Moose Spotlight: Earthy and Southwest-inspired Handmade Jewelry

"Don’t worry too much about making things too big, too small, too “weird”. There’s always someone who will relate to your style and love it."

- Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_


Jewelry Artist Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram

@joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram

This is jewelry artist Samantha Ballieu, based in Tucson, AZ. She has been creating jewelry for three years now and you can see her creations on Instagram @joujou_jewelry_.


"My goal is to take inspiration from the outdoors, especially the desert landscapes - colors, shapes, critters, leaves, turquoise blue water, red rock - and working these themes into jewelry that is high quality but still affordable." Samantha explained. She adds that she thinks everyone deserves to cherish a little something of their own. She makes single or small batch designs, every piece slightly different. 

She uses solid silver, solid brass, or gold filled so that items last. Samantha is a full time nurse and a part time smith. "Like many people, I stepped up my craft over the last two years and I’m always learning."

"I’m primarily self-taught. I’m lucky to live in a town with a few lapidary and stone shops and the kind folks working at these shops were one of the biggest resources for me when getting started. One small, Navajo run shop in particular has been especially helpful. I also live a few minutes away from where the annual Tucson Gem Show is held, an event which brings in people from all over the world, making it much more accessible to get stones and supplies."

Samantha started out soldering brass, which turns out, can be very finicky, she said. She had no idea when she started out how much more forgiving silver can be. Working out her process on brass actually helped her advance her techniques and become more methodical with her smithing later on.

Recalling her very first piece sold, Sam said it was actually a friend of hers living in another city who saw her post on Instagram and wanted to support her as her first real customer! "I'm sure there were plenty of flaws, but she was so kind and excited to receive it." Yes to supportive friends!

We asked Samantha if there was a special meaning behind her brand name, she told us, "“JouJou” is a French term for a cherished toy or trinket. A small little something that you’re really attached to." Samantha learned this from her husband who moved to the U.S. from France. It’s also a nickname for her little Aussie Shepherd, Juno.

Let's take a look at some of Samantha's beautiful creations!

Double Stone Turquoise Jewelry with Rosarita Stone by @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram

Turquoise Earrings by @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram

Handmade Jewelry by Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram
Samantha's very first AHA! moment since she started creating jewelry is setting her first stone! She continued, "Then nailing the earring post soldering process. Those buggers can be difficult. I’ve always enjoyed making hair pins from the beginning so now it’s just about tweaking the designs."
Here are a few more creations by Samantha!
Turquoise Hoop Earrings by Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram
Rosarita Bracelet by Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram
Handmade Earrings by Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram
Genuine and Handmade Jewelry by Samantha Ballieu of @joujou_jewelry_ on Instagram
"For hairpins I want something beautiful but also functional." Samantha wants people to be able to throw a hair pin in their purse or car console, or drawer at work and have access to it whenever. For rings, earrings, necklaces, she tries to work with the lines of the body and make balanced shapes. Lastly, she likes jewelry with a little weight to it, while still remaining comfortable - hoops that make a satisfying *clink*, as she described, she usually has an item in mind (like a pair of hoop earrings for example) and she shops for stones that would be fitting for such a piece.
When asked to describe her design style, Samantha said, " Southwest, earthy, desert tones."
What's one design tip you one to share with your fellow artists?
"If you’re struggling with something specific - setting posts, getting rid of fire scale, whatever it is, keep digging around online! There are so many little tricks I never would have thought of that I stumbled upon and continue to use all the time. Also, be nice to your stone cutter/sellers. They really have a special talent and once you get to know them on a more personal level, they can make recommendations and you can also help support each other’s small business. In addition, jewelry making is 20 percent crafting and 80 percent sanding and polishing. Invest in some good sanding and polishing equipment and you'll save yourself hours."
One piece of technical advice on creating.
"One of the hardest things for me to master was soldering fragile earring posts. I must have burned up dozens before I felt comfortable getting it every shot. I found a helpful video with a few big tips: protect your post by using flat tweezers. Only expose the base of the post. I found that solder paste works best for posts because it melts quickly and tends to adhere well to the post, not run off. Heat from the underside of the piece first. Lastly, to harden your posts take a pair of pliers and gently give a half twist of the wire."
Any words of encouragement or tips to those who are starting out in the world of jewelry-making?
"You’ll make progress really quickly! Don’t worry too much about making things too big, too small, too “weird”. There’s always someone who will relate to your style and love it. And if you make something not so perfect … you can always keep it for yourself ;)"
Lastly, here is Samantha's message to the universe: 
Samantha Ballieu Blog Feature by Turquoise Moose
Take a look at her Etsy shop:

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