Name: Amy Gilleon
Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science
Graduation Year: 2013
Relationship Status: Taken
Affordable handcrafted pieces that are special and individually beautiful are hard to find on a college budget. We want to make sure we’re keeping up with the latest trends without breaking the bank. If you’re looking for a local designer that makes sure everything is one of a kind yet trendy, Amy Gilleon is your girl. FSU alumna and creator of Fox & Fields, Amy makes custom, handmade jewelry, accessories and more that aims to fit everyone’s needs and interests.
Her Campus (HC): You’re an FSU alumna and a student at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), tell us a little about that.
Amy Gilleon (AG): When I graduated from FSU, I had the plan of doing physical therapy, and it was a really good track. It was something I was passionate about, but I decided to take some time off post-grad. I did some traveling and worked a little bit before jumping into graduate school. I enjoyed the freedom I got from traveling everywhere, being on the go and seeing new places that I ended up spending about three months living in Italy. One of the women I lived with was a web designer and she let me shadow at her office. I’ve always enjoyed arts and creating and would say I’ve been pretty artsy my whole life. I kind of put it aside as a hobby because at the time I didn’t really see it as being a career. Lately, with the rise in graphic design and technological arts, it was just such a great field that I saw it as a potential. With that, I decided to enroll in SCAD and see what happens from there. At SCAD, I’m focusing on graphic design, so it’s a lot more tech based. I’m doing all online classes right now but I do travel up to Savannah frequently and do workshops working with clay and sculptures.
HC: What made you start Fox & Fields?
AG: I kind of needed a creative outlet. I was finding myself making a bunch of things. I would just sit there and create or I would make something and it would just sit around. A lot of things I would either hang up or use for myself, but then it got to the point where a lot of my friends were asking me if they could buy some of the products I made and telling me I should start selling my stuff. It kind of just went through my mind like oh yeah, it could be fun. I had a good friend of mine start her own business, but they sold things from fair trade markets. She would travel the world and pick up things like blankets or knick-knacks and sell those. It was a different business, but small business the same and she told me all the in’s and out’s, making it seem a lot more possible than I thought in the beginning. So I began to think about it and you know, I’m working a little bit, taking classes and I started looking at what I could do in between that would be fun instead of finding a second job or doing something that is not in my future career. That’s when Fox & Fields got started! It was interesting because jewelry wasn’t really my medium. It was more of like, “Well, what’s it like to make a pair of earrings?” or, “What’s it like to make necklaces and bracelets?” So, it’s just kind of grown and progressed from there.
HC: That’s super cool because when I first saw your table at Market Wednesday, I thought it all started with jewelry and that was your main interest.
AG: Haha, no, it actually all started more with drawings and art prints, which were more of my medium. Then I just kind of began to enjoy more three-dimensional things like sculptures, clay and beading.
HC: What’s the meaning behind the name Fox & Fields?
AG: Well, foxes are one of my favorite wild animals, so that was pretty simple to come up with. I just think that is such a cool word and something that just rolls off the tongue. The fields came a little later. I knew I wanted it to be something nature related because I’m a very big outdoors person, so I kind of bounced around a lot of different ideas like landscapes, rivers and mountains. I would sit in my car driving and the entire drive would just be me rattling off names of what sounds good. One day, I was sitting there and I was driving down to Jacksonville and we passed by this beautiful field that has always been one of my favorites to drive by. It just kind of hit me, you know? The alliteration with the fs worked really well and it was just meant to be from there.
HC: What do you think the handmade aspect adds to your product or how does it make it different than any other product on the market right now?
AG: Well, for some of my products I do draw inspiration from other trending materials. I liked the idea of handmade because it supports a smaller cause and a lot of the things. In chain stores, like H&M and Forever 21, they’re mass produced and you can buy those products at any one of their various stores. It’s been unique to find this niche in handcrafted goods because it makes it that much more special to say, “Oh, I got it from this girl that makes handmade jewelry.” It brings the aspect that it’s one of kind into a really neat spectrum of art and jewelry. I think the jewelry business with handcrafting is a little bit smaller, so it’s neat to see it become more popular because we want to make handmade goods a lot more accessible and fun to find for people. That’s been my goal for it really, to keep it fun and trendy but unique at the same time.
HC: Once the product is made, you have to decide how much you want to retail it for. What do you factor in when you’re considering what to price your handmade goods?
