Thursday, November 22, 2007

Artist Profile: Kelly Alvarez Mace

Artist: Kelly Alvarez Mace
Business Name: K. A. Mace Jewelry
Location: Southern California

K. A. Mace Jewelry
Online store
K. A. Mace Jewelry blog
Etsy Shop
Mindt Shop
Indiepublic Profile

How do you describe your work, Kelly?
I focus on fine, handmade jewelry that is inspired by nature. My designs incorporate colors and textures from the beach, from local vineyards, from my hikes in the foothills. I love to work with colorful gemstones, and love to bring colors together in unexpected ways. I create thematic collections around specific inspirations, so my Ocean Treasures Collection focuses on lampwork sea creatures on strands of colorful gemstones and freshwater pearls. I want my jewelry to be fun, to be something that can be worn at work, for a speical event or at play, and my work transcends trends or demographics. I have teenage girls who wear my anklets, I have grandmothers who order my huge cocktail rings! I love that so many different kinds of people connect on that visceral level to my jewelry!

What is your creative process like?
I have sketch books and note books that I use to track my thoughts, my inspirations. I include a lot of visual clues as well, photos I have taken, dried leaves, a shell, a piece of beachglass that is this perfect blue that I have to find in a gemstone, etc. I find that I am constantly writing down ideas and bouncing them off of people that I trust: my fiance, my family, my friends. I really leverage my suppliers and am constantly challenging them to help me find new colors, new cuts, new shapes, new findings. When the sketches come together with the color plan…and the gemstones and findings start rolling in from my suppliers, that is the time that I try to shut off the world, turn up the music and just start to let things come together in my studio. I love to listen to music, it almost helps to pace me and keep me on track! Then, honestly, it can be impossible to turn me off! I lose myself in that process and can create for days and days…pausing to take pictures, post things on my website and/or blog and gauging interest and reaction to the pieces. I love the internet, you can get instant feedback and that is an exciting part of the creative process for me! Virtual Validation!

What kind of training did you have?
I took a jewelry design course in college, and took a couple of classes from a beading shop in Laguna Beach. Other than that, I am pretty much self taught! I did learn the basics of wire wrapping, from there I experimented and taught myself new techniques. Same with hand-knotting. I knew that I wanted and needed to take it to the next level when I would wear my pieces into retailers and people would stop me and ask me where I bought that piece of jewelry! I have had some of the greatest sales pitches to retailers when their own customers tell them…I want to buy what she has on! At this point, it is now kind of on-the-job training! I am constanting creating things and challenging myself to take it to the next level, to learn a new method or medium.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Silk bead cord…I hand-knot almost all of my necklaces, so without my beloved silk, I would be in trouble! I love the process of touching each gemstone, each pearl. I love how hand-knotted necklaces lie on the throat, how each gemstone is featured, how the light can play off of the piece.

What inspires you to create?
The natural world around me inspires me all of the time. I am inspired by the business side as well. After 15 years in retail, I really love and understand the entire process of creating something, marketing it, selling it, and…let’s face it…profiting from it! I have friends who are highly creative but hate the business side! I am inspired by that process as well, and stretching myself to create beautiful, wearable and sellable jewelry!

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
The prospect of going back to that retail career??!! Well, that is part of it! I love the fact that I can work from home, that I can drop off and pick up my kids, and that I am here to do homework with them. I love that I get to do that and do what I love…creating jewelry…making people happy with their jewelry creations. I worked 16 hour days in retail. I sometimes work 16 hour days designing, creating and marketing jewelry. But…those are my 16 hours, they are around my kids, my family, my volunteer work. So, when I get stuck on something, when something feels frustrating, I remind myself and that I am the CEO of my company and I am blessed to have that title, and need to take that title seriously. I have two kids who depend upon me taking it seriously, and I just love that!

What is your best piece of advice?
Innovate and they will come. As soon as you have created an amazing piece that simply stuns even you…stretch yourself even further. It is important to know and understand your niche, and with whom you are competing in that niche. Find what they do well, and you do it better! Get a step ahead, innovate with new color combinations, new textures, new designs, new whatever! I find on the forums that people are frustrated by their sales, by how others are selling more…well, my challenge is to get that feeling of “What am I doing wrong?” into a challenge of “What can I do better?”! Get online, find some tutorials, join groups, take classes, expand your knowledge and know your niche inside and out.

Also, this is a business. While you are asking about rising in their artistry, there is a business component to this as well. Write a business plan, present it to people you trust, and create a focus group to discuss and brainstorm over it. Know what will make you profitable, as those profits can and should be reinvested so you can continue to learn, grow, buy new tools, take new classes, and expand your artistry and your business!

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
My family, I really enjoy time with my kids and my fiance. I love to read, and read at least a book a week! I also love needlepoint and cross stitch, and always try to find some time to work on my current project. I enjoy the beach, the outdoors, and travel.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Sushi…yes, to me it is one! One of the reasons that I love sushi, besides the fact that I love fish, is that making sushi is such an artform. So, I enjoy that artistry, watching the chef create the orders…the colors, the combination of flavors, the innovation…love it!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Artist Profile: Wendy Van Camp

Artist: Wendy Van Camp
Location: Yorba Linda, CA
Website & Blog: Indigoskye Bead Fashions

Wendy, how do you describe your work?
I am a jewelry artist. I wire wrap semi-precious stones and handmade art glass into women’s jewelry. My designs are unique but simple, jewelry that everyone can wear.

