Top 5 Questions You Never Ask Artists, Makers, & Designers by Genevieve Tucci

Are you guilty of asking one of these questions at a craft show, on Etsy or to a creative acquaintance? You may think nothing of it but trust me, it made an impression.

Where do you buy your supplies?

It can take years to find a good supplier or that tiny company with the good stuff. Unless you are close friends with the artist/maker, they are not going to let you in on the secret and it hurts our soul a little each time you ask.

How much did it cost to make?

While you think you are being sneaky, we know you are trying to figure out how much we are making off each piece. Would you tell a complete stranger your yearly salary? I think not.

There is a very large consumer base that believes if you pay for more than the cost of materials, then you are getting screwed over. If you want cheap, go to Walmart. If you want original & handmade then pay the asking price. It is probably priced too low already.

How long did this take you to make?

This is potentially an innocent question but more often than not, it’s used to gauge how much the item is really worth.

Less time ≠ less expensive. It may have only taken 30 minutes to make that ring but it took years of practice and probably weeks of research to figure out a new technique making that ring stand out from others.

Can you copy this for cheaper?

No, no, no, no, no.

Not only is it ethically wrong to copy another person’s design but it is hurtful that you even asked when we have worked hard to develop our own style. Anyone who agrees to copy another person’s work is a fraud and should be burned at the stake. (Can you sense my hatred for copy cats?) A true designer will send you on your way back to the original designer and then try to burn a hole in the back of your head with their eyes.

I LOVE your painting/wreath/photography!!! You know if you sold it for half the price, I could afford it and you would sell a lot more. (Technically not a question but I am still including it.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I am going let you in on a little secret. Everyone can not afford everything. I know. Crazy. But really, this should never ever come out of your mouth much less typed out and sent through text or email.

Makers, artisans, photographers, designers, etc. What question drives you crazy? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Genevieve Tucci Raised in Baton Rouge as part of an entrepreneurial and artistic family, my passion for creating began at a very early age in my mother’s art studio where I would sit every evening watching her paint, sculpt and design. I was extremely fortunate to attend Baton Rouge Magnet High School which offered stagecraft as an elective. Mrs. Ory, a saint in her own right, gave me confidence and the foundation to safely use powerful saws and tools while my mother gave me the confidence to learn any skill. After graduating LSU with a degree in Arts Administration, I strived for daily creative outlets in order the escape the 9-to-5 and this was also the time my husband and I bought our first home. It meant all the home projects I had been looking forward to could finally happen! It also meant my husband could get me power tools for Christmas, and I would be okay with it.

Visit Genevieve online at her blog or Etsy shop:
http://allprojectsgreatandsmall.com
https://www.etsy.com/shop/GenevieveDesignsBR

Design Challenge for 2017

It’s a new year and people seem more excited this year to start anew.  I am too, and I’ve come up with a design challenge for jewelry artists working in any media!

A few years ago I went to CJS Sales in New York City.  I interviewed the owners and learned about the “design quarry” of beads, findings and interesting things that jewelry makers and mixed media artists can find there. (Article link.) I came home with 60 pounds of goodies!!  Seriously!  Luckily I had traveled to NYC by train and not plane!

I have divided up part of my stash into 20 equal collections.  Now I’m looking for 20 artists who would like to participate in a design challenge.  Everyone will get the same amounts of vintage beads, chain, and crystals in their design kit. You can use them any way you want and with any media.

Basic Challenge Parameters:
-Due date: March 31, 2017.
-Must send images of finished piece to cre8tivefire (@) gmail.com.
-Must use 4 pieces of design kit in your finished piece. (1 piece = 1 bead, 1 component, or 1″ of chain)
-Artists can submit up to 3 pieces–either separately or as part of a set.

Oh and is there a prize?
Yes there is!  I have 2 original vintage pendants from the 1960’s found at CJS Sales. A little piece of art history!
**Plus we will put together an interesting series of articles showing off the designed pieces, comments by the artists and a gallery.  I think this would be really fun and it gives us a chance to work with unconventional materials and to stretch our design ideas!

Anyone game to join a design challenge? ***NOTE all kits have been claimed*** Stay tuned for the results!

Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in rural Ontario Canada.  She has been seen in New York City, hauling obscene amounts of beads and copious piles of fabric back to her hotel. Her studio is packed to the rafters with finds too good to use and is only now starting to share.  To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

Happy New Year!

Thank you readers for another year together creating new jewellery and sharing new ideas.  Creative Fire is as always–for metal clay artists, by metal clay artists. It is our community of artists who generously contribute articles and share their photos and techniques. I am forever grateful and proud of our unique international community.  We all are striving to learn and better our work as artists.

As seven years of jewellery making draws to a close I’d also like to thank our sponsors for continuing to support our site.  PMC Connection, Mitsubishi Trading Materials Corporation, Rio Grande, Cool Tools, Metal Adventures and Metal Clay Academy.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and Happy New Year!

Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Editor, Creative Fire www.cre8tivefire.com

Artist Project Series: Cindy Miller

We are proud to present the 2nd project in a series brought to you by Cool Tools using their new metal clay, EZ960™ Sterling Silver Metal Clay.  Cindy Miller created a beautiful project that both new and experienced metal clay artists will enjoy.

Images of owls have been recorded in art and literature throughout history from the Greek and Romans to numerous Native American tribes. The owl represents wisdom and is associated with inner sight.  The owl is associated with the night it has played on the imagination of people throughout time. Here’s a link to learn more about Owl mythology. This is Cindy’s interpretation of an owl totem amulet necklace.

To learn more about our featured artist, please see Cindy’s artist profile by Julia Rai. Cindy was very candid and talked about her journey to becoming a full time jewellery designer. Continue reading…

“Tis The Season” by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

indexWith the passing of Thanksgiving in the USA came “Black Friday”.  This is supposed to be the average day where retailers have covered their costs for the year and the remaining days of the year are profit making.  I don’t know if that same profit/income expectation can be applied to studio artists.  When I was “doing the show circuit” the money I made at Christmas shows set me up for the year.  A bad Christmas show meant it would be a pretty lean year ahead.

I’ve been seeing artists post a variety of comments lately about their sales.  Some people are over the moon with their sales and others are wondering where their customer base went.  I wish I had the information so many are asking for. “Where are my customers?” “Why are people not buying?” Others are working their fingers to the bone as they are afraid to turn away sales for fear of not knowing if this is their “moment” or if this is a sign that they have reached the right market. I too am trying to balance the extra orders that come with “the season” and actually enjoying the season.one-of-a-kind-show

A few artist friends have mentioned how bold customers are getting asking for discounts.  Oh I know how difficult that is to deal with when you are put on the spot.  You want to make a sale, but not at that price. An artist who sells only online says that online customers are even bolder and will ask for 50% discounts.  Sometimes even asking for free products in exchange for an article or promotion.  The internet seems to give people a veil to hide behind as they are not saying things to the person’s face.  An experienced artist once told me not to lower my prices and not to bend to the pressure of discounts.  She said that it was so easy to go down in prices, but to bring them back up is harder.  If your new low price is known, it becomes your new price.

As the time before the holidays speeds up and patience runs thin, this is a great time for you to set your business apart from the rest.  Instead of just making a sale–go above and beyond with your customer service.  Did you know that there were trends in customer service?  Me neither!  I found this article about it.  Things to think about adding to the service you give your clients:

  • Make it easy for customers to get help from real people;
  • Obsess over every detail of the customer experience;
  • Be proactive, and don’t wait behind a desk for customer contact

The last point is a good one…ask your customers for feedback.  Sounds scary.  But it is a great way to learn ways to modify designs, packaging, shipping…etc.  I’ve done this in the past and have turned a few buyers into friends. I took their advice and modified my jewellery designs.  Win-Win for both of us.

22No matter where you are selling your work this year, I wish you prosperous sales and happy customers. Try to enjoy the season.  As my grandfather would say- “This too shall pass.”

 

headshotsmallJeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in Rural Ontario Canada.  She is inspired by the landscape and history of Canada.  The structure of trees inspires her as much as people’s portraits.  Both are re-occurring themes in her jewellery and photography. To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

English Pendant Ocarina by Carrie Michael

orcana

The ocarina is an instrument that still remains beautiful today but connects us to the very roots of art and music. With this project, I will share how I make a whistle from metal clay, and then tune it to create a musical instrument.

