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Name: Theresa Pytell

Business: Theresa Pytell Inc., online jewelry store

Industry: E-commerce, Clothing & Accessories

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Reason for starting:  For 12 years following college, I traveled with students exploring the southwest, living on the Navajo reservation, running rivers, and teaching rock climbing in Mexico. I also traveled to Europe, South America and was an avid scuba-diver. In the mean time I maintained my interest in jewelry work and considered it my “therapy” during breaks from my extensive travels. My interest in natural forms comes from my love of nature. Inspired by nature, I tend to take a minimalist view in my art by extracting certain simple but unique compositions based on natural structure, then experimenting and pushing the limits of traditional jewelry making techniques. I love the DNA helix for it’s form. I am fascinated by the geometric forms which are the building blocks of all life and natural structures on this planet.

I also studied Geology in college, along with art education, PE and taught metalsmithing on the high school and college level. Alchemy, recycling gold in the 80’s before it was even popular was something I did in my home studio. Melting it in an ingot, alloying it myself, recalculating the karats, cleaning, pouring hot gold into ingots, rolling and re-manufacturing the gold into all kinds of beautiful hand made pieces of jewelry was my specialty. This end of the business as a manufacturer not just designer is uncommon for women. This industry is dominated by males, from the manufacturing to the point of purchase. Though men don’t wear that much jewelry, I wonder how they could possibly know what women really want. My customers are mainly older women who buy jewelry for themselves.

Related: Read about another E-Commerce entrepreneur here. 

How do you define success? I feel sucess is about how you feel about yourself and what you have accomplished. Closing the distance between who you are and who you want to be.

Biggest Success: Selling my jewelry to SAKS 5th Avenue and Henri Bendel of New York was a huge success, as well as my online presence post 2010.  I want to continue to grow as an artist, continue to compete and hold my uniqueness and brand in an overly competitive online market place. Cleverness and technical brilliance is the only way to do it so far, I am going to stick with those two things and continue to push the materials, using tools in ways no one else thinks of, making my own tools to produce things, so it’s much harder to copy, thereby maintaining my uniqueness as an artist. I want to stay personal, not get too big where I lose touch of my business, but also grow the business to compete but not sell out to the mass producers. 

Related: It’s Not a Setback. It’s an Opportunity for Growth. 

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? My biggest challenge is that being on the internet opens an artist to all sorts of impostors and imitators. There are quite a few people now making DNA pieces. Most of them are copying them in brass and copper and silver plating them. Some are making them in silver and pewter. I do not think the ones I have seen are as artistic or as nice as mine. It is threatening, and painful to see this. People have asked me what I am going to do when I see my work being copied and advertised on other online venues. My response has been, keep the integrity of my work in place, make alterations and improvements on some of my copied pieces which keep me in the forefront and the others running around crazy to copy my latest variation. Sometimes it’s just too technical or fiscally difficult for my variations to be copied. And alas, my saying is “I will just have to keep thinking of something new”!!!

Who is your most important role model? My friend who is 84 and still working!!


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Edited by The Story Exchange