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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
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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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