing my (needed) tool collection. Hubby bought me a great work bench for Christmas that year and I started taking over the garage with my "stuff!" Hammers, pliers, cutters, jeweler's torch, tumbler, pickle pot, etc.
I played, struggled, got frustrated, and had some success with pieces. I started out with just pendants. My first designs were a play on cloisonne, I called them Patchwork Pendants, I've always loved antique quilt blocks. I used brass shapes instead of fine silver as the pockets to hold the colored resin. They didn't sell - in fact I still have some of these.
I then tried my hand at soldering cute cast flowers and setting stones.