The Good, the Bad & All of the Struggles in Between: A Recap of the last three Months

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Donny Jenkins: Professional Bench Jeweler, Craftsman & Artisan

The last time you may have read our blog we had just came back from our first family trip to Gatlinburg TN! Since our return it has been nothing short of strictly business. When you decide to leave the corporate world of the 9-7 grind to pursue your own ambitions, dreams, goals and business ideas you are in a euphoric state of endless hopes and possibilities. Eventually — the very real hardness of what it is that you set out to do and accomplish becomes more like climbing a freezing mountain and less like an easy target. You enter a world of the good, the bad and all the struggles in between. You wake up every day and you trek that mountain. You brave the storms, the falling rocks and the exhaustion of fighting like hell to make all of your hard work come into fruition. Its a journey only a select few can understand. I really admire those who have climbed this Everest before us. Because with out you – my fellow entrepreneurs, dreamers and visionaries, this path would seem utterly impossible.

The Good: Over the past few months we have had the ability to connect with some really amazing customers and incredibly helpful & kind like minded people in the jewelry biz. Friends of ours have also helped to spread the “word” and send business our way (Thank you!)  And if it wasnt for the support of each other – pushing one another to give our all every single day and show up to pour our hearts into this business – I’m not really sure what.. Its no secret that we are beach people and have the dream and relentless drive to move our family to the sea. Two of the connections we have built over these past three months have been in the location we are going towards in the Gulf of Mexico along the beautiful Emerald Coast. We are people of faith and truly believe that those placed in our lives are not always just by a friendly coincidence – but rather for a very real purpose along our journey by the Man upstairs. OR… It really IS a coincidence and a hell of a good one! Either way, we feel so happy and blessed to have connected. With Donny as long time professional bench jeweler and artisan it is our goal to build lasting relationships to be able to serve other businesses through design and repair and people in our communities to the best of our ability. Jewelery after all – is not just a noun. It is a feeling, an emotion and a memory to cherish forever.

The Bad & All the Struggles In Between: Man. Oh man, the bad. “Sure! We are totally fine!” The lie we so easily catch ourselves saying to those around us more often then not. Or – perhaps its not a lie afterall and it’s our own way for us to cope through all of the financial strain, stress, pressures, fear and unexpected speed bumps along the way. No one said climbing this metaphorical entrepreneur mountain was going to be easy. We just have faith that when we reach a higher altitude, breathe that air and look down at how far we have fought to come it will be worth it. For Donny. For me. For our two children. For us all. It is hard to go from working a day job and still financially struggling ( you know.. making barely enough to survive yet too much to get help. The boat so many of us have been in or are currently living now) to still struggling but in more ways then before with even more on our plates. It takes a lot of grit, hustle, hope, faith and the DESIRE for more to survive this. And I know we will! You see – People like to mask the hard shit. The struggle. The ‘behind the scenes’ of a high light reel. You don’t often see the blood, the sweat and the tears. The sleepless nights full of worry or the bandaged hands behind the fight. It’s important to us to be raw and honest with you about our journey. From the beginning to the end. The good, the bad and all the struggles in between. And one day the view from the top of that mountain, our Everest.

 

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We have two of the best reasons in the world to never give up. And why you never will see us do so! Life is short. We have experienced many hardships together. And every day together is something that we are so grateful for. Then, now and always.

If you have made it this far reading our blog and have any questions please dont hesitate to ask!

With Love,

Ashley @PBD

The Great Smoky Mountains: All about our trip to Gatlinburg, places to eat and what to do!

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park

“Do you wanna just…. pack up and go? Tell no one and hit the road?”  – YES.

A few weeks ago we decided to take a 3 day trip! We booked our hotel, packed and hit the road the very next morning. We love to travel and crave a lifestyle of adventure so we were excited for a very spontaneous trip out of Ohio! I thought I would share with you a little about our trip, where we ate and things to do!

