So you wanna sell your jewellery?? (Part 1)

12552325_163727650661795_2052323012_nLast month we ran a survey for our readers and there were some really great comments and questions.  One theme that repeated itself was about “making a living” at selling your work.

Here are a few of the reader questions:
“How can I make a living at my art?”
“How do you balance a personal life, regular work and creative time?”
“Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewelry?”
“Can you make a living as an artist when you work with metal clay? This question could be asked to any “regular” person, like you and me ;)!”

I could have asked any of these questions! So I’m not the expert with the answers.  But I have done a bit of research and I have some resources to share. The first thing I’d like to address comes from a conversation about these very topics with my father.  He told me to “never pay too much for an income” and to “make a life, not a living”.  Sage advice from a person I admire.  I think his words address the question someone had about balancing work life and creative life. You can become a slave to your work even if it is your calling and by consequence miss out on family and friends. Many artists throughout history have sacrificed for their art. I have struggled with “work-life-balance” myself.  I’ve had to choose what is the most important–not just to me but to my family and so creative time often gets missed even though working in my studio is like breathing for me. I decided that I’d never regret giving the time to my children.  They won’t always be around but my many unfinished pieces of “art” will be there.index4

Question: “Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewellery?”
Yes, I think there are artists who do!  However, given that the job of “artist” lacks a regular pay check, artists have to rely on many revenue streams. Artists living off their craft work hard at marketing their work, they sell on many platforms such as shops, online and shows, they teach, and most have varied jewellery lines and some sell products.  I would encourage you to find artists pages online, their sites and so forth and see how hard they work at “making a living”.

Question: “I would love to ask many of the high profile artists for more detailed information on how they achieved such name recognition/built their business in this community. And, if it supplies their full income, possibly even in the absence of a lot of travel teaching.”

This short talk by Paul Klein about finding your niche, removing obstacles and finding a mentor provides a great answer to the above question.

“Artist and career advisor Paul Klein emphasized the importance of being different.  He insinuated that distinctiveness generates sales–even more so than quality.  “Can’t all of us name artists who are doing really well monetarily, whose work we think sucks?”  The branded artist doesn’t necessarily produce better work, but more bankable work.” Quote from this article in Forbes.

In “Part 2” I’ll find answers to the questions about the nuts and bolts of business such as inventory, tracking, descriptions of work.

quote-to-make-living-itself-an-art-that-is-the-goal-henry-miller-130-94-16My closing comment is to be yourself.  I know that sounds so cliche. But it’s so true. I’ve been looking at metal clay jewellery for over a decade. (gasp) and I can almost without fail look at a photo of a piece of metal clay jewellery and tell you the name of the artist (and if I’m wrong–usually that person was the “inspiration” for the work). We need more work that stands out.  In another article I found on Forbes by Jessica Hagy she shows why weird can be bankable. Yes…be weird, but let your own distinct artistic voice show in your work!

Image credit for opening image: Location Pillar in the stairwell of the UT Austin Art Building was up for two weeks

JFL HeadshotJeannette Froese LeBlanc is working on becoming a distinct and profitable jewellery designer.  From her studio in rural Ontario, Jeannette tries to balance life as a mom of two (very) active children and earn a living from her jewellery.  You can find her work online and in several boutiques. www.SassyandStella.com

Every Breath You Take by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

fan3So what’s it like in your studio?  How’s the air you breathe? I work with many different media types and use several different processes. For example: metal clay, metalsmithing, metal etching, polymer clay, paint…and sometimes my work makes me feel ill.  Sometimes I’m affected by just the smell of certain things in my studio. So I started to think about installing an exhaust fan.  I looked at some “industrial” options and found most to be out of my budget.  Then I came up with an idea-and it cost $43.  Can’t beat that!

I bought a brand new kitchen stove exhaust fan at a “Habitat for Humanity-Re-Store”. Then I brought it into my studio and realized I had no wall space where I needed the fan.  My solution was to take the fan out of the range hood and to put it in a box. Below I show the steps I took to install a fan to help with drawing out the air in my studio.  I always try to have a window open a bit to bring in fresh air (even in the dead of winter) but I didn’t feel the air in my studio was being changed fast enough. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101: Rolling Textures by Kris Kramer

index1 When I rolled my first textures in metal clay, I was excited by the results and truly amazed at the level of detail the clay picked up. Then I moved on to a stage where I noticed tiny cracks in the clay, which left me rolling a texture more than once to get the results I wanted. Time went by and I began to notice double imprints or shadows in the designs, then various depths to my textures that I also didn’t like. I was evolving into a metal clay texture aficionado. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101: Where to Begin: Choosing Your First Metal Clay By Dona Miller

101 montana-agate-pendant-Dona-Miller-DesignsWorking in a new medium can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. As anew metal clay artist, your first question may very well be “Where should I start?” There are many varieties of metal clays to choose from and where you start your journey can have an enormous impact on where it leads.

