A few months ago we ran a survey for our readers and there was a reoccurring question about whether one could make a living being a jewellery artist. Some people asked specific questions wanting me to talk to a certain artist and find out what they made in sales vs how much they spent on materials. Other readers were not as specific but there was an overall hope that there was some magic path to follow to full-time employment at a jewellery artist.
The answer to the question is, Yes, you can make a living as a jewellery designer. But be careful how you define living! Many people have a vision that a full time jewellery artist designs jewellery and people buy it. But the path is more complicated than that.
Being self-employed is tricky as you wear many hats. Artists have to be able to handle marketing, business accounting, sales, shipping and receiving, customer service, inventory control, as well as design and manufacturing of your jewellery. When your desire is to create, stopping to look after marketing and accounting seems like it is taking you away from what you love. But it is those exact things that are keeping you working in your studio!
A jewellery artist needs to be able to self-promote on social media and have a web-site to show off their portfolios of work. Networking events are opportunities to meet new collectors and to show off your work. I personally find this part hard. I’ve worked for years promoting other artists, but always fall short when showing and talking about my own work.
But, all that said, many artists ALSO have jobs outside of their studio. Many work freelance jobs, taking on teaching and some have full-time employment. Most artists need to be good at budgeting as self-employed artists do not have pensions, medical plans or sick leave.
Another thing about being a self-employed artist–there is no time off. It is hard to balance home life and work life. I try to take advantage of blocks of time and get a task done from my to-do list. I keep a notebook and write down items as they come up. (I know there are fancy apps you can use on your phone.) I’m hoping I’m more productive by knocking off something from my to-do list here and therefore creating time off to be with my family. But shutting off the list and being present is something I’m working on!
In conclusion, yes, you can make a living as a jewellery artist just don’t lose sight of making a life while you make a living.
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in rural Ontario. She walks the fine line being making a life and making a living–trying to balance life as an artist and a mother. Currently she is working on a new line of jewellery using metal clay and mixed media. To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/