An Interview With Linda Hartung of Alacarte Clasps, WireLace, & WireLuxe

LindaHartung b-w version

Linda and Tim Hartung, co-owners and designers behind Linda Arline Originals, Alacarte Clasps™, WireLace™, and WireLuxe™, have been designing jewelry for most of their lives. Driven by their faith, love for one another, and passion for beautiful, high-quality jewelry design, the couple has blazed a trail in the do-it-yourself jewelry market creating new tools, techniques and products for designers. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Linda after her recent Artbeads Café shoot to talk about her passion for jewelry, how she came to be a pioneer in the DIY market, what inspires her and what words of wisdom she has for the rest of us.

Jes: Hi Linda, welcome to Artbeads! Thank you so much for sitting down with me today. You have accomplished so many amazing things in your life; I don’t know exactly where to start. Maybe we should start at the beginning, how did you first get into beading?

Linda: Thanks for having me. That is a good place to start. I have been asked this question a lot, so I’ve really had to think about it. Starting as young as five, I can remember walking along the riverbeds to find “friendship rocks” with holes in them and stringing them on my shoelaces to make a necklace. I remember doing that a lot because my mom was always asking me “where are your shoe laces?!” [Laughing] I couldn’t wait to get colored tennis shoes because they had colored laces to make colored necklaces to go with my rocks. My mom was a Girl Scout leader and my little sister I got to tag along to meetings with her and my older sisters to make lariats, and lanyards, and potholders, so I’ve always loved crafting. Lanyards were one of my favorite things to do, so I think a lot of it is just the way I’m built and a lot of it comes from being exposed to it through the Girl Scouts. As I grew up I was into horses, and you know that kind of preoccupies your time, and then I met my (didn’t know then) soon-to-be husband. He was an artist and we would go to craft fairs to sell his art. I wanted something to do, and feathers were big at the time, so I started making feather earrings. I would sell out every time and made enough money to cover the cost of the booth and enjoy some food while we were sitting there. It was just kind of a neat way for us to do things together.

Jes: That is so sweet! So how did selling jewelry for booth money turn into the business you have today?

Linda: Well, then of course I got into the business side of life. I had a couple jobs, had my horse, and then my husband graduated with a graphic design and marketing degree and I decided to represent him, and we grew our business doing that for 25 years. When we had our daughter, I decided I wanted to spend more time raising her, so we made a shift. We decided to downsize, before downsizing was a buzzword, and moved to Forestville, CA. We visited there all the time and thought it was the most beautiful place, and one day we just thought, “Hey, why can’t we just live here?” So we did. We kept a handful of customers, and started to move into jewelry because it was small and manageable.

RhapsodyNK3pink-500My husband had made jewelry all through high school and college using The Lost Wax Method* and I liked to create things, so one day we just decided to retire from graphic design and marketing completely and just focus on making and selling our designs. By then, our daughter was off to college and it was something we thought would be small and portable that we could travel with. We would go to jewelry and craft shows near our daughter’s college so we could go visit her and then go to the shows. We started traveling for shows all of the time, and eventually got started with the clasps because we could not find elegant clasps to go with our finished jewelry. We purposely chose to go with high-end costume jewelry because there were so many cool things to work with. We traveled all over looking for someone that would make us high-end, nickel-free clasps that could be customized with Swarovski crystals, and eventually found a few manufacturers in Europe. Once we started using the clasps in our finished jewelry, fellow designers would beg us to sell them some because there just wasn’t anything else like them on the market. So we would sell to them, and that increased our demand for more, and then Bead & Button featured them in an issue, and that increased our demand so much that it kind of pulled us into the DIY market (Alacarte Clasps). Swarovski was just starting to expand into the DIY market at the same time, and they liked the pieces I had been making with their stuff, so I began working with them on their Create Your Style program, and that’s how we really got our momentum in the DIY market. Now I would say I do DIY in reverse, I make pieces for my finished jewelry line or for a magazine and I see what people are interested in learning about then I go back and think “how can I turn this into a project?” So my kits are really designed to take the frustration out of learning to design so that people can focus on picking their colors, and learning the technique, and just having fun with beads.

Linda Hartung blog 8

Jes: Wow, what an amazing journey! I love that your kits are designed that way. I have experienced frustration while trying to learn a new technique on more than one occasion; I think I might need to try one of your kits! It sounds like you are part entrepreneur, part jewelry designer, and part inventor. What inspired you to create WireLace and WireLuxe?