Project: Carrie Michael
Photos and illustrations: Carrie Michael
Editing: Joy Funnell and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

CJS Sales in New York City – A Designers Quarry By Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

mcam-5-3_page_14_image_0001Imagine chatting about the history and the future of jewelry design while sitting in a warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with boxes and boxes of mostly vintage beads and jewelry making components. What an astounding wonderland of inspiration! I met with Carl and Elyse Schimel, co-owners of CJS Sales in New York City, one of my favorite places to head for a creative boost.

(Image: Wire wrapped stone necklace design by Carl Schimel.)

The CJS Sales warehouse is located on 36th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in New York City. Savvy jewelry designers can spend hours poring through this extraordinary trea-sure trove that holds literally millions of vintage beads and jewelry making supplies with limitless design potential. The Schimels are constantly seeking out great buys on anything that might be used for making jewelry and accessories.

“We bought a chandelier store that went out of business…[and] a rhinestone factory. We try to keep things that will be inspiration for people and [are] also unusual and different. We price at what we bought it at, so you can get quality vintage parts that are not found on today’s mar- ket at great prices,” said Elyse. To help designers compete and allow their work to stand out, Elyse and Carl sell only to wholesale customers who come to the warehouse. “We do not sell on the internet or show broad images. We do this to protect our buyers. Our customers are very knowledgeable. We believe in promoting design- ers, fostering new ones, to give them an edge.”

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(Image: The Milwaukee Sentinel – July 31,  1969)

As a jewelry maker, I marvel that Carl stayed constantly ahead of the curve with his fashion-forward jewelry designs for more than 50 years. It was fascinating to listen to him talk about why he created the line and the manufacturing hurdles he had to overcome to get “Kim Crafts- men” jewelry out to buyers.

I was curious about how the Kim Craftsmen showroom and design space morphed into this vast warehouse of jewelry making supplies.

Elyse explained, “When Carl was liquidating [his jewelry manufacturing business] I started cold calling people. He thought it was cute [and] he was giving me a 100% commission. I started to bring in big accounts, he started to buy [at] fire sales and we started a wholesale liquidation business.” Carl adds, “If I had to describe the business I’d say it is a designer’s quarry. Designers come here to dig out treasures.”

I can personally attest to the digging! When I pay Carl and Elyse’s warehouse a visit, I come prepared by dressing as if I were to go climbing, I bring a rolling suitcase (after one visit where I lugged 30 lbs of beads in a shoulder bag thirteen blocks in NYC) and of course water and a cell phone—in case I get lost or to keep track of time. Losing a day in here is an easy thing to do!

As Elyse showed Art Deco glass beads, unfinished brooch components from the 1950s and mouth-blown glass beads, her father talked about how the artist’s hand should be apparent in his or her work. Carl used the term analog to explain how he worked. “To me [using] a pencil is analog. When you write with a pencil there’s pressure, there’s a difference in how it looks. You can write the same thing ten times…it will be the same each time but [also] different. When I caged stones using wire wrapping the concept being used was ‘mass individuality’; everyonecould have a caged stone but all of them were different.” Today he is intrigued by the idea of what he might have made if metal clay had been on the market when he was making fashion jewelry. “What happens is, as an artist you use the materials that are available at that time in the best ways that you can. But can you imag- ine what Alexander Calder would have done if [metal clay] had been available to him?”

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Elyse models one of her father’s body jewelry pieces. This image is reminiscent of a photo from a 1969 newspaper article about his work.

