Kiana: Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Handmade CEO Podcast! I’m so excited to welcome today’s guest, Doug Heifetz. Doug creates his artwork to celebrate surprising transformations and to make upcycling irresistible. Through his small studio operation, Lost and Forged, he offers a wide range of original jewelry, accessories, Judaica items, and decor pieces, all made by hand from antique silverware and other reclaimed metal objects. He began his artistic work in 2015, and since then, Doug has shipped his pieces to buyers in dozens of countries overseas, and to all 50 states here in the US.
Without further do a big welcome to Doug!
Doug: Thank you, Kiana! I’m very glad to be here.
Kiana: Yeah, thanks for being here, Doug! So I’d love to hear a little bit more about yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming an artist, and how did that all come about? And when was it clear to you that, you know, you could do this as a business and make money from it?
Doug: So it was a long time before I thought of myself as an artist. I started making things around the summer. 2015. I needed something to do with my hands while watching TV late at night, when the rest of the family was asleep, and I started bending things, silverware, especially.
I had a college roommate once who bent a couple of forks – stainless steel cafeteria forks – into bracelets, and thought, oh, maybe I’ll give that a try. And, I started trying it. The results were scratchy and very, very rough. And I started looking for advice online, and seeing what other people were doing.
And I was just fascinated, I wanted to try everything that I saw. And I started having all kinds of ideas of other things I wanted to make, even things that I’d never seen before. And I started learning, partly by advice online, mostly by trial and error – lots of error. And eventually I also took like an eight part intro to metalsmithing class.
During that process, a couple months in, I started posting, just on my personal Facebook timeline, some of the crazy things I was making. Almost to my surprise, friends started saying, “Hey, where can we buy those?” And I, I wasn’t quite sure, but I was already spending some money on materials and on tools, rather an endless supply of materials and tools and thought, well, you know, maybe that can help fund this operation.
And in the meantime, I was really interested in starting a profitable business. At the time I was a full time rabbi of a synagogue and that’s work that I still do on a very part-time basis. But I was really drawn to the idea of entrepreneurship that was more based completely on my own creativity.
And one thing led to another, and soon this became sort of my main business.
Kiana: That’s amazing. So you just kind of fell into it and, you know, you took that inspiration and ran with it.
Doug: Pretty much. And I had already been working on a couple of other business ideas. And soon, really all I wanted to focus on was these businesses. And eventually I cleared up with the congregation that I was gonna be moving on. And by the time the paycheck stopped, there was only one business. That was one of those three businesses that I had been working on that was making money.
And so I thought. this is it. It wasn’t the only thing I did. I had to do some other things, still do other things. But, um, at that point it became my main occupation.
Kiana: So I was looking online, just kind of doing some digging on you. And I saw the mobile boutique that you have, which is so cool. Can you tell me about that? And like, where did the idea come from? Because you have this mobile booth that you can kind of take anywhere.
Doug: Yes. So the mobile boutique is sort of like, I mean, it helps to see pictures or even video of it to understand it. But it’s essentially like a cabin – a small cabin that I transport on a trailer and then I take the trailer once I get to the booth location and I can fit it into just a 10 by 10 booth.
I boost the cabin up using corner jacks. I pull the trailer out from underneath it and set the cabin down on the ground. I usually use it for art fairs and festivals, both indoor and outdoor, and when people see it and it’s open for business, it’s no longer up on wheels.
It’s down on the ground and there’s about a six inch step up to get in and I can totally level it. You know, because so many art festivals are outdoors. Art festivals are on uneven pavement. Mine will have a little step up, but once you get inside, the floor is totally even. Whereas everybody else is on the floor on uneven pavement.
The main advantages for me are that I can have a space that’s very well suited to my work. And I can just keep it like that. It’s permanent, so it’s portable, but permanent. So I can actually keep all the jewelry busts and stands in place. They’re all fastened to the shelves and I can keep a lot of the jewelry pieces right there on, on the busts and the ring on prop fingers and all of that without packing everything away.
And that addresses my frustration about how difficult setup was for shows. It would take me forever. I found it nearly impossible. It would take me a really long time. I was constantly building new things that I thought would go with my brand and I thought it would be simpler, but in the end they were very difficult. And the wind would come and knock everything over. It would take me forever. I guess some fine jewelers might just set up 10 pieces to be visible, but I want 200, 250 pieces visible. And for people to be able to try them on without without asking me to, you know, hand them each one.
I like people to be able to browse, pick them up, pick things up on their own, try them on, you know, if my price point were a thousand and up, I probably wouldn’t do that. But most of my stuff is between about $30 and $200. I want people to just be able to freely try it on.
So I want about 200 pieces showing, right? And it would take me forever to get all of them just right. And then maybe the wind would come and knock everything over. And I just found it exasperating. And I thought either I’m gonna find a different way to do this, or I’m gonna stop doing shows.
