I "met" Nancy Troske when she contacted me after finding my blog as she went in search of another great designer recently profiled here; Holly Rittenhouse.
I love Nancy's jewelry but was most impressed that she has successfully sustained a 30 year career as a jewelry designer. I am just beginning to get the drift of how challenging it is to actually make money in this business, so her ability to achieve success for a span of more than 30 years tells me that we all would be smart to pay attention to what she has to say...so I asked her what the top three essential elements are to achieving long term success and here is what she had to say:
1) Stick with it and don’t get discouraged.
2) Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are the best teachers.
3) Change with the times, don’t get stuck in your ways.
Tell us about your training....you studied at a variety of places including the highly respected Revere Academy...what did you find valuable from each of these places of instruction?
My very first class was in 1976. It was silver jewelry class at a very small craft store in Croton, NY called “Wondrous Things.” There I first learned to make a basic silver bangle bracelet, which I still have! They taught soldering, metal forming, forging and stone setting. Eventually, I taught classes there to beginning students.
Suppliers back were very limited; one day I was in NYC at Myron Tobak buying supplies and there was an ad for ancient jewelry making classes in downtown Manhattan called “The Jewelry Workshop & Gallery.” It was run by Fredricka Kulicke and Joseph English. There I learned the ancient techniques of enameling, granulation and chain making. It was a fantastic school. I’ve since read on Ganoskin, in a comment by Fredricka Kulicke, that most people in the US today doing granulation either learned it at her school or at her father’s school (Robert Kulicke) or from a student of those schools.
I moved to San Francisco in 1979 and found employment as a bench jeweler. The company that hired me sent me to the California College of Arts & Crafts and then to the Revere Academy of Goldsmithing (as it was called then) to learn jewelry repair and diamond setting. Alan Revere taught the classes and he is absolutely the best teacher you could ever have.
You also teach. What do you enjoy about this part of your work?
I love seeing the excitement of students finishing their first pieces. One student said she wished she had a padded room so she could jump around in it; she was so elated with her enameled ring! It is really thrilling. I love being able to pass along all I’ve learned over the years.
How do you balance the design and creation with the business side of making money?
I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what customers want while not straying too far away from my own core.
For me, it’s important to decide when to use a commercial item in my work and not hand fabricate every single element, as I was trained to do. For example, I know how to make a box clasp but does it make sense for me when I can purchase one for a few dollars and solder it into the piece I’m making? I have to decide when I can make money on that extra labor and when I can’t.
What do you think is the most successful way to get your pieces in front of a ready-to-buy consumer?
Although I sell online, I think my jewelry sells best in person. The chain pieces, especially, have a solid, sensual feel that people fall in love with when they pick one up. My work sells well at art galleries and by word of mouth.
What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?
Keep two notebooks – one for projects and one for ideas.
Always keep copious notes and photos on your projects. I have my notebooks from the day I started making jewelry and I refer to them frequently.
Keep an idea notebook with you as much as possible, you never know when inspiration will strike!
You say you are inspired by the Hudson Valley. What do you pull from this beautiful landscape?
I take my inspiration from the local and seasonal color. The sunsets around here are magnificent, I’ve lived in many areas but they are never as dramatic and colorful as they here. The Hudson River and the surrounding mountains present beautiful color combinations year round. I pull these colors into my enamels. The river is peaceful, quiet, and embracing and has inspired generations of artist and designers. I strive to reflect this in my jewelry.
Nancy's work can be found on her website and the following galleries:
Thank you, Nancy for your excellent advice. I am going to stop feeling discouraged about all my mistakes...I know I am learning from every one of them!
Thanks for stopping by!