Calder, a world renowned sculptor best known for inventing the hanging kinetic sculp- ture form known as a mobile, had a tremendous influence on Carl’s jewelry design. “When I got his…enormous book of jewelry it showed him working in his studio…a lot of his style of jewelry was much more understandable to me. He wasn’t using goldsmith tools, sized for jewelry making. His tools were large anvils with heavy handles, blacksmith tools, as he was used to making large mobiles and stabiles so there’s immediacy to the way Calder worked, and it showed in his work. If you look at his pieces, there’s a freshness still to his work. You can feel the hand, the way he twisted and moved to create his pieces. That’s analog!” Carl exclaimed. “You can always recognize his tools…for example if he used a hammer with a scratch on it, it would show on his piece like a fingerprint.” Carl went on to explain how metal clay is analog. “It is hands-on. In an age where a tremendous amount of design is going digital, the look is just opposite—180 degrees opposite. I’m sure [the artists using digital design tools] are very, very fine designers. It doesn’t look like jewelry that I’m used to. Metal clay takes me back to when we made jewelry. And we wanted to call it ‘Artistry in Metal’ because at that time, in the 50s and 60s and 70s, bench designers sat down and worked with the material, they under- stood the material. Metal clay is another vehicle for artists to express themselves. It is a phenomenal material….”

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(Photos of jewelry by Kim Craftsmen, a company owned by Carl Schimel and his brother.)

I couldn’t agree more! Combine metal clay with some of the vintage beads and findings at CJS Sales and you’d have an exquisite combination of a modern material matched with vintage beads. If travel to New York City is not an option, seek out your own local charity, “antique” shops, or online for vintage elements to add to your own jewelry. When I find my creativity waning, a visit here spurs new ideas in new directions. It is like going to a museum for in- spiration, except that here you can take home the items that inspire you and use them in your work! Elyse showed me old pedals from a ma- chine. I forget what machine they were for because I was focused on the typeface used for the logotype imprinted on them! Inspiration for a new line of necklaces, perhaps? Now how to explain to the TSA agents at the airport that I need to bring home a half dozen metal pedals even though I have no idea what they are for!

RESOURCES:

CJS Sales: www.cjssales.com, 16 West 36th Street, 2nd floor, between 5th and 6th Aves., New York, New York 10018 (212) 244-1400

To view images of Kim Craftsmen jewelry: www.costumejewelrycollectors.com/kim- craftsmen-gallery/

To read more about Carl Schimel’s jewelry manufacturing business: http://www.costumejewelrycollectors.com/ 2013/03/28/a-tale-of-two-brothers-part-1-by- molly-felth/

To view images of Alexander Calder’s jewelry: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzieiom67/ alexander-calder-s-jewellery/

To view the The Milwaukee Sentinel – July 31, 1969 article: http://news.google.com/newspapers? nid=1368&dat=19690731&id=K3RQAAAAIBAJ& sjid=NREEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7278,6232783

Photos from inside CJS Sales many rooms: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

headshotsmallJeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in Rural Ontario Canada.  She is inspired by the landscape and history of Canada.  The structure of trees inspires her as much as people’s portraits.  Both are re-occurring themes in her jewellery and photography. To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

The Agony of Writing an Artist Statement by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

artist-statement-audience-1024x617

It is very hard for some artists to write an artist statement and it is sometimes equally hard for others to read.  It is easier to write a bio and to tell others where you’ve been and what you’ve done.  But it is so much harder to explain why.

Having an artist statement prepared is a great way for customers to connect with your work and it gives shops and galleries “sound bites” to use to promote your work. After having suffered through the agony of writing my own artist statement I can tell you that the most important thing about an artist statement is the process of writing one.  I found it helped me sort out my own artistic history and methods.  It has helped me to  clarify the direction of my work and it has jump started a new body of work. Despite already knowing how important one was to have, it’s not something I’d written for myself.

calvins-artists-statementI was recently in the position where I had to send in my artist statement.  500 words.  Five.Hundred.Words. OY! I procrastinated for a few days.  Then I cut and pasted bits of things I’d written.  I sent it in.  And was told, “This is not an artist statement”.  I knew that, but found the exercise very difficult.  I’m not one to ever stand up and say, “I did this and it is awesome.” I needed help, so naturally I did some research.

A friend of mine pointed me to this site: http://www.gyst-ink.com/artist-statement-guidelines/ this one is good too: http://www.artstudy.org/art-and-design-careers/sample-artist-statement.php

I rewrote my artist statement. (After I raided my kids’ trick or treat bags, walked the dog, tidied my studio…procrastination is one of my rituals before writing.) I read some guidelines about artist statements and I started over. I hope my new version is a real artist statement.  And I hope that when you need to write one you can remember that they are very hard for most artists to write—give yourself a break.