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And soon the shows were the most profitable thing I was doing.
Kiana: So that actually sounds so much safer even for your jewelry than having to set up and, you know, things can, can kind of dinged up the more you move them around.
Doug: Absolutely. So there was an initial construction a few years ago. And then I recently did some renovations. For the initial construction, I sent some images to a friend, essentially some sketches, to a friend who’s a master carpenter and talked to him about building it.
And he was excited, and he had been interested in starting to build tiny homes anyway, and this was closely related. So he was very excited about it and we agreed on price and everything. And he did all the initial construction, but then increasingly a lot more still needed to be finished, shelving painting, signage.
I did all of that. Stain the floor, things like that. There was also a lot more to be done at the time. It didn’t have the jacks that helped you take it off the trailer. So my thought had been that I would use it either in convention centers, where they have a forklift available and were willing to lift it off for me, or I would use it outdoors and keep it up on its wheels.
And soon I realized that, in many shows, keeping it up on wheels was not an option. I just didn’t like the idea of people having to go up a small staircase, even if it was only three or four steps. That just seemed like too much of a commitment for easy browsing from the sidewalk.
So I started thinking about it, brainstorming, and spent like six months trying all kinds of different jacks – automotive jacks of different kinds. And I tried different jacks for trailers and for mechanical work on cars. And, and then I finally found something called a camper jack.
Which is essentially for a truck bed camper. The camper is in the bed of a truck, and then you’ll have a set of jacks that can boost it out and then the truck can drive away. So eventually I figured out that I could use something like that. That was the closest to what I was looking for. And that finally made it possible for me to safely lift it up without a forklift. Just when I get to a show, boost it up in a few minutes, take out the trailer, take a couple more minutes to set it down on the ground.
Kiana: That sounds so easy.
Doug: I also use a cordless drill. So that makes it a lot easier. I could hand crank it, but that takes a lot longer and a cordless drill is just way better. A cordless drill is what, I should clarify – That’s what lets me operate the jacks to boost it.
I’ve never gotten it quite as simple as I wanted, but it’s just way better than anything else I ever tried on setup. At this point, set up using my mobile boutique or mobile gallery, it’s a major consideration in my shows. There are occasionally shows where they don’t want me to use it but most shows are fine with it.
Occasionally there are shows I want to do that don’t allow it. And so it’s a careful decision – is that show gonna be worth it? You know, assuming I get into the show, is that show gonna be worth it for me to do or not. And of course it’s a major plus if I can use my preferred setup.
Kiana: That’s awesome. That sounds so much easier than having, you know, I’ve talked to makers who they’re like, “yeah, I need to get there at four o’clock in the morning and spend three plus hours setting up my tent and I have to hire someone to help me because I don’t have help”. And it’s just such a hassle. So that’s such a great idea.
Doug: So I always do it alone and some ways, you know, if you can have somebody else, that’s always better. Off course this lets me do it easily alone. Yeah. And the main work I have to do involves putting out new pieces that I haven’t had before – putting on price tags for things I didn’t have before – but that would have to happen no matter what the setup was right.
Kiana: Wow. So thank you for sharing. So in 2017 you were able to get your spoon rings into the Golden Globe gift bags. How did you go about landing that opportunity and what did it do for your business?
Doug: Okay. So that was at the GBK Celebrity Gifting Lounge in honor of the Golden Globes in 2017. And I did that as part of a group called The Artisan Group. And it’s a group that does product placement and gifting opportunities for small handmade artisans. And it was tons of fun. And I think it did bring some sales. But I think the main thing it did was to excite my customer base, the people who already followed me, people who read my emails, to give them a reason to feel even more excited about my pieces and to engage more. And it did give me a bunch of also great pictures for content.
Kiana: That’s awesome. So do you have any creative projects in the works that you’d be interested in sharing?
Doug: No, no sharing. No, just kidding. Yes, of course! I have some creative projects. So, one is my Golden Bronze Collection.
It’s a new collection that I’ve just released in the last few days. It’s just available to the public. First, it was just available to my email list. I make it all from very unusual bronze silverware. So when people think of silverware jewelry, they think, of course, of silver tone, either Sterling or silver plate. I use both those materials a lot. But this one is a gold tone bronze, everything’s from this very unusual bronze silverware, and it’s a very bold look. And to me, it’s partly about living a life of boldness, of bold decisions. You know, all of us are, as individuals, I think, to live our very best lives – to live a life that is most meaningful to each of us.
We can’t just accept a cookie cutter mold. If we do, then it’s very hard to live a life that is as meaningful as we want – as happy, as fulfilling. And so we have to be bold about making decisions that are not expected. I think it’s always bold in some ways when people wear my jewelry instead of conventional jewelry. They’re using handmade, artistically transformed pieces of silver. I think that’s always bold, and it’s even more so if it’s not even silver at all, and instead it’s this gold tone bronze. And so I wanted to sort of celebrate a life of boldness through this collection.