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Black Bear Inn & Suites

The hotel we stayed in was called the Black Bear Inn & Suites. This hotel was at the tail end of the Gatlinburg strip close to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Even though our trip was chilly it was a beautiful change in scenery. This was our first family trip together to the mountains and 9 years since Donny and I visited for our honeymoon! So within our tiny window of two and a half days we crammed in as much fun as we possibly could!

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Our view in the Ober Gatlingburg Aerial Tramway

Our first half day was mainly just our check in, taking in the views, unloading and finding food! We ate, walked, swam in the hotel pool and planned our next full day which included getting up early for ME to have a minor heart attack on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway. The view to the top of the mountains were breathtakingly beautiful. Looking out you would see gorgeous snow-covered mountain tops that were back-lit by golden sun rays. Unfortunately, somewhere over the course of the past 10 years I have developed a fear of heights! So to the elderly gentleman who stood next to me as we rose to the top while Final Destination played on repeat in my mind – THANK YOU for laughing and telling me I was going to be okay. And I am also sorry for being that random woman fighting her urge to get down on all fours and hold the floor for comfort LOL. But seriously….. #Iprobablypoopedmypants

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View from the top of the Gatlinburg Sky Lift

Once we got off of the Tramway onto the mountain we were greeted by games, Ice Skating (which we also did!), over priced pizza and to us, the high light of our entire trip; this view from taking the Gatlinburg Sky Lift.  When we finally reached the top our 15 minute sky lift to the view above it made everything worth it. The drive, the traffic, the fear I felt inside of the tramway – everything. This was not just the highlight of our trip but was also a major highlight of our lives. When you’re standing at the top you are engulfed in a special silence only heard in the mountains. That alone silence is filled with only the distant sound of  birds and crisp air passing through the tree tops. You feel so small just standing there in all of Gods glorious masterpiece. I don’t think we spoke for the first 5 minutes because we were in awe just processing these feelings and this once in a lifetime view. But alas.. we have kids (haha) so after those precious 5 minutes of silence it was broken with all of the “I’m hungry’s, Can we have hot chocolate’s, and the Im cold’s” (hee hee)… So back down we went a few moments later to that over priced pizza I mentioned above and to some warm hot cocoa! I should also mention that one of the view finders here is one of the only ones in America made for those that are color blind to be able to see in color. And a special thank you to Ronnie who works at the top for his stories and his recommendation for the scenic bypass drive .

 

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We finished up our day by heading back down to the strip to explore. We went to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies  and visited places like Sugarlands Distillery to get Peanut Butter and Jelly Moonshine, various tourist-y trap type museums and to eat at a really unexpectedly tasty good place called Blaine’s Grill and Bar. (I recommend the Fajitas!)

 

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White Oak Eggs Benedict

On our last day we went to across the street from our hotel and had one of the BEST breakfast at this restaurant called, Crockets Breakfast Camp. When you walk in you feel like you are transported back in time into a log cabin with a roaring fire. There are sticky buns and fresh baked bread in the window for you to drool over while you wait. (Which we did drool over, of course) I got the White Oak Eggs Benedict with cured ham and potatoes. IT WAS AMAZING. Our daughter got a Dutch Baby pancake about 2 inches thick, our son the french toast and Donny enough bacon and candied apples to make him happy for life! So, if you’re ever in the area you will not be disappointed! And the portions are mountain-man-grizzly sized. (Is that even a thing?) No complaints from us!

 

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Site seeing and picking our goodies from the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

We made a final stop at our favorite candy factory to pick up some fudge, honey, jams and goodies at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. I am so attracted to this place because of where it is located in the Villiage Shops and the entire feel of the whole store! The chocolate-on-chocolate truffles are delicious! (Especially with that PB&J moonshine 😉

 

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The last and final thing we decided to do as a family before leaving was taking a scenic drive through the Gatlinburg Bypass to catch some last minute mountain views. There really is not a bad seat in the house. ❤

 

I hope you enjoyed this little blog post about our recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlingburg Tennessee! If you have been here and also have recommendations Id love to hear them!

