Living in Marceline, Missouri, a rural town with just 2,500 residents, didn’t diminish Walt Disney’s creativity and it hasn’t held back Julia Schmitt from launching a new line of couture floral fashions for her customers. In fact, she overcame a fear of working with decorative wire and has mastered high-style floral jewelry designs that are putting her on the map.
At the beginning of her floral career nearly a decade ago, Julia watched a YouTube video with her sister the night before prom to learn how to make a corsage. They had orders to fill the next day.
Today, Julia Marie Pualeialii Schmitt CFD, ICPF, EMC is co-owner of Busy Bee Florist and Gifts with her mother and a teaching assistant with the Illinois State Floral Association’s ‘boot camp’ educational program. She also has traveled internationally with the European Master Certified team and is launching her own independent floral design business.
Along the way, she fell in love with wire work and honed the art of making and selling floral jewelry, leading to her customers naming her the ‘wire guru.’
“Creating floral jewelry says two things to your customers: you are an artist and you can create something unique just for them,” she says.
Julia shares with us the tips and techniques she’s mastered in hopes that you’ll be inspired to try it in your floral business too.
A hidden talent discovered
Julia parents retired in 2008 from Hawaii to a farm in the heart of the Midwest. A few months later, her mother purchased a local flower shop in Marceline.
When the shop’s designer left, Julia’s mom asked her to help until she found another designer.
“I can do this!” said a surprised Julia a few months later. “It did not take long for flowers to become my passion and my life,” she remembers.
She soon became business partners with her mom. For the past eight years, the two have owned Busy Bee Florist & Gifts and its sister store Busy Bee Too.
Finding a passion for wire
A local wholesaler offered a corsage and decorative wire class. “I was scared stiff to try using wire, so I sent my sister to the class,” explains Julia. “Cecilia came back all excited and showed me what she had learned.”
Julia began to experiment with incorporating decorative wire into designs.
“An entirely new world opened up to me,” she says. She fell in love with wire and making floral jewelry, which increased sales.
“When Wendy Andrade AIFD published her book, Fresh Floral Jewelry, I started to learn basic techniques and stopped being afraid of using wire,” says Julia.
As her passion grew, she soon discovered selling floral jewelry was a way to stand out in her area. “Creating floral jewelry says two things to your customers: you are an artist and you can create something unique just for them.”
Soon her customers were referring to her as the wire guru or wire queen.
Creating a demand for the product
“The key is to get your clients engaged in what you are doing,” she says. “I display floral jewelry samples year-round in my consultation room to attract new customers.”
Julia uses these techniques to increase sales:
- Frame floral jewelry for display in shop windows during prom season.
- Publish Snapfish photo books of floral jewelry to keep a record of designs created in the past.
- Offer autograph sessions for students to sign their flowers. High school kids featured in the prom book often come back to see their photos.
- Encourage repeat business by suggesting a jewelry design be brought back and refreshed with new flowers for the next event.
Along with her promotional ideas, Julia also has a process for creating her designs.
Julia’s Design process
She begins her jewelry pieces by determining the shape she wants to create. She looks for unusual shapes she can use to form the foundation of a design. For example, she uses a square vase to create her square pendants, dowel rods to create forms for rings, and a round bud vase for making bracelets.
Precision and neatness are imperative when working with wire. Winding the soft and pliable OASIS™ Etched Wire around pre-existing forms helps create a neat and precise shape. “You can free-form as well, but it takes a lot more time, practice and patience!” says Julia.
“Never knot a wire to hold it in place,” she advises. “Place the wire you’re using to bind the wires together parallel to the main wire and begin to wind to secure the wires and hide the ends.” If possible, use one continuous wire as the base and use a second wire to bind the wires together creating the strength and stability of the form.
“I recently fell in love with OASIS™ Etched Wire,” shares Julia. “There is something different about the way the wire works in your hands.” She enjoys making forms and shapes not commonly seen in jewelry. She experimented with mixing hot glue and etched wire and loves the results.
Hot glue jewelry
When designing OASIS™ Hot Melt Glue jewelry, Julia selects a vase of the size and shape she wants to achieve. She fills the container with water and uses its edges as a guide while drizzling the hot glue onto the water to cool and form a pattern. “To create a lacy look, be careful not to continuously overlap the stream of hot glue into the same area, or it will form a huge blob instead,” she explains.
Julia enjoys working with OASIS™ Mega Beaded Wire, OASIS™ Bullion Wire, OASIS™ Metallic Wire, OASIS™ Flat Wire, OASIS™ Decorative Wire, and uses OASIS™ Hot Melt Glue and OASIS® Floral Adhesive to secure the designs. She incorporates rhinestones, crystals, magnets, plant material, flowers and other treasures she finds laying around the shop as her finishing touches.
Pricing floral jewelry
Julia suggests pricing wire jewelry frames separately from the flowers. Price a bracelet, boutonniere holder, necklace or hair garland form based on design, materials and labor, then calculate the flowers separately. She believes there are times when it’s appropriate to factor in a design fee that increases the price to meet perceived value.
How did she get started?
Julia learned many of her techniques while working toward floral accreditation. She attends seminars and classes and encourages others to do the same.
She became an Illinois State Certified Professional Florist (ICPF) in 2013 and participates as a teaching assistant in the boot camp programs.
In 2014, she earned her European Master’s Certificate (EMC) and traveled internationally with the team in 2015 and 2016. She is a mentor in the EMC Education Sector.
Julia was recognized by the American Institute of Floral Designers AIFD® as a Certified Floral Designer (CFD®) in July 2016 and will be inducted into AIFD® in July 2017.
Pualeialii Floral Expressions
Julia recently began her own separate freelance business, Pualeialii Floral Expressions, to explore private teaching and creative design opportunities. “I love where my imagination and creativity take me,” she says. “Life is a funny journey–I went from a fear of wire to becoming a wire guru.”
Have you experimented with using wire art to create floral jewelry in your flower shop?