Looking metal prices, one would think that base metal clays would be the best way to get started in metal clay. However, the firing of base metals is complex and often takes trial and error to get it right. In addition, base metal clays must be fired in carbon in a kiln.

So which metal clay should you choose to start? I start my students with PMC3.

101 Donna 1PMC3 is a fine silver clay (.999 silver). True, fine silver PMC3 is more expensive than base metal clays. But the ease of working with and firing fine silver clay makes it a much better choice for beginners. From start to finish, PMC3 is the least complicated of all of the metal clays, which means that students can focus on the basics of construction, firing, and finishing without having to worry about complications created by the clay itself. Once you have those basic skills under your belt, there is an entire universe of textures and colors available to the metal clay artist.

101 mountain-night-sky-custom-silver-ring-Dona-Miller-DesignsWith all metal clays, getting the basic texture and forming in place before the clay starts drying is key. Make sure your clay is sealed in an air-tight container when not being worked, and don’t hold the clay in your hands when you are not shaping it as your skin will pull moisture out of the clay.

Most important is to stay relaxed, have fun and experiment.

Still wondering about the other varieties of PMC clay? Here is a quick summary:
PMC3 – great for beginners; can be fired with a torch; low firing temperature allows for inclusion of findings, glass, and fire-able stones.
PMC3 paste – good for joining pieces; can be used for adding texture and painted designs; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling.
PMC3 syringe – good for making repairs and filling grooves; can be used for drawing, building up forms and setting stones; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling.
PMC Flex – designed to stay flexible when dry; good for bending, twisting and braiding; low firing schedule and can be fired with a torch.
PMC+ Sheet – flexible and does not stick to itself; great for origami, folding and weaving; can be laminated and used with paper punches.
PMC Sterling – great for added strength and shine, must be kiln-fired in carbon
PMC Gold – great for accents; low firing temperature; can be fired alongside silver PMC and can be torch fired.

dona-n-logan-5Dona Miller: “Art, especially jewelry, is very personal.  Through the constant inspiration of nature, animals and my dogs, I interpret the spirit around me into jewelry, using my love of stones and shaping metal.  My designs and metal work incorporate the use of cut and natural stones to reflect the peace, love and joy of nature.”

Jewelry in article by Dona Miller.

“Metal Clay 101” is an ongoing series brought to you by PMC Connection and their instructors.

Getting Started in Metal Clay

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At my last count there were over 22 different kinds of metal clay!


Safety Tips:
Always dry your clay completely before firing. If your clay is damp the moisture will try to escape quickly during firing and the piece will break or it could explode while torch firing.

Most metal clay pieces under 15 grams will take a day to dry. You can speed up the drying by using a mug warmer—remember to turn the piece every once in a while. Or you can use a food dehydrator that has been dedicated to non-food use. With these methods it will still take a few hours to dry out.

Do not torch fire metal clay that has been formed over a core, such as a ceramic bead, wood or cork clay.

Always follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for firing. The insert that comes with the clay will explain firing temperatures and timings.

Always fire metal clay, with a torch or with a kiln, in a well-ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher handy.

Technique Tips:
Keep that clay moist and you’ll be a happy artist! Clay can be stored in a small airtight container and if you are leaving the clay in-between projects, put a small piece of damp sponge in the container. It is also handy to have a small spray bottle handy to re-moisten clay if it starts to dry out.

Keep all the bits and shavings clean. All dried bits of clay can be re-hydrated into a paste, but keep the bits free of sandpaper grit and other work-space debris.

Before you open your package of clay, have your work-space ready. If you are rolling out the clay, have a non-stick work surface ready. (This can be a sheet of glass or plastic.) Lightly coat your hands and tools with olive oil. And lastly—know what you are going to do! Don’t wait for inspiration while your clay is drying out.

Torch Firing Demo:

Material Lists: (Click on images to enlarge.)

Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_1Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_2

Open Shelf Firing Base Metal Clays by Martha Biggar

 

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I recall so clearly when I first heard about metal clay, back in the late 1990s, in the Rio Grande catalog. I thought I might like to work with it, and took my first class in 2000 (a two-week stint at Arrowmont in Tennessee, with Linda Kaye-Moses). I also recall, equally clearly, hearing about and then using Metal Adventures’ (Original) BRONZclay, when it came on the market in 2008. Such an interesting and different take on metal clay!

