I’m so excited to announce this giveaway – this is definitely one of those prizes I wish I could win myself! To celebrate the launch of her new website DaniqueJewelry.com, the lovely and talented Irina has generously sponsored a giveaway just for ShopHappens readers! Today’s giveaway is for  a beautiful custom Danique Jewelry birthstone necklace. The necklace is completely customizable: the lucky winner will have his or her choice of metal (Vermeil Gold, Sterling Silver or Oxidized Silver), initial, and gemstone. All birthstones are available!

Danique Jewelry Custom Birthstone Necklace

Danique Jewelry Custom Birthstone Necklace

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The only required entry is “What birthstone would you choose and why?” but you can get lots of extra entries too. This giveaway is open internationally and there is only one winner. Your chance at winning will be determined by the number of entries received :) The giveaway will be open from 4/15 through 4/27, so get your entries in now!

Thank you Irina for sponsoring this giveaway! Readers, please be sure to follow Danique Jewelry on Facebook for new product info and lots of exclusive deals! And check out Irina’s store at DaniqueJewelry.com for a ton of beautiful handmade jewelry and the Danique Jewelry Etsy Store as well!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The fine print:

  • No purchase necessary. A purchase does not improve your chance of winning. Void where prohibited.
  • Entrant must be 18 years old as of sweepstakes start date.
  • Sweepstakes begins April 15, 2014, at 12:00 a.m. ET, and closes on April 28, 2014, at 12:00 a.m. ET.
  • Each entrant selected as a potential winner must comply with all terms and conditions set forth in these Official Rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all such requirements. Winners will be selected by random drawing. If a potential winner cannot be contacted within three (3) days after the first attempt to contact such potential winner, an alternate entrant will be selected in his or her place from all entries received.
"Housing" by James Thompson from Flickr

“Housing” by James Thompson via Flickr

When you’re looking for a new home, there are a lot of things you need to think about. How far do I want to be from work? How much do I want to pay? How much is this house worth?

I’m not a first time home buyer, but my husband and I are looking for our first home together. It’s been a stressful process, especially now that spring is finally here and tons of houses are coming on the market. We’re also working towards staging our own home, but that’s news for another day!

What should you keep in mind when looking for a new home? My top 5 tips are below – please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below!

  1. Know the area. This means checking out recent home sale prices, look into schools and crime reports, basically just do your research when it comes to homes you are interested in. There are tons of resources out there for this, including Zillow and Redfin. If you’re relocating, check the internet for news from that area to see what it’s like to live there.
  2. Talk to your realtor. Make sure you have a good feel for what the homes in that area are going for, and be sure to ask your realtor’s opinion of what they think the market will be like in the next couple of months or years. If the neighborhood is improving year after year, this is a great sign.
  3. Prioritize your needs. My husband really wants a yard and a garage, and I’d like at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. These are the things that are non-negotiable with us. Limiting our search to these options helps us narrow down the type of house that is right for us and our situation. If being closer to work is very important to you, you may need to compromise on space or amenities.
  4. Know what you can afford. You’ll notice that I didn’t say you should compromise on cost. If it helps to speak with a realtor or financial planner, I highly recommend this option. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to be “house poor” especially when the job market is still very vulnerable.
  5. Look past the finishings. Sometimes it’s hard, but try to see past the bright pink little girl room with stickers on every wall and the stained orange carpet. Many times sellers understand these shortcomings and will provide allowances at closing. Focus on the bigger picture – the guts of the house: location, layout, footprint, etc. If the seller is not willing to negotiate, be sure to save some room in your budget to make a few cosmetic updates.

    and a bonus…

  6. Don’t get disheartened. When I was looking for my first house (well, technically it was a condo), I looked at about 50 different places before I found “The One” – I’d even made an offer on another condo that was rejected. It’s hard to not become beaten down when things don’t seem to go your way, but eventually you will find the right house for you.

Do you have any other suggestions for shopping for a house?

 

I’m so happy to introduce our first Etsy Spotlight of 2014 – actually, come to think of it you’ve already met her! Michelle is a contributor to ShopHappens, and the two of us went to the Hello Etsy event in DC a few years ago. Michelle has been wearing her gorgeous handmade brooches for years now, so I was super excited for the fixations Etsy store to officially launch a few months ago!  She’s always had such an eye for creative accessories and design, so this is a natural fit.