 

xoxo –

Ashley

How I edit my photos & plan my feed for Instagram! (PLUS the tips & tricks you’re dying to know)

So.. I bet you’re scrolling through the Gram’ stumbling across pictures on social media feeds that make you think, “HOW DID THEY DO THAT!?” Well my friends, if this is you, then you are in good company because that was me too!  I still get super inspired when I feel that same way. I have learned so much from other bloggers, you tubers and IGer’s (Is that even a thing? lol) that has helped me find my style and learn how to plan a cohesive feed of my own. Everyone’s editing style is different, unique and there is no wrong or right way to do it. It is a process that is all to personal taste. I am in NO way an expert. I’m just a gal who loves photography, creating and editing who wants to pay it forward! Through this blog I am simply sharing what works for me. I love to read editing blogs and I find them so helpful and interesting! So, I thought maybe some of you would, too! Lets get into How I edit my photos & plan my feed for Instagram! PLUS the tips and tricks you’re dying to know.

Equipment 

We can’t begin without the basics. The equipment that I use is either my DSLR Canon Camera or my iPhone 8 Plus. Most of the time for Instagram im using my iPhone. To me there is something so personal about “in the moment shots” that only a mobile can produce. I love being able to quickly give an insight into my life and have an almost instant sharing ability that is very convenient and portable. (Note that for my professional photography services ALL imagery is taken with my DSLR and edited in Adobe LightRoom. But this post is about the Gram’ – So back to it!)

APPS That I Use 

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Facetune 2, VSCO, Snapseed, Planoly, UNUM, Adobe Lightroom Mobile

The main two apps that I solely use for editing my pictures is Facetune 2 for whitening + the detail tool and VSCO. I do keep Snapseed and Lightroom around for very specific editing needs such as de-saturating a small area or removing unflattering yellow lighting which I’ll go into later with examples of both!

1.The very first step of my editing process is looking at my image and deciding If I need to bring it into Facetune 2. If there is anything that needs brightened up such as white dinner plates, mugs, table cloths or even concrete I may do that then select the detail tool to bring out my desired areas of focus. I like Facetune 2 vs Facetune Classic because of the ability to have intensity sliders with what you are doing.

2. My second step is adding my filter! And the MAIN thing people seem to want to know the most is what filters I use and which are my favorite! I have tried so many different ones from other apps – but I am a VSCO filter lover, hands down. They are pleasing to my eye and range from subtle film like tones to those that are vibrant or clean. My personal favorites are 05, A6, (All of the A series is wonderful), M5 and HB1. I use some that are free and the rest I did purchase. I always begin my editing process filter first. Again this is just personal preference. When you open your VSCO interface – this is what it will look like!

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VSCO with my Favorite Filters

3. The next step in my editing process always begins with a crop at a 4×5. This is the MAX size that Instagram will allow and takes up the most space, which is good! Most images will automatically go to IG in a 1×1 format. Once I choose my filter that I think looks the best I will adjust my exposure, Contrast, Straighten my image, sharpen, temp etc until it is pleasing to my eye. Lately I have been adding a touch of grain at a +2 to +7 to give it a more authentic film look since VSCO filters and presets are based off of classic film tones.  Here are a few examples of a before and after!

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BEFORE
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AFTER
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BEFORE
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AFTER
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BEFORE
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AFTER
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BEFORE
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AFTER

4. My next step after editing my images to my liking is pulling up my UN UM app! This app is the bees knees because it allows you to add, place and move all of your photos around so you can see visually what your feed will look like before ever posting it! This app also helps to keep track of what content you are putting out. For example making sure you don’t have two side by sides of the same thing in your Instagram Grid. Think of your Instagram as your own mobile magazine. I used to use Planoly as well – but I only use this app to store my preset hashtag lists or to auto schedule if its a business post!

5. POST IT FOR THE PEEPS! This is literally all I do for my editing process. Now lets see some examples of tips and tricks with the whitening tool, what selective de-saturation looks like, and some food and product photography tips!

