Mary Carroll is a multi-talented photojournalist turned graphic designer and jewelry-maker. Her graphic design experience has included everything from designing textiles to product catalogues. Her unique one-of-a-kind beaded jewelry creations were originally inspired by a South Western theme; a business she began in 2003.
“Creativity drives my life…I live to design.”
Meet Mary Carroll.
NDF: How did you first get started with graphic design?
Mary: My first love was photography and I was employed as an award winning news photographer for nearly 20 years. I became aware of graphic design at the first newspaper I worked for, as I watched the staff designer layout the feature pages. I was intrigued by the many typefaces. Many years later, as my interest in photojournalism began to wane, personal computers were just becoming available. I went to night school and took every design software class offered, training myself for a second career in graphic design. I took to the computers like a duck takes to water (Ah, memories, my first computer was a MacPlus!).
Shortly after leaving journalism, I was offered a job working for a small company that made high-end bedding. I ran their digital photo studio, designed their first ever product catalog, and even designed textiles! Since then I worked as a catalog designer for House of Lloyd and Concepts Direct. I was later employed at Video Professor and worked in E-Commerce as an SEO project manager.
My company, Renegade Graphics LLC was born in 1999 in Kansas City. Soon afterwards I was head-hunted to Colorado and the business faded away. It was resurrected following a lay-off in 2008. I moved to the metro Denver area a year ago, and started building up my client base again. The company’s name came from a former supervisor who had a tantrum during a staff meeting calling us all renegade designers.
One of the things my clients always say when asked for a testimonial is that I LISTEN to what they want and then exceed their expectations. My best client is someone starting a new business who needs everything from a logo to a website. Branding a business is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously. Not being an illustrator, finding the right graphic or image for each design project is my key to great results. I spend hours searching for the perfect images and build my design around them.
One of my favorite challenges is taking a small businesses’ homemade logo that served them well during their startup and giving it a professional update while still keeping the same intent as their original concept.
NDF: What drew you to creating jewelry?
Mary: I have always loved jewelry… I have always loved making things. After being laid off from one of my graphic design jobs I worked briefly as a rep for a high-end costume jewelry home party company. I thought their pricing was ridiculously high for faux gems and plated base metal. Why buy faux gems when you can have genuine stones for nearly the same price? What they sold as “genuine turquoise” was actually dyed Howlite. Thinking that I could give customers a better value for their dollar, I started Desert Rose Creations and began to make and design my own one-of-a-kind jewelry creations. Unless otherwise stated, Desert Rose Creations uses only sterling silver and gold-filled findings. Occasionally I’ll get a custom order for a customer requesting 14k gold findings.
NDF: Where do you find inspiration?
Mary: Attending many wholesale bead shows annually, I hunt down unique and unusual beads. Often the beads themselves inspire my work, a strand of carved flower beads, or a stunning center bead can sit in my inventory for several years before I have an inspiration on how to use them. I subscribe to beading magazines and jewelry catalogs where I am inspired by the work of others. For example, my fuchsia rope necklace (which was featured in Bead & Button magazines’ October 2010 issue) was inspired by a bead-crotched version from another magazine.
NDF: Tell us about your jewelry designs – do you have central themes running through your work?
Mary: A lot of my work has a botanical theme: leaves, flowers and vines. I find these designs to be delicate, feminine and pretty. My inventory includes carved jade, coral, carnelian, blue quartz and abalone flower beads that make beautiful necklaces. Handcrafted Indonesian silver flowers, leaves, shells make great accent beads. Pressed glass flower and leaf beads are also great to work with. And of course I create my own flowers and leaves from the tiniest glass seed beads.
Texture is important in my work as it creates visual interest. To achieve this I often combine different shapes and sizes of beads together in the same piece, such as the spiral necklaces which are my favorites to make. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds of colors of beads are in my inventory, I never have the “right color” for any project. Being a perfectionist, finding the perfect color progression in the spiral can be challenging. In fact, there is a beautiful asymmetrical jade spiral that has been sitting on my work table for over 2 years, just waiting for the right accent beads to finish it off. I’ll keep looking until I find them!
Updating classic jewelry designs is also fun, especially when you take something like the boring 3-strand pearl necklace and give it a modern classic look and then reproduce it with different gemstones like turquoise or amethyst. So many women think of pearls as passé, when today pearls come in every color of the rainbow (dyed) and exciting shapes (coin, stick, square, triangle) and sizes. I have a tendency to stick with the more neutral pearl colors like grey blue, gold, brown and white.
NDF: What does the creative future hold for you?
Creativity is never ending process. When I was a girl, I drove my mother crazy trying to find creative projects for me to work on. And I have progressed a long way from weaving potholders! My plan is to expand on my creative energy into different design genres and crafts… creativity s never ending.
On the business side, I want Renegade Graphics, LLC grow large enough to employ and mentor young designers.
NDF: Any words of wisdom for other designers and creative people you’d like to share?
Mary: Curiosity and creativity go hand in hand – try to learn something new every day. Expanding your horizons will feed your creativity. Travel– it will open up both your view of the world and creative possibilities in your work.
Creativity is a passion, and you CAN earn a living being creative. Don’t give up and take some boring office job. Others will eventually recognize your creativity, passion and potential. Continually educate yourself in your field. JUST DO IT!