 

20161025_1410491Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in Rural Ontario Canada.  She is inspired by the landscape and history of Canada.  The structure of trees inspires her as much as people’s portraits.  Both are re-occurring themes in her jewellery and photography. To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

Metal Clay 101- Carving Metal Clay by Dona Miller

mountain-ring-wet-carvedWet, dry, push, pull. Whatever method you choose, with time and a little practice you can create beautifully carved metal clay.

Carving in wet clay can give you curved edges and a sculptural feel. (See opening photo.) The clay is wet and the tools used are generally soft and rounded.  Wet clay added to wet clay can be shaped by pushing the clay into place.  Large amounts of wet metal clay can be cut off and small amounts brushed off with a wet brush.  Often artists working “wet on wet” will simply brush each side of clay to be joined with a swish of water from a paint brush. Just about any tool can be used with wet metal clay and most people like to use traditional clay carving tools. In general carving wet clay involves a pulling technique, where the tool is being pulled toward you to remove clay. Another way to think about it is that the clay you are removing is moving toward you. Fortunately, clay carving tools are readily available and inexpensive.

catbones-broach-dry-carvingThe method that I prefer is carving dry clay, which creates crisp, clean lines even on textured surfaces. (See Cat Tail Brooch photo.)I use micro wood carving tools to do this. When using a wood carving tool, you will be using a pushing motion to remove clay. The clay you are removing will be coming off the tool in front of your tool. Keep in mind, you can achieve a slightly different result depending on whether you carve into leather hard or fully dry clay. Fully dry clay will create more resistance which can give you more control, especially when you are first starting.

I generally use a pencil to draw my carving lines if I am doing a detailed carving or I want very crisp, specific cuts in my clay. If I want a more organic look, I will only mark starts and stops for my lines. I will then do a very shallow carve to create a guide for the tool when I am carving deeper. This allows me to move the first cut along a line, easily seeing my marks in front of the tool. After the shallow groove is in, I let carving tool to track in the groove while making the deeper cuts.

The trick to nice clean carvings is to remove a little clay at a time. You can always remove more clay, but it is often difficult to cleanly add clay back where you have removed too much. Also, make sure your piece has good support under it where you are carving. If you are carving a domed piece, leave the piece on the form while carving.

As always, safety is key when you are carving. Clay carving tools can be sharp and pointy and can easily injure if you are not paying attention. If you are using wood carving tools, note that these are extremely sharp and placement of your hands so the tool is always moving away from your fingers is important.

Once you have control of your carving technique, you can carve shallow, intricate designs. You can also take a completely different approach and create negative spaces by carving all the way through a layer of clay to make an open space. The sky’s the limit. Enjoy!

donaDona’s love of jewelry began as a child, sitting on the floor for hours with her mom’s jewelry box. She began designing her own jewelry in high school and spent time studying the work of a jewelry designer and family friend. During her career in high tech, Dona traveled the world fascinated by the cultures and their use of color and texture.

After leaving the high-tech world, Dona returned to her love of jewelry design. Her work is influenced by the places she has lived and traveled, bringing the textures of nature into her designs. Her love of stones is featured in her one-of-a-kind pieces which showcase the stones she has collected.

Dona currently teaches classes in jewelry design and techniques. Her students continue to be an inspiration to her, fascinating her with the unique perspective each student has conceptually and artistically.
Dona is an award winning artist. Her work is featured in stores and galleries throughout the Northwest and in print.

Tutorial: Fine Silver Leaf Earrings by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

leaf-beauty-shot-4x4I live in rural Ontario, Canada where autumn is the most glorious and colourful season. Once the leaves turn many colours, I start to think about making leaf jewellery. I was inspired by oak leaves for this project. Follow along with me and you can easily use your own favourite leaves to make earrings or a necklace pendant.

 

Here’s a link for the project: https://pmcconnection.com/education/projects/guide/name/fine_silver_leaf_earrings_by_jeannette_froese_leblanc.php

Thank you PMC Connection for sponsoring this project! Please note…the photos in the project link are tiny.  To enlarge photos please click on the image.

Enjoy!
Jeannette

P.S. If you make this project I’d love to see your work!  Send me an email with your image to: cre8tivefire@gmail.com