AG: I think the biggest thing for me is that, as a former student and a younger person, I’ve struggled with the issue of not having a lot of extra spending money to just use on jewelry or clothes. I was always kind of a frugal person myself and when I would go look at jewelry, like bracelets, for example, it would be like $10. I would think that it was beautiful, but it’s just a bit much. Unless it had that unique element, that it was something special, I would probably just wait until it went on sale. When I decided to start this, I knew instantly that I wanted to make affordable, trendy jewelry because a lot of handmade things can be pricey. I think that, in a way, kind of drives the market for handmade products away because many buyers think the product is beautiful, but can’t realistically spend $40 on a necklace or bracelet. For me, I considered what my market was and narrowed it down to it being mainly consumers around 20-30 years old. I decided to make handmade goods within that affordable range because I wanted people to enjoy buying something unique and handmade, but not shell out a fortune to be able to get that. I try to buy my materials from others in the handmade industry and try to keep the middle man small so I don’t have to make my prices too high. I also look for materials that are going to be cost efficient as well as good quality. I think a lot of the handmade people will go straight to gold and to silver, which is amazing, but in the market that I’m driving for, it’s not feasible for these younger people to afford. I go for the mixed metals that are good quality and will keep my market in a good niche of prices. I always try to price and arrange to what I see myself spending on in a store. It’s easy, as your own business, to set your prices as high as you want and if the market is there to buy, then by all means. I just felt kind of weird charging someone that much if I probably wouldn’t have paid it that much myself in a store. Obviously, I have to make a business profit at my end, but I don’t want to make it so astronomical that it’s like crazy prices. I try to keep it in a good range and I have some people telling me that I should charge more, while others tell me that some of my prices might be expensive for them. So, I have to stay within that reasonable range.
HC: Have you always wanted to start your own business of handmade goods?
AG: No, it’s actually been a fairly new venture for me. I’ve always had this idea of making things and it usually has been making things for gifts or just for fun. I guess I kind of thought that I would always work for someone who does it and maybe contribute my own ideas or creative expertise towards their business. When I was looking into what can I do to help supplement some funds for myself I thought, “Well, they do this market at FSU. I should see what it entails to do that.” If I could do that, I thought, I might as well start my own business. The whole process started and came to mind last January. There’s been such a rise in makers and crafting that it’s been really accessible to find out how to start your own business in any type of field. I guess through Pinterest and Etsy, you see people with small businesses and I just thought that it was something that seemed doable for me. You know, these people don’t necessarily need to have their own storefront because it’s all transferred online now, which made it even more real for me as something that can be doable. When I thought small business, I always thought brick and mortar, but then I realized that I don’t have to be there yet. I could start online and go from there.
HC: What made you want to start selling your handmade pieces at Market Wednesday?
AG: Being an alumna, I had always walked through Market Wednesday as a student. I always thought it was a really cool place to have a consistent market because Tallahassee is trying, but it doesn’t really have that consistent outdoor market. So you see these other, bigger cities that have these local markets and it’s been awesome. When I first started this, I started thinking where it would be a good place to sell my handmade goods and Market Wednesday was my first thought. I remember it being at FSU when I was there and there’s a lot of foot traffic, which helps because I’m not trying to fight downtown and hoping people show up. At Market Wednesday there will always be students, and that’s really my market that I’m aiming for with my jewelry. Being in the jewelry business, it’s kind of hard to find your niche because when you search jewelry online, millions of things pop up. It was a good visual to be on campus, with a ton of people that were looking for products like mine and may not be able to get off campus. So, it was like, “Here, let me bring it to you.” It was also one of the few markets that wasn’t astronomically expensive to set up at. I also have a table set up at The Souk on Gaines Street, which happens every Sunday and it’s free to set up there. Gaines Street was kind of trying to do this thing of wanting to bring in vendors, letting them be profitable. It’s kind of like the mentality of, “This is for you and this is for the artists, the vendors and the people.” Every now and then you stumble upon places like that. Places that are all about you selling your products for your own profits. Others, you’ll have to pay a table fee that could be as low as $20 or as high as $100-$200, depending on the event. Having this free event down here on Gaines is extremely awesome because there’s no pressure of losing money if I don’t go and everything you make goes toward your own business.
HC: How many goods do you make a week?