Facetune 2 Whitening & Detail Before and After

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BEFORE (I chose this photo due to all of the white in the image AND its our favorite restaurant in Destin Florida!)
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AFTER (Dont go over board here with the whitening tool. A little goes a long way. Remember the key is to look natural not like you over edited it! 😉

Facetune 2 OR Snapseed for Selective De-saturation of colors or distracting objects

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BEFORE. Notice the unflattering Yellow lighting
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AFTER. Notice the desaturation of yellow lighting.

Food and Product Photography tips!

Ever wonder how food and product shots are taken? STAGING! It’s all about the natural light baby and details. Let’s hear it again in the cheap seats: NATURAL LIGHTING AND DETAILS. One of my big photography passions is food and product shots for Preston Belle Designs! For me each shot begins with the setting and adding in a scene that draws your audience’s attention to your image. I set up a mock table with props! Great props to use are old sheet pans, cutting boards, measuring spoons, wood boards, paper, cooking utensils etc. Really this is limitless and you can use ANYTHING that you want to set up your ideal scene. I love a good coffee pour myself! For food photography I use my DSLR quite often and I also use my phone for these from time to time. Make sure to move near bright windows or natural light and try to avoid direct harsh sunlight. Setting up foam boards as a light reflector can do wonders! For smaller product shots a black box or white box works wonderfully and tones down unwanted highlights which make editing much easier!

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Staged Food Scene by my window with natural light with wood planks as a mock table, fresh beets I purchased for this shot, a left over pumpkin from Halloween, Bread from our counter and my husband Donnys  homemade cider! Shot with Canon 50mm 1.8 and edited in Adobe Lightroom
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Staged Food Scene by my window with natural light. Wood planks used as mock rustic table, and items from home. Shot with Iphone 8 Plus and edited in VSCO.
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Staged Food Scene by my window with natural light. Old baking sheet made the perfect backdrop for this avocado. I used chives from my herb garden for subtle details. Shot with Canon 50mm 1.8. Edited in Adobe Lightroom
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Another Product Shot For Preston Belle Designs! This was a staged scene shot with my Canon 50 mm 1.8 but edited in VSCO mobile and the other editing steps I listed above! Wood planks as mock table with props next to my window with natural light.

RECAP!

Apps Used: Facetune 2 (paid), VSCO (Free w/ paid filters), Snapseed (Free), UNUM (free)

Steps Used: Facetune 2, VSCO, UNUM (if needed to look at feed) then POST.

Tricks: Whitening tool in Facetune 2. Remove yellow lighting with selective tool in snapseed or brush tool in snapseed OR with the black and White tool in Facetune 2. Details tool in Facetune 2 if you want to add to a specific area.

Favorite Filters: A series, 05, Hb1 and M5

I hope you found this blog insightful and helpful for you! I enjoyed making this and if you have any questions please feel free to ask! I am happy to help!

With love,

Ashley @PBD

We’re Open! So, now what?

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“Sometimes there is no next time, no second chance, no time out. Sometimes it is now or never.”

We’re Open! So now what?…

The future of Preston Belle for us holds many things. From wax carvings, castings, metal work, Jewelry design, collaborations and stone cutting  – all the way to family travel – we are ready for whatever comes our way. Being a new up and coming business based out of Dayton, Ohio we are humbled to be surrounded by so many talented artists, shops and this booming – creative – mind – culture. A place where there is room for us all to create and celebrate each others artistry and abilities.

When you set your “We’re Open!” sign up you have NO idea what will actually happen. You just work like hell and hope for the best. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? That’s because it IS my friends, it is. You roll the dice and risk it all to run down and chase the dream. Your dream. There’s never going to be a right time. The time is now. “Sometimes there is no next time, no second chance, no time out. Sometimes it is now or never.”

Up in the shop currently we have several 925 pieces that will be showcased over the next few weeks. We are already planning our next additions and I see some really gorgeous stones in our near future. Here are a few of our items! Each piece is and will always be hand made and crafted with care… and badassery.