Linda Hartung Blog pic 1Linda: For WireLace, I had seen a sample of knitted wire in Europe and I let my mind whirl trying to figure out what I could use it for. Eventually I tracked down the manufacturer and we worked with them to see what we could do together. It was so exciting because I felt like we were exploring uncharted territories. Eventually I ordered a full spool of every color and hung them from the wall in my craft room. For years I just admired them and thought about how to use them in my designs. Sometimes I’d make a piece or two with it but I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it yet. One day, the editor of Beadwork Magazine was talking with Tim, trying to find a source for a project that used knitted wire. She mentioned they had a project but could not run it because they had no source in the USA for the material. Tim knew immediately she was searching for WireLace and told her “we have a whole wall of it in our studio!” The editor asked if we would be willing to be listed as the supplier and Tim said “sure”, not really thinking much of it, and all of a sudden my phone was ringing off the hook; everybody wanted to order WireLace! I sent my daughter to the store to get the magazine because I couldn’t figure out why so many people were interested, and it turns out they had put the project on the cover [laughing]. WireLace just took off from there. We ended developing additional colors and sizes to meet the needs of the DIY market.

WireLuxe

WireLuxe really just came from knowing the market. I like to look for needs that aren’t being met across multiple channels and try to figure out ways to meet them. In this case, seedbeaders, wire workers, and beaders all had a need for a wide, stable-yet-flexible structure to work on. So I started thinking, “what if I could make an open wire weave structure that was useful for design, but interesting enough to be used alone?” So Tim and I tracked down a company that was willing to build a machine for us. We tinkered with it for over a year. We would try something and that wouldn’t work so we would take it apart and start over. We spent a lot of time on the phone with their support people and they would help us try to figure out what to try next. We ended up having custom pieces made for the machine and eventually we came up with the WireLuxe open-weave structure. I’m really glad we did it because it was a lot of fun and we’re so happy with the finished product.

Jes: Your story is simply remarkable. I really admire your creativity and ingenuity. I’ve got to ask, what inspires you as an artist, designer, and inventor?

Linda: Well my husband and I always knew we wanted to work together. We are deeply faithful Christians and I would say faith is the core of my inspiration. Nature is beautiful and inspirational, and I really marvel at the endless creations on earth, but there is a verse in the Bible that says “…and by Him and through Him all things are created” and I really connect with that. I feel like there is a wellspring within me and creativity will flow out if I just let it. Some people really focus on putting information in and trying to get a certain result; I just focus on letting ideas and creativity flow out.

Linda Hartung blog pic 3 Jes: That is really special, thank you for sharing that with us. Last question, do you have any words of wisdom or advice to pass on to our Artbeader community?

Linda: Sure, well my advice is to have fun, you know, play with your beads! Lay them out, position them in different ways, and see what you like. Don’t be afraid to waste a little string or wire. Let yourself experiment, that’s how you learn to be a better designer. When I put together a piece I leave the components out at my desk for while. I arrange them in different ways until I see a design that really speaks to me, then I start thinking about how to make it. If you are afraid to waste stringing materials at first, start with a kit. Find a design you love, get a kit for it, practice the technique and then adapt it.

Linda Hartung blog 9

Jes: That is great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Linda: Thank you so much for having me!

*The Lost Wax Method: The lost wax method of casting first began in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome thousands of years ago. This technique is still respected as one of the premiere methods of capturing superb detail in metal. Once an artist carves his or her design into the wax it can be transferred to a variety of metals, and it is often used in dentistry, sculpture, and fine jewelry.

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Comments

    • Julie DuVal
    • September 5, 2013
    Reply

    Wow! I have been designing my own jewelry for about one year, now. I made some necklaces with ribbon that would have been smashing with the WireLuxe wirelace. It can be manipulated to ruffle up. How feminine! With Christmas around the corner, I will have to experiment with this versatile product.

    For my first design I will experiment with some new necklace designs, inspired by your new video featuring the WireLuxe and Wirelace products. I am going to start by designing a choker-style necklace using gold coloured WireLuxe, and some 14 mm Astral Pink Swarovski faceted columns with two holes. (Black WireLace might also look nice with these bead colours…) I will bead them onto the WireLuxe about 1 inch apart, with bands of clear tiny bicones beaded onto the WireLuxe between the column beads, creating bands of bicones that connect to the the faceted columns in 14.5 mm-wide strips pavement style. (Kind of like the pattern formed with the following symbols: |==|==|==|==|.) I think tiny white and peach coloured pearls and crystal seed beads would make a nice trim for the outer edges of the piece.

