- How did you get started ?
The very first jewelry I ever made was when I was about 15 (some walnut shell necklaces on mousetail cord), and then I didn't really start making jewelry intensively until after my son was about 9 months old and I was thinking about what I wanted to do as my career. I began selling my work on the street and bringing home an average of $75.00/day. Back then I used much more casual materials such as wood, and copper and brass wire, so the prices of my pieces were anywhere from $5-$20.00. It was the early 80s and the economy was thriving, so I could come home with a sale from most anywhere I went. I used to carry some jewelry with me all the time and it seemed to sell itself. Then I took classes in beadweaving, and learned metalsmithing in the years that followed, and became licensed in the year 2000. I got my first computer then too and began learning about online selling, first on Ebay, then Etsy, SmashingDarling, and Mindt. I was well into my forties when I started my first blog. It took some getting used to since I had not grown up with all this technology and was used to selling my work at shows and in stores and galleries.
- Where are you from?: I'm originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but moved to Atlanta, GA. when I was 13 and have lived in the geberal vicinity ever since.
- Are your creations limited editions or unique?: Some of my creations are limited editions and some are completely one-of-a-kind, but for the most part no two are exactly alike, but they follow a particular line with variations on a theme.
- How long have you been doing it?: I've been making jewelry seriously for almost 23 years.
- Are you a professional artist or is this a hobby?: I am definitely a professional artist. This work is my life, and everything I do centers around it. I love making my pieces, but am also very aware that I need to sell them too, and I try to strike a balance between what I want to make and what I think I can sell at which venues. I have at times had to make the business decision to stop making certain types of jewelry because however much I liked it, it was just piling up in a heap with no love from the buyers.
- What inspires you? I am inspired by nature and various indigenous cultures. I like to take core design elements that are a throwback to more primitive times and tribes and put a fine jewelry twist on them. I use elements of Native American work, Balinese, African, Indian, Mexican, Mayan, and others, melded into a multicultural style I call "Contemporary Tribal".
- What is your favorite piece (that you still have for sale) and why?: That's really a toss-up between these two:
Early Budding Vine Bracelet
Hint at Something Deeper
Both have a realism that gives the viewer a sense of the living thing and it's essence. My best work achieves the goal of capturing the life force of the piece and is more like an animal than an inanimate object.
- How do you promote your work?: I promote my work in 3 blogs, in several online stores, with business cards, posting my link in any forum I think contains potential buyers, in a print ad coming out in Ornament Magazine in October, December, and March, and by word of mouth to just about everyone I meet in the course of my day. I have also promoted it through shows. When I go to a restaurant I leave a business card for the waitress or hand one to her, and anytime I see someone wearing jewelry and it looks like they might like what I create I strike up a conversation and refer them to my Etsy store.
- Where are you showing your work?: Currently my work is on
Etsy , SmashingDarling , and soon at Mindt
Starting in November some of it can be found at:
5009 Baltimore Ave.
Philadelphia PA 19143
If you live in that area, be sure to drop by and hold it in your hands!
- What is your favorite material?: I don't have just one favorite material, but I love colorful and intense gemstones, Sterling and Fine silver, Gold, and Copper. I also like wood, bone, horn, glass, antler, and Ivory.
- What advice you wish someone had told you when you started?: I wish I had known how much of a financial investment it took to start up a business like this. I started with an initial investment of around $5,000, but if I had it to do over again I would have sought funding of at least $20,000.
- Do you have any advice for fellow artists?:
Buy the best supplies you can afford, and do your homework to get a feel for where your work will be received best; don't just sell anywhere, but ask people how well similar things sell when deciding which shows to enter, which galleries to place your things in, etc...
Don't be afraid to ask these questions and if people are offended, that's their problem, ask anyway. It is your right to know these things for the good of your business.
I recently asked the local Indie Craft Experience organizers here in Atlanta whether the venue they had chosen was going to be good because it didn't strike me as a place where the customers would have enough money to spend. I did not want to risk a venue where I would have nobody but browsers and no serious buyers. It was a legitimate question, and it would have been a great opportunity for her to tell me about the features and benefits of her annual show, but instead of just answering my question she was offended and responded back with a tart remark about "just where exactly do you think the right location would be for MY Craft Fair" and she said that last year they had a "big turnout" at that location.
I then asked her whether the kind of jewelry I sell in this particular price-range sold well last year and whether by big turnout she meant number of people showing up or if she meant a good ratio of buyers for the number that showed up, but she had already turned me off by that time. I felt that anybody who were truly professional would understand that artists doing this for a living need to know these things and weigh the pros and cons carefully as to where and how much money and time to invest. Having been in the industry as long as I have, I read her defensive stance as a weakness of the venue for higher-priced upscale jewelry, otherwise she would have no reason to be defensive, but instead would have been bubbling over with enthusiasm about the prospect of a big yield this year.
I have learned that walking on eggshells and hoping for the best can cause a lot more damage than asking the right questions beforehand so that you can make your resources go as far as they can. Some people take directness as rudeness, but they are two entirely different things. Remember that you have the right to know all the details when you're being asked to spend your hard-earned money, just as you do when buying a household appliance, a house or a car. A realtor would not sell too many houses if she marched off in a huff each time a potential buyer asked about the structural soundness of a house, and it would be foolhardy for the buyer not to ask for fear she would be insulted and ultimately end up with a huge irreparable and costly mistake.
- Anything else you'd like to add?:
Keep developing yourself as an artist and don't settle for what's easy and safe. Innovation comes from making paths, rather than following them.
Visit Pippit's blog: http://artlifenewsblog.blogspot.com/
Thank you for all your insightful advice.