AG: It’s kind of inconsistent. There are days when I would literally spend an entire day making things just because I’m in the mood and I’m loving the creative flow. When I came up with the idea designed my new mini snap pouches out of the faux leather, I was just sitting there watching TV. I knew I needed something to put my business cards in and then I needed something to put my cash in when I’m at Market, instead of trying to fumble around in and out of a cash box. I was looking at wallets and things, but I didn’t really want to spend $20 on one at the time. Nothing was really fitting the description of what I needed, which was something with one pouch to put business cards in for right now, and it just kind of hit me. I had never really worked with leather or faux leather, but I already had some of it because I was in the works of making cord wraps and things for things like earbuds. I just free handed a pattern and hand sewed it. I loved how it turned out and the rest of the day I made them. Some days are really good like that. I can just sit for hours and make stuff. Other days, I’ll wake up and think, “I should really make something, but no I don’t want to today.” I try very hard to make something throughout the week but with my online classes, sometimes I’m just focused on that all day or sometimes I just need a break. I don’t really have a set schedule, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m forced to sit here and make my pieces because I wouldn’t love it as much. I think the creative flow of it is also better when it comes naturally.
HC: Where would you say you get inspiration for each item that you’ve crafted?
AG: I’m always drawing my inspiration from what would be really useful right now. It’s always been beyond what’s trending now because I don’t want to be exactly like what someone else is making or what another trend is. For example, if Forever 21 has a necklace that’s popular, I don’t want to have a necklace exactly like that one. I want to be in the same family of it but more unique or interesting, giving it a cooler aspect. I always consider what’s trending right now and what’s popular but also what’s going to be useful too. Like when it comes to more of my textile goods and my home décor, it’s like, what’s going to be something that will have a double use or something that has more than just something I’m going to sit on my desk for the rest of its time? The little pouches, for example, are super handy because they can be a coin purse, hold your headphones and more.
HC: A lot of your products deal with the moon, nature and similar topics. Is there any reason you’re drawn to these when your crafting?
AG: Well, I’ve always felt really connected nature. It’s a beautiful, calm and serene place. I always find myself enjoying life when I’m out hiking or on nature walks, stuff like that. I have family out in Colorado and whenever I’m out there, I feel refreshed. Coming home after being out west, I feel cleansed, like I was able to get out and be outside more. It’s a whole different aspect when you go out somewhere where it’s nothing but land or mountains. I just always feel very peaceful when I’m out in nature. When I was making my pieces, I thought, what is something that continuously, across the board, every girl can love? Whether it be someone who’s more of a sorority girl or someone who’s more of hippie girl, I wanted it to be something that everyone could enjoy. For the most part, most people like something with a natural element, like crystals. They’ve become really popular right now, which is really funny to me because I used to collect them and be made fun of for being some kind of crystal hippie or something. It’s just an interesting turn of events because it used to be like only a certain group of people would be into that kind of thing. I’ve always enjoyed the look of a raw crystal compared to a diamond. I think diamonds are beautiful, but there’s so much within a diamond that had to be processed and manufactured, and there’s something really beautiful about the uniqueness of a crystal and the way it was found. I think that’s one of the best parts about crystals because it makes each piece different and its own. Around that central theme, I thought of what else I could make. I love the moon and it’s something that’s really special to me. My dad and I used to do Indian princesses when I was a little girl and he gave me the name Dark Moon. From then on, I was just fascinated with the moon. I would always make products that related to the moon, but people always associated it with things that are “witchy” and pagan, which isn’t true because the moon is a natural element. I never felt like I was comfortable wearing the things I made or hang them up because of this bad connotation, but now it’s taken this form that’s part of astrology, and that it’s fun.
HC: What are your future goals for Fox & Fields?
AG: It’s hard to say! Obviously, there are so many dreams of what it could become. I think that the market is out there for me to expand and to have my own brick and mortar one day, which would be really amazing. I think it would be fun to do a brick and mortar, but also have it become a place where other makers and creatives can showcase their things. It wouldn’t just be my own handcrafted goods, but would also feature other people’s goods. I have this vision of maybe one day setting up a store that would also double as a studio, which would host monthly “Meet the Maker” or “Learn How To” with the maker. It’s almost like Painting with a Twist, but Making with a Twist. I think that it would be fun to have that out there for makers because sometimes it is hard to find yourself in a store or be branched out like that. This would all be way out in the future of dreams and hopes, but for right now, I think it’s doing well as a market, online based business. I’m thinking, like over the summer when Market Wednesday maybe isn’t as popular, of maybe looking into traveling to festivals and events, setting up there and getting a sense of that market. During the summer, I also hope to focus on stuff dealing with décor and graphic design, making posters and stuff like that. I have a lot of ideas and with the warmer weather, I’m starting to make crochet crop tops and I want to make bralettes. So hopefully, since I won’t have summer classes, I can spend more of my time creating new, unique pieces that everyone will enjoy.
All images courtesy of Fox & Fields.