Michelle has offered a great promotion to ShopHappens readers – be sure to use coupon code SHOPHAPPENS for a special 10% discount on any purchase! And while you’re at it, go follow @fixationsjewels on Twitter too! 

As always, click on a photo to learn more or purchase any of the featured items. Now on with the show…

The Winter Crescent: pin with curved hammered silver cylinder, sapphire and copper beads, gold chain

The Winter Crescent: pin with curved hammered silver cylinder, sapphire and copper beads, gold chain by fixations

How long have you been selling on Etsy? How did you become interested in creating your own handmade products?

I have been selling on Etsy since July 2013, but I have been a buyer on Etsy since 2009. I loved the connection that I felt to the seller and to the item I purchased; that connection made the purchase feel that much more special. When I decided to turn my hobby into a business, Etsy seemed like the natural place to start.

I have always liked vintage style, and brooches had become a favorite accessory. I combined that idea with a vintage men’s pocket watch. It wasn’t even really a hobby, just something I did for myself. I love combining masculine and feminine elements to discover something new.

The Big Top Clown: pin with red and blue hoops, multi-colored beads, gold chain

The Big Top Clown: pin with red and blue hoops, multi-colored beads, gold chain by fixations

What inspires you?

The flair of the 20s, 30s, and 40s is probably my greatest inspiration, as well as several contemporary designers. Inspiration can come from anywhere, though. I find a lot of inspiration in sunlight and how it reflects on objects, water, lots of things. Other people and their personal styles and personalities are also great inspirations, because of course, I want to make things that people will be excited to wear.

What are some of your favorite colors/patterns/design aesthetics? How do you incorporate them into your work?

I love color! It’s a great friend of mine. You’ll tend to find a lot of blue in my pieces. It’s my favorite color. I also like to mix in wood and metals. Recently, I’ve gotten into paper elements. Plus, I like anything that reflects light, so you’ll see a lot of faceted beads in my work. I’m not a big fan of symmetry, so I like to keep things slightly off balance.

Who are some of your favorite celebrities? Whose style would match up with what’s available in your store?

Carey Mulligan is a fantastic actress, and a fascinating person to watch. I’m also a huge fan of Kerry Washington. Her wardrobe is to die for. If either of those women wore my pins, I would pass out!

The Carnival Kid in Silver: pin with white mesh bead, silver chain

The Carnival Kid in Silver: pin with white mesh bead, silver chain by fixations

What is your workroom like? What conditions lead you to create the best work?

I have a pretty cramped space, so I actually tend to create at the kitchen table. It’s good open space and I can interact with others while I create if I want. It’s good for instant feedback! I tend to get my best ideas when I am daydreaming. Sometimes things just pop into your head, and usually when I am not thinking very hard about a design, a great idea pops into my head.

How long does it take to design and create each piece?

It varies. Some pieces I puzzle over for days before a solid idea comes along and others just come together in minutes. Usually, if I am working with a set of materials, I try to identify a theme that can direct my thoughts. But I find sometimes that the unformulated thought it is the one that is the most cohesive and quickest to develop!

What is your favorite product so far?

Probably “Grass and the Water Droplet.” It is so versatile. It fits into so many outfits. I find it is a go-to piece for me. But it changes everyday!

Grass and the Water Droplet: pin with ocean, sky blue, and gold and green-tone glass beads, gold chain

Grass and the Water Droplet: pin with ocean, sky blue, and gold and green-tone glass beads, gold chain by fixations

What is the most interesting request you’ve received from a customer?

Brides are very fun to work for because they are often looking for something that they want to have as part of their special day or that their good friends will enjoy. It’s nice to create something for events like that because they are such seminal moments in people’s lives.

What makes your Etsy store different from others?

A lot of Etsy sellers make vintage inspired jewelry, but not many make pins and brooches. Bringing masculine and feminine elements together takes it a step further. I use all kinds of materials in my pieces; I’m designing some pieces now using paper beads made by women’s groups in Uganda. The possibilities are endless!

The Sand Dollar: pin with rainbow Agate, shells, gold chain

The Sand Dollar: pin with rainbow Agate, shells, gold chain by fixations

Thank you again Michelle for the interview! And readers, don’t forget to use code SHOPHAPPENS at checkout for a special discount!

What’s your favorite item in the fixations Etsy store?

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