I found yet another extraordinary jewelry designer through the GFS Craft Show website. This artist has a most unusual name and style! Wiwat Kamolpornwijit works in polymer clay and creates exquisite adornments that are each beautiful little art pieces. Beginning his career as an environmental engineer, Wiwat's fascinating story fits perfectly with his very unique work:
I helped my friend selling polymer jewelry as a fund raising activity for a temple in 2004. During that time my friend broke up with her partner who supplied her jewelry. Somehow I was insane enough to volunteer making jewelry for sale with no prior experience. I spend many hours each day to work the clay. It seemed I held 2 full-time jobs as both an environmental engineer and a craft artist. My life took a big turn at the end of 2006 when my father passed away. I went back to Thailand for the funeral and to accompany my mother. When things got better at home in Thailand I came back to the US and learned that a job promise was no longer available. It was kind of shocking but I also saw this as once in a lifetime chance to becoming a full time craft artist. Under a normal circumstance it’s very unlikely I’d have given up my full time job. I have been a craft artist for about 15 months now.
What do you like about the polymer clay technique? What does it offer that other techniques can't do?
It helps that there is not much capital investment in working in polymer. I also like its pliability and colors. Caning or millifiore is a very common technique in polymer, it is the same technique used to make Murano glass. Many rolls of different colors and patterns of polymer are placed together carefully to create a pattern across the section. The thin slice of the cane showing the final pattern is used to make beads and surface design. Particularly I like exploring new shapes and the challenge of making it. For example I create a grill-like drum in one of the images by repeatedly slicing a slab of a cane two third of its thickness and splitting the slice.
For being relatively new to this industry, you are showing regularly, have a number of retail partners and appear to be quite successful.....yet most designers have said that it takes at least 3-5 years to build a real business. What do you think you have you done differently that has made your business viable so quickly?
I had made jewelry part-time for almost 3 years before I opted for doing it full-time. So I am not completely new to the business. I’m still learning the ropes and always re-evaluate my plan or my direction based on my experience at shows. Pricing work is a tough task; I priced my work to be very affordable at the beginning and continually increased the price till I started to feel the resistance. Slowly I have gotten better at pricing my work. The approach might be wrong but coming from a completely different field I need to learn how much people are willing to spend on my work.
You do craft/fine art shows several times a month. What do you enjoy about these and where do you find the stamina?!!
Doing show is a way to get to see people, test new designs, and learn what appeal to customers. The most enjoyable parts of doing show are when repeat customers tell me how much they like my work and when I make some money! Believe it or not I felt a bit stressed when not doing shows. I guess it’s something to do with being so used to having paychecks at the end of every month. Thanks to meditation I’m still sane. When there is so much uncertainty in both being accepted to a show and the sale of the work, I tend to apply to more shows than I should. I think doing shows is a good workout nonetheless!!!
What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?
You've got to like doing it first, then it is perseverance in my opinion. After I decided to go full-time in 2007, my first show was held in the middle of an unexpected snowstorm. At the second show the gust was so bad it blew my tent away during setup, then the rain pour down so badly, it was a complete mess. Surviving these two shows made doing other shows a piece of cake. Also find a balance between what sell and what you like to make, and don’t hurt yourself!
I love Wiwat's unique style and his adventurous spirit! Hats off to him for creating this life for himself. I wish his great success!
Thanks for stopping by!