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Sterling Silver Octopus Ring
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Sterling Silver Buffalo Nickel Coin Ring
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1 toz Sterling Silver Skull Ring
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Sterling Silver Scroll & Skull Ring
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GANGS ALL HERE!

If you want to know more about the creating process let us know!

With Love,

Ashley @ PBD

 

Makin’ some noise.

Preston Belle
“Pursue some path, no matter how narrow or crooked, in which you can walk in love and reverence.” – Henry David Thoreau

Hey friends – Its me Ashley, wife and partner here at Preston Belle. We have been diligently busy makin’ some noise & tying up some lose ends before D-Day. In the last blog post you may have read what it’s really been like for us to quit the 9-5 grind and start our own bizzzz. From the ups and downs to unexpected bumps in the road – let me be the first one to tell you – that shit does NOT go away.  (Insert laugh here. Its okay, I am too. ) Its seems to be apart of the territory so I wanted to give you a quick update to let you know we are movin’- and- a – groovin’ forward! Slower than anticipated, but full steam ahead. Our first pieces are done and ready to go UP this weekend on our website, Instagram and more. Buffalo nickel coin rings, one of a kind skull rings made from original carved wax, nautical octopus rings and scroll work bands are up on the menu to start. All hand made, all Sterling Silver and all original works of art by Donny Jenkins.

The pieces that will come out of our shop will be unique and all will vary in style. But one thing that will always remain the same is the care, time, effort and love put into each item. If you arent already make sure to come say “hi” on the Gram’ at @PrestonBelleDesigns! Catch you soon!

With Love,

Ashley @PBD

 

What is it REALLY like to quit your day job and start your own business…?

 

What is it really like to quit your day job and start your own business? I’ll tell you…

Scary as hell. But worth it.

For years we had dreamed and fantasized about my husband leaving his job as an 18 year veteran Bench Jeweler to start his own business. He was amazing at what he did at the bench. And at home in what little free time he did have between the balancing act of a job, fatherhood and being a husband – he became a self-taught custom hand engraving artist, also. At first it was just a conversation in passing without much merit until the years passed and the stresses mounted. His life of being the “Great and Powerful Oz” behind the curtain began to take its toll. I could see his once clean pressed work shirt slowly evolve into a noose he wore around his neck day after day. A work horse, if you will, of building the dream of another instead of building his own. With intense pressures, work loads, mountains of stress and high company expectations a top producing jeweler faces inside of a major corporation – we knew our time was now or never to make the leap into freedom. Our freedom.

With two kids, himself and me to support – – we had some serious soul-searching to do. Could we even do this? Would we be able to earn an income? How would we financially back our business with only ourselves to lean on? Would our kids be okay? Would we fail? Would we succeed? How the hell do we do this? What would we tell our families!? – Did we even care and did that even matter anymore…

Our decision came after we realized all of those questions and concerns played second fiddle to the life we were currently living. We wanted a NEW beginning, a brighter future, adventure, travel, life by the sea and happiness. For that to happen we had to be brave enough to take our lives back into our own hands – so we did. We met with our CPA for guidance and probably a little “You can do this!” pat on the back before we jumped. The following day my husband quit his job – pulled out our retirement – and we hit the road running into the light chasing a better tomorrow. The rest is history. Sort of… We have a long ways to go!

Believe me, these decisions didn’t come without fear or apprehension. But we as a husband and wife – mother and father – knew that for our family this was our path and the direction we wanted to pour ourselves into. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali

There have been MANY bumps in our road so far. From illnesses, to insurance. From finances to vehicle break downs. From purchasing equipment to all the unsexy detail work of running a business with love –  we have experienced what seems like a lifetime of getting unexpected kinks worked out in just a few short months. I’m pretty sure this comes with the territory of entrepreneurialism and more will happen over time. But as for now we are heading into calmer waters and sailing off into our official launch this month! Exciting, amiright’?!

 

With love,

xoxo

Ashley