And look at us now: we have several versions of silver clay, plus a multitude of base metal clays, with more coming. What Bill Struve started experimenting with in 2006 has grown into an international community of inventors and users, with clays coming from many parts of the world. While I am personally far from a scientist, I do have an inquisitive nature that wants to know many things about the materials we use.

Most of us are aware of some differences in the base metal clays, like color and shrinkage rate. I’ve taught many classes that help others get the feel of different clays, but never went beyond the basics where firing is concerned.   This is the subject of my latest set of experiments, and this article deals specifically with open-shelf firing of base-metal clays; torch firing is the subject for my next major experiment and another article. Continue reading…

Metal Clay Textures Are Everywhere You Look! By Margaret Schindel

TexturesOne of the key reasons for choosing metal clay as a jewelry making material is that it allows you to create or reproduce virtually any texture in metal quickly and easily.

What Can You Use to Add Texture to Metal Clay?

Although it sounds clichéd, you really are limited only by your imagination. There is a dizzying selection of commercial plastic, polymer or silicone texture mats and sheets, rubber stamps, texture rollers, molds, etc. that you can purchase to impress patterns in fresh clay. There also are many different ways to make your own one-of-a-kind texturing materials and tools. You can use water etching, carving, drilling, filing and metal clay appliqué on dried clay. After firing you can use traditional metal working techniques such as hammering to alter the topography of the metal’s surface. Continue reading…

Tips: Keeping Metal Clays Moist.

Whenever I teach a metal clay class I always see students carefully re-wrapping their metal clay and putting it back into the packaging. I hate to see fresh metal clay dry out so I show my students several ways to store metal clay. Here are a few of my favourites for keeping metal clay either lump or syringe types ready to use and in their optimal condition.

111831Long Term Storage
Clay: There are several ideas for long term storage. Some people like to use pressed powder containers with a wet sponge on top. Others have purchased different storage containers from metal clay sellers. I find the lotion sample containers from the make up counter to be cheap and plentiful. I like to have containers dedicated for one type of clay. Simply write the type of clay on the lid. A small piece of wet sponge can be added for really long term storage.
Syringes: I have a few containers that hold water and seal off the syringe. I like this one by Linda Stiles Smith which is sold by Rio Grande. Continue reading…

Kilns: Fiber or Firebrick?

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Kilns: Fiber or Firebrick?
By John S. Hohenshelt

There has been much discussion regarding the differences between brick and fiber kilns in light of the introduction of bronze and copper clays into the marketplace. This article explains the differences in these two insulating materials for kilns in relation to the firing requirements of the different metal clays. Continue reading…

A Conversation with My Father About Being an Artist. (My Out of Shape Studio Part 7.)

 

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Last week marked the end of the “60 Day Studio Challenge.” Two things got in the way of my publishing a final article and showing off my finished studio. Number one: I’m not finished yet! I need more time. Sixty days sounded like plenty of time to whip even the most dismal studio into shape. Wrong! Painting the floor and some of my studio furniture took longer than I expected. I’ll explain the floor (admittedly just fishing for sympathy here!). Imagine a 12-foot square room divided into three 4-foot by 12-foot sections. I had to move everything off of one four-foot square section to paint. When that section dried, I had to move everything off the next four feet so I could paint the second section. Ditto for the last section. That’s a lot of moving (or in my case, dragging)! And that was just the painting portion of the project. So I need more time. In choosing 60 days for the challenge I should have realized that I need 60 days in total, not 60 consecutive days! So now that I’ve cleared that up, counting the 20 non-consecutive days I’ve spent so far on getting my studio back in shape (over the course of the past two months), I have about 40 “studio days” left. I will finish. I have a friend coming to work in my studio and former students looking for classes. So I am very motivated…just temporarily stalled.

The other thing that prevented me from writing an article about my “out of shape studio” last week was world events. By now you’ve all seen the gut-wrenching images of the young boy whose body was found face down on a beach in turkey. He, his young brother and their mother were three of the 12 Syrian refugees who drowned that day while trying to escape to one of the Greek islands. And those 12 souls were symbolic of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other migrants and refugees who risk their lives daily trying to reach the relative safety of Europe. My heart aches for them and for their families. In light of these tragic events, working on my studio and writing about having too much “stuff” somehow seemed disrespectful. In fact, anything to do with art this week just felt frivolous to me. Continue reading…