    Astral Pink Swarovski 19×14.5 mm faceted wave crystal beads hanging from the lower edge of a wavy strip of Wireluxe would also look just stunning for a party piece.

    In either case, I would definitely choose some of your lovely new caps and clasps to finish off the necklaces with class.

    • Joan
    • September 5, 2013
    Reply

    What a lovely product WireLace is and what a wonderful easy way to make a bail. I will have to be sure to purchase some on my next order and I know that I will include the clasps as well

    • Lori L
    • September 5, 2013
    Reply

    Wire INSIDE the WireLace to give it some extra body! What a cool idea. Now where did I put that WireLace i bought a while back?

    • Barbara
    • September 5, 2013
    Reply

    This is AWESOME! I am so inspired after reading the interview on Linda and watching the demo! I can’t wait to get started with designing new jewelry pieces with Wirelace and the Wirelux. I love all the beautiful rich colors, and love the assortment package. I enjoyed the demo and hope there are more demo’s with Linda and her products in the future. Thank you ArtBeads for introducing these new products to us!

    • Beth Fidalgo
    • September 5, 2013
    Reply

    Thank you for showing how to use wire lace! It looks so easy! I love how you showed how to make a bail! I will try this soon!! Thank you again!

    • Bettyann
    • September 6, 2013
    Reply

    Just beautiful. Really interesting , new, and easy to do. Can’t wait to get started with the new wire. The possibilities are endless! So much for sleep!! Just brilliant. Thank you

    • Belinda
    • September 6, 2013
    Reply

    After watching the video I would love to give the wirelux a try and maybe make a bracelet. I have some wirelace that I haven’t done anything with yet…but after watching this, I think it’s time!

    • Chrissy
    • September 6, 2013
    Reply

    I enjoyed the video and learned a lot of new things. I guess it work with lots of projects that I do.

    • Sara McGibbon DuBois
    • September 6, 2013
    Reply

    I enjoyed the video with Krystal and LInda . . . and the blogs/interviews with both, and for Ryan, too.

    Inspiration? I would love to try making some roses and other flowers; in fact it would be really cool to make special bouquets of flowers for people who love them . . . I have one good friend in mind who misses flowers once summer is over with. LInda showed so many nteresting ideas about ways to use the LaceWire and Wire Lux . . . seems like there are so very many possibilities. The bail to hold the one donut style bead is beautiful, stunning looking. I’m very impressed that Linda and her husband are into their business and artistic endeavors together . . . .

    Thanks, ArtBeads, for having Krystal Wick, there a lot of the time, and all her guests, whether they are from ArtBeads or from other places . . . God bless you, Krystal, and your guests on the ArtBeads Coffee and Beads videos.

    • Darlene
    • September 6, 2013
    Reply

    This was very interesting. I think I would like to try some with beads. The new products these days are amazing!!

    • Mary Lou
    • September 7, 2013
    Reply

    Thanks artbeads this was very interesting. Give me so new ideas to try.

    • Ellen
    • September 7, 2013
    Reply

    Got to try the wire lace! I do agree with some of the other comments that more demos on using it would be most welcome.

  1. Reply

    A very innovative idea. I made a blown glass pendant over a year ago and have not found a necklace for it. This has given me some options on how to proceed on finishing it. Thanks for this amazing product.

    • Deborah
    • September 8, 2013
    Reply

    This product really got my creative juices going. I love bead weaving but also like the look of wire jewelry projects. I shy away from wire projects because it would involve new materials, tools, etc as well as lots of practice to become proficient which would take me away from my love of bead weaving. Wire Lace looks like it would give the best of both worlds for a seed beader like me. I am intrigued by the product and after watching the video and reading the blog, I agree that it would be okay to waste a little of the product to learn how to incorporate it in my designs. It just made sense when Linda stated so in her interview. Another plus is you can use the tools you already have. I am excited about Wire Lace and will certainly give it a try.

  2. Reply

    Wire Lace was always a mystery to me. Now that I’ve seen how easy it is to use, it will be on my next Artbeads order. Especially love the option of making a bail out of it as that can be a challenge with some of my designs. Thank you!

    • Barbara sanders
    • September 8, 2013
    Reply

    Loved all the great ideas for using the wire lace product. I can’t wait to get my hands on some, very soon! I’m thinking about some copper wire inside some of the narrower width for an interesting free form base, added to a medium or large piece from my stash, then make it either a pendant (love how easy that looked!) or a pin. I also love the new clasps. Your need to find a better quality way to complete the piece & then making a product of it is wonderful! It totally opens my options. I will be adding a few of those to my stash as well.