When I was searching for a business name, I knew that I wanted to include the word “bead” in it since back then the search engines put much weight in the name of a webpage or a business. I also wanted a word that would be unique to me so that if people were googling me, it would be easy to find me. So I took two email handles that I was using at the time, indigo and skye, and put them together. The blue skies connotation seems to put a smile on my customer’s faces and the name stuck. I even answer to indigo or indigoskye on occasion!

What is your creative process like?
I start by going through my stash of stones and picking out combinations that appeal to me. Then I just put them together. Sometimes I start with a wire technique that I want to use and then put it with my stones until a design emerges that I find pleasing. I never write anything down or plan…whatever flows from my pliers is what I make.I sometimes play music, but usually I put cooking and gardening shows on the TV and let it play in the background. If a good recipe pops up, I stop and watch for a few minutes and then get back to work! I tend to work in small chunks of time and alternate my tasks. An hour or two on the computer for marketing or minding online sales, an hour or two with the pliers, an hour or two at tending to the house or running household errands. The only time that I am focused on jewelry for a long period of time is when I’m in my booth at a venue, and then it is jewelry for a good 6 to 8 hours at a time since I tend to make things in my booth in between sales or make custom orders in the night.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
The only design training I had was as a florist wannabe. I was the co-host of a television program on flower arranging. The program was the florist teaching the viewers how to be a flower arranger and it was my job to ask questions to prompt him into the next step in a natural manner and to assist with the flower arranging as the cameras rolled. Over the course of a year or two of production, I learned many design concepts from this man and later discovered that many of the principals of flower arranging also hold true in jewelry making. At the time, I didn’t do crafts at all. I was too busy teaching high school English during the day and doing television production at night and on weekends.

I took up jewelry for the first time during my wedding preparations. I made my own bridal veil and the jewelry for my bridesmaids in order to save money on our wedding. I enjoyed the jewelry making and decided to sell it part-time after the wedding. I found that jewelry got busy during TV production’s slow time so the two professions merged together well time wise. However, as the years went on and I started to do bigger jewelry venues, I discovered that jewelry was more profitable to me than freelance TV production and I started to concentrate more of my time there. I still like production and writing, but now production is more my hobby and jewelry my profession, the exact opposite of what it was a decade ago.

Currently, after eleven years of selling my jewelry on the festival circuit, I am starting to take formal lessons in jewelry making. My favorite instructor is Connie Fox and I am simply in love with Eni Oken’s wire wrapping tutorials. I am also taking fabrication lessons via CD produced by an instructor named Don Norris. I’m not sure what my jewelry is going to morph into, but it has been an exciting time for me. I am grateful to these instructors for sharing their time and expertise with me.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
My hands, eyes and my heart. Everything else is replaceable.

What inspires you to create?
Either you are an artist and MUST create, or you are not. Inspiration comes from everything around me in the world and from within.

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
There are times when I feel blue about jewelry making. When I have a bad show and barely break even, when I apply to venues I would dearly love to enter and am told “no jewelry need apply” or have people come into my booth and try to tell me how to run my business. Sometimes being alone with only my dog for company in the studio can press in on me too. I wonder what the heck am I doing with my life. It is then that I ask myself, is there a single profession on the planet when you don’t have days like this? I don’t think that anyone has it easy out there. I just remind myself that overall I love being my own boss, making my own destiny and creating things that bring a smile to people’s faces. If that is not enough, what is?

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Be willing to take risks. Find a mentor to help you figure out what reasonable goals to set for yourself. Ask questions and be willing to listen. Take lessons and improve your technical skills.

So that we’ll know a little more about you personally, what takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
Gardening and cooking. I grow exotic hot chile peppers and use them to make powders for my cooking and I spend time tending my roses. I love to provide homemade meals from scratch to my husband. Most of my meals take an hour or two to cook so I spend a lot of afternoon time in the kitchen.

And Wendy, what’s your favorite comfort food?!
My favorite comfort food is just about anything that can come out of a crockpot. Crockpot cooking is one of my favorite methods since it is one of the healthiest and easiest ways to cook.

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Book review: Enameling on Metal Clay

My friend Pam East has written a new book on combining two great media into stunning jewelry pieces! I have to be honest here and tell you that I don’t work much with either medium, so I’m not really in a position to tell you whether or not this is a good book. But from the reviews that Pam has received, I’d have to say that people who do know what they’re talking about agree: Pam’s book is a good ‘un! So if you’re looking for the next step in jewelry making, this might just be it.

From the publisher:
Enameling adds a whole new dimension to metal-clay jewelry. The striking, exciting projects in this book range in skill level from beginner to advanced and include earrings, pendants, pins, beads, and a ring. A tools and materials section, as well as metal clay and enameling basics, introduces key supplies and techniques. Easy-to-follow step-by-step directions are illustrated with detailed photos, and tips, tricks, and troubleshooting help ensure success. Some projects can be completed without a torch or kiln, making them even easier and more rewarding for those just starting out with jewelry-making.

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