Artist Profile – Tracey Spurgin by Julia Rai

 

I’ve known UK based metal clay artist and tutor Tracey Spurgin for many years, so long in fact that I can’t remember when we first met! Tracey lives in the small village of Walkington in the East Riding of Yorkshire which is in the north of England. Tracey and her husband Steve were regulars at the US conferences that ran every year and which a group of us from the UK used to attend. I last saw them at the You Can Make It conference in the UK in March 2018 and it was good to have a catch up then.

I thought it would be interesting to interview Tracey to find out about her background, so I started by asking her about her family. “I have two adult boys, both in their twenties and engaged to be married,” she began. “They’re both very settled in their careers and have homes of their own. The eldest lives in Edinburgh and the other in Manchester.” Continue reading…

Organization & Storage Tips for Jewelers: How to Keep Your Creative Space Tidy by Roxy Burg

Sourcing beads and jewelry making supplies can be highly addictive. You start with a small collection of seed beads, and then before you know it, you have hundreds of thousands of beads cluttering your design space and getting in the way of your creative process.

Decluttering your space is the first step to a more creative and productive jewelry making operation, whether you design as a hobby or for a living. While you could simply throw all your beads in a jar, you need storage solutions and organization strategies that complement the way you design, allowing you to easily view, select and access your materials. So here are some handy tips on how to keep your creative space tidy. Continue reading…

Feeling Funky? by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

Every winter many artists in my area fall into a creative funk. The days are short so those with seasonal affective disorder feel the lack of sun first.  Then there are those who feel “let down” after the hustle of shows and sales before the winter holidays. Some artists have pushed so hard to create lines and new work and once the shows are over, they are depleted.  Starting over is sometimes hard.  Others just fall into a creative funk seasonally.

Every February I’d beat myself up for not creating.  Spring shows would be coming up and I’d look at empty shelves with no desire to make.  One year I was talking to a local potter and he said he once charted his funky moods and found that if he didn’t give into them, he was even less productive.  So when they came, he did what he felt like doing–if it was reading–he read.  If it was the desire to take a dance class–he did.  Eventually he learned that by giving into these “unproductive times” he was ultimately more productive. I think of him every February and wonder what crazy creative thing he is giving into and then I wonder why I’m fighting my own creative funk.  This year I feel very, very far from my studio.  I’m working a regular teaching gig.  A painting teacher at the school invited me to sit in on his class…so I’ve dug out my paint brushes.  I haven’t taken a painting class since 1993.  It’s good.  I’m starting to dream of colour combinations and to look at light and clouds creatively and not just with the sigh of an artist in a funk. Continue reading…

Preparing to Teach From Your Home Studio by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

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SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE IS A GIFT.

It is an opportunity not only to pass on important information about your techniques and your chosen media to your students but also to educate them about important topics such as safe working practices and artistic ethics.

(Bright and airy teaching studio of Ann Robinson Davis in Virgina, USA)

LEARN FROM THE BEST
If you are new to teaching, it’s a really good idea to learn from a more experienced teacher whom you admire. Try to find one (or more) who might be willing to let you be their “teacher’s aide” in a few classes. Even if you’re just setting up, tidying and breaking down the classroom, you’ll have an opportunity to give your full attention to observing his or her teaching style and techniques for keeping the class on time, on track and engaged, and for dealing with disruptions or needy students. Then try tandem teaching with another experienced teacher. Guild meetings also are a great place to learn and to share teaching tips and methods. Continue reading…

A hard look at the data behind your slow Etsy sales 2017 by Genevieve Tucci

why are my etsy sales down

Breathe. I know it’s been hard. The bottom dropped out in 2016 and things haven’t gotten much better with the same slow Etsy sales in 2017. You’ve probably seen the same mantra over & over again in forums or on “expert blogs”:

“Better Keywords, Better Photos, More Listings”

That’s not the full story.

slow etsy sales 2017

What?!
A different angle on why my Etsy sales may be down & actual data to back it up?!
Yes.
Continue reading…

Did you make it to You Can Make It? by Joy Funnell

Petra and Stuart – our wonderful hosts

“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, the best weekend ever” “I’ve been to lots of metal clay conferences but this one stood out for me for the warmth and enthusiasm of the delegates” “It was just magical, everyone was so welcoming and friendly” “When I left I felt like I’d walked back through the door from Narnia” “I learnt so much and made so many new friends, and was still buzzing when I got home”

These are just a few of the comments from the attendees of the inaugural ‘You can make it’ event, who left at the end of the weekend feeling inspired, happy and with lots of new friends!

The YCMI Conference Tutors

You Can Make It 2017 took place in Wareham, Dorset, UK on the 24th – 26th March 2017. It was the brainchild of Petra Cameron Wennberg and was organised by her company Metal Clay Ltd. When Petra first approached me in 2016 to see if I might be interested in teaching at it I jumped at the chance. There hadn’t been any kind of large metal clay gathering in the UK for quite a few years and we were long overdue one. Petra was quite clear. She wanted to organise an event, but to be sure they could make the pricing viable they were asking if the tutors would be prepared to give their time for free – of course I said yes, and so did everyone else! We certainly weren’t going to miss out on it. Continue reading…

“Can I make a living doing this?” by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

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/

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/

“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/