And it’s the type of material that I’ve used sometimes before that’s been very popular in my shows, but I wanted to get a thorough collection of these to build more pieces around this material, this unusual bronze silverware and get sort of a thorough collection of it up online.
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Kiana: That’s really cool. I’ve actually never seen bronze silverware. That sounds really interesting and unique. I’ll definitely have to check that out.
Doug: It’s unusual. Tons of fun. I’m happy about it, and excited. Another project is that I recently renovated the mobile boutique. The main thing was that – the front wall was always open. So people didn’t usually see that, but the sides and the back were corrugated steel from old barn roofs. And it was kind of a rustic look and topically, itt goes with my work. My work’s all about reclaimed metals, so that fits, but it also just looked kind of dingey and I was ready for something different.
So I redid the outside in cedar. It looks really nice. And then I had to repaint and stuff like that. Because it was time, after a few years of using it. The use is heavy because you’re traveling with it and you know, carrying tons of things around.
Kiana: So what does the concept of transformation mean for you and for the work you’re doing?
Doug: So my work celebrates surprising transformations, and for me, transformation is both personal, and more global. On a personal level that each of us can transform, no matter what the patterns of our lives may be, we can make ourselves better people, we can transform to a life that is more meaningful, that is more fulfilling, more happy, and kinder, more sharing. Often people need support to move beyond the cookie cutter mold and to transform. So their lives better engage their passions, have more time for loved ones, et cetera. And that’s not easy to do.
So my life, and my work is intended to inspire that sort of transformation and just show people through the jewelry and the products I make, transformations that surprise them. First, you look, and you just see a contemporary jewelry piece. You look closer and you see a story of a silverware piece or some other old object that was transformed. And it often gets a double take, or a sense of surprise and delight. And I hope it inspires people toward other kinds of transformations that might at first seem difficult, that might truly be difficult, but that may be worthwhile.
On the more global level, of course, I’m also interested in transformation toward a world that is more compassionate, where people are less afraid of differences, less afraid of the other, um, and again, I hope that my pieces can support people toward moving our world in that direction.
Kiana: Absolutely. That’s so beautiful. And I love that you have kind of infused this message into your branding and your everyday practice, because you know, it makes it so much more than just about the jewelry and about the art that you’re creating. And it brings that level of meaningful that, you know, not every single brand out there has. And so it’s great to hear that from you.
Doug: Thank you.
Kiana: Yeah. So what are your top three favorite books on business and or creativity?
Doug: So I recently read a book called Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World. And the author, her name is Aja Raden. And it was a really good book about how luxury, and market appetites for luxury goods are formed, sustained, and cultivated. It talks about things like diamonds, because apparently diamonds are neither rare, nor do they fit the traditional expectations of what beautiful gemstones should be.
The classic ancient gemstone that was, you know, for hundreds or thousands of years desired was something like an Emerald that has a lot of color. And a diamond is colorless and apparently not as rare, not nearly as rare as we are trained to believe. And so, it was a multi-generational marketing effort, particularly by the De Beers family, that led to it to be such a desirable, even necessary, commodity or necessary luxury item that even today, so many people see not as discretionary, but rather necessary, and the ultimate sign of desirable jewelry and gemstones. It also talks about examples about the tulip market and Netherlands and all kinds of other interesting historical examples. And it’s written in a pretty fun way.
Kiana: Fascinating. I’ll have to check that one out.
Doug: I want to mention a podcast that I’ve listened to. I’m a frequent listener to the product powerhouse podcast by Erin Alexander, which especially focuses on Shopify users. So entrepreneurs, product based entrepreneurs who use Shopify as their web platform. I think any product based business, or small business would find it very relevant, but especially if you use Shopify.
And then I love Content by Gary V – always inspiring and fun and, and challenging.
So those are a few, one book and a couple of other resources.
Kiana: Nice. Thank you so much, Doug! My last question is, do you have any special offers for our listeners?
Doug: Yes! I will be delighted to offer our listeners a 20% discount off of any spoon ring on my website. And there are dozens and dozens of types of spoon rings on my website with gemstones, without gemstones, gold tone, silver tone, etc.
The discount code for my website is HANDMADECEO20 for that 20% off.
Kiana: Nice. Thank you so much, Doug! And we’ll make sure to link that in the show notes on our website so that you can find it there as well. So thank you so much for coming onto the show today, Doug. I wish you the best with your next shows coming up and I can’t wait to see this new collection that you’ve got out.
Doug: Thank you so much Kiana. I’m delighted to be with you. And, I appreciate all the support you’re given to the world of entrepreneurs out there.
Kiana: Absolutely. Thank you!
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