    • Alice Fox
    • September 9, 2013
    Reply

    I like the new wire lace, but the clasps have got me jumping up and down. It’s hard to find clasps to match my bracelets and these will work great. Yes, I will not be sleeping thinking of all the possibilities. I have done one wire lace project in school and we used several different mediums with the lace and tied off a bead every 3″ and the layers of would separate and then pulling the lace out to make it wavy. I did autumn colors and my friend just loved it. Looking forward to trying the new lace and clasps.

    • Jacquelynn Womack
    • September 10, 2013
    Reply

    Wow! I love the wire lace! It will make Seed Bead bracelets a breeze!! I also love the way the doughnut looked being tied on by wire lace, so elegant and not a ton of work!

    • Linda Hasz
    • September 11, 2013
    Reply

    I love the simplistic yet elegant way the wire lace can be used to create something so beautiful! After watching the video, I have some ideas of how to make this work with a bracelet (although I don’t know if it will work until I try it!). I would like to incorporate one of the clasps as well. I have many ideas…the problem will be settling on just one!

    • Waynea Chen
    • September 11, 2013
    Reply

    Cool. I’d love to see if I can incorporate the wire luxe to make hair pieces.

    • Kathi Sternhagen
    • September 13, 2013
    Reply

    Love it! Can’t wait to try to make a wire lace bail with the pendant I have on my work table – it will be awesome! Love your work!!

    • Janice Warden bergeron
    • September 13, 2013
    Reply

    I bought some wire lace a little while back and I didn’t really have any great ideas on how to use it. I love the video and the interview and now I’m off to play with that wirelace I bought. Thank you for the inspiration!

  3. Reply

    I had not paid much attention to the wire lace products, so what a surprise to see all the things you can do. I have several beautiful handmade lampwork beads that would be really dramatic on the 3 or 6 inch wire. Can’t wait to try it out.

    • Peggy Chiu
    • September 17, 2013
    Reply

    Wow, I just finished watching your episode on Wirelace/Wireluxe and the Alacarte Clasps. It is so amazing! It makes such a big difference in look – professional, elegant and expensive, not to even mention about versatility.
    I already have some projects in mind – such as the curvy necklace by itself and then add on different kind of portable pendants using the Alacarte clasps/bails (most important of all is -without spending a big fortune).
    Also, this is definitely way way better than just using a regular ribbon to tie your pendant!
    In addition, I have been looking for a while for some nice looking/classy bails – now I found it!
    Thanks for the nice products!

    • Julie Hall
    • September 17, 2013
    Reply

    I just watched Artbeads Cafe about Wirelace and Wirelux. WOW! I didn’t know a product like this was a available. I would love to give it a try, especially embellishing with some seed beads. Thanks for the inspiration to try something new!

    • Ellen Lesak
    • September 18, 2013
    Reply

    Hi! I really enjoyed seeing all of the new products ( & the colors- YUMM!) on your video with Artbeads. I’m trying to get going on Christmas gifts..Guess what sugarplums I’m dreaming of tonite!

    • Crystal Thain
    • September 18, 2013
    Reply

    Watched the video and was so impressed as to how easy it is to create a bail and how beautiful it looks as well as it can be any color. I’m thinking I can have a lot of fun with this in Halloween colors too. Thanks for posting it, I learned a lot.

    • Cheryl Jackson
    • September 18, 2013
    Reply

    The variety of colors and sizes and options is inspiring to me. I love to mix and match until I come up with a final plan. I love that wireluxe- it is on my wish list for next bead splurge. I have a stash of wire lace – think I am going to have to dig into asap

  4. Reply

    Oh my goodness! What a magnificent masterpiece? I am so much in love with her designs. She is indeed a genius jewellery designer!

  5. Reply

    I guess it has to do with her talent!

  6. Reply

    Thank you Linda for sharing your stories. I really love the color themes of your jewelry. They are so elegant.

  7. Reply

    These are very beautiful design. Thank you for sharing.

    • Diane
    • December 5, 2013
    Reply

    Love your designs. On the top of the page you show a four strand necklace with a pendent in pinks, do you have a kit for that design or someway I can buy the supplies to make it? Just beautiful!!!

    • Tiya
    • January 12, 2014
    Reply

    what happened to this blog? I look forward to new post every few days but its been a while since the last post. what happen to new techniques, new items and most interestingly to all the contests??!

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