Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarit Wolfus: Lyrical Jewelry From Israel!

Sarit Wolfus

I found Sarit Wolfus through the Ganoksin Gallery. I was interested to learn that Sarit’s main occupation was music for over 20 years. She started out in the Israeli Army Band, went on to studying music at Tel Aviv University Music Academy and then spent many years playing the trumpet in most of the professional orchestras and chamber ensembles in Israel, as well as at theater productions.
So it's no wonder then that I immediately saw a lyrical quality to Sarit's jewelry. Blending her passions together, here's what she had to say:

My basic belief is that we all have freedom of will and the freedom to choose to fulfill our wills. That is why after more than 20 years in a successful career as a performing musician I turned to fulfill my dream of jewelry making, and that is why about a year ago I added 'coaching for life' to the things I do. Today, I share my time harmoniously between the three arts/professions. I coach people to discover their true wills and how to choose to fulfill it, I create a diverse and wide range of jewelry designs, letting others discover their own personal self in a piece, and I play the trumpet. I do believe that the same love of creating art for the enjoyment of others that illuminated my career as a musician also sparked the discovery of my ability to design and create unique jewelry.

I enjoy most "the freedom to be on the edge", a theme derived from my very basic beliefs both as an artist and as a human being. Freedom and endless imagination are the basic ingredients of my work. Some of my pieces reflect my belief in the right to choose and in stretching the limits of will and abilities of each of us. Other pieces are much more "classic".

I love to bring out the beauty of stones by wrapping it in silver or gold. I often wrap-set a stone with a band of gold/silver that follows the contour of the stone without covering it. Other times I use bezels for standard size stones and add a touch to the bezel for breaking the symmetry.

How do you think living in Israel influences your work?
While Israel is a modern western country, in many aspects living in Israel is means "being on the edge". We, Israelis, got used to living full normal lives while we stand at the front of the worldwide conflict between the western modern culture and other cultures. Living under this constant pressure many times serves to bring out the positive side in our spirit and strengthen values as humanity, friendship, thinking out of the box, creativity, etc.. Telling from my personal experience, my elder son was injured in a terror attack and lost his leg about a year ago. Today, now that he has been fully rehabilitated, I can tell that all of us in the family are now stronger and better people. Our believe in positive thinking, humanity and good will got much stronger.

You seem to direct much of your marketing to the U.S. market--such as 4th of July jewelry..why this focus?

I've decided to use the internet as a main marketing channel. Therefore, I have a dual language site: Hebrew for the Israeli local audience, and English for English speaking countries. Naturally, the USA has the largest and most experienced audience for online shopping, hence my focus in the American market.

The most challenging part of my work is the marketing. Needless to say, this is a completely different profession. My husband is an internet expert and he does all the work of maintaining, promoting and marketing our site.

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

Unless you have exceptional marketing skills, do not get attempted to do it yourself. This is a full time job so it is best if you leave it to professionals and focus on design.

More of Sarit's beautiful work can be seen on her website and she sells online through Ruby Lane and throughout Israel and abroad in various galleries.

I love Sarit's unusual style! It was a pleasure meeting her!

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Donna Hiebert: Bold Simplicity and Harmony

Donna Hiebert

"Homage to Borobodur"
2006 NICHE Awards in Metal: Holloware category

I came across Donna Hiebert's work through the Orchid Gallery. I found her work absolutely stunning with its architectural qualities of contemporary lines and form. Here's what she has to say:

I have pondered the meaning of ancient and sacred architecture for a long time. It seems to me that a great deal of knowledge and understanding regarding humankind’s relation to the universe is inherent in these structures. Naturally this influence finds its way into my designs but I try not to approach it in a derivative manner. Saying that, some of my designs are named after specific architectural sites or buildings such as Borobudur, in Java, or an aqueduct in Rome. Seachange: embellishments for humanity, a collection cast in bronze, is more archetypal in nature and focuses on influences derived from sacred geometry – present in nature and many human made forms. This collection in turn led to Flotsam and Jetsam – a much looser, organic collection that is directly inspired by my life by the Atlantic Ocean.

I would describe my style as poetic conceptual minimalism!

Influences are many and after a while some of those influences become a part of me, morphed by my own sensibilities. Sometimes it’s quality of light, movement of water, or music, paintings, sculptures, buildings, or people on the bus. I have been traveling a fair amount in the last few years and I love to hang out in a city and try to catch its heartbeat (preferably while listening to my favorite tunes on my iPod).

I often don’t know what will inspire me – but I am drawn to places/events/things that assist in conjuring connections toward a reality where ideas and concepts materialize that gnaw away at my conscience until I make a sketch or just start working directly with the medium that seems appropriate.

The techniques I find most interesting are the ones that assist in achieving my vision. I will try anything – fabrication, construction, smithing, machining, or rapid prototyping. I have a soft spot for machining – staring at a spinning lathe every day for a month one summer induced an almost transcendental state! I have always felt that technique follows concept. However technique may lead to wonderful discoveries and it has always been very important to me to understand and master as best I can the processes I use to make my work.

For most of my life I made sculpture and exhibited in galleries. I went through a period of disillusionment coupled with a need to make money and I pursued work in sales and marketing for a few years. In late 2001 I had transferred to a sales position for a copy company and within a short time was abruptly fired. It was a wonderful event because it brought me up short and forced me to consider what I was doing with my time. I realized that in order to be satisfied with my day-to-day existence I needed to make things. As well, I really wished for this activity to provide a living. I had taken some undergrad courses in jewelry making and I thought I would explore this area. In 2002 I began in earnest and enrolled as a non-degree student in the jewelry department at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design – my alma mater. I worked intensely for two years absorbing everything I could and launched Donna Hiebert Design in late 2004.

With the economy and price of metal on every one's mind, how has this affected your business and this industry?

Obviously smaller companies are feeling the impact of high metal prices but I think the value of my work lies more in the design than the material. Labor is always a higher factor in my work – whatever material I use. I think the question all designer/makers who produce their work in North America should be asking is: how do I differentiate my work from the glut of commodities available to consumers? Design and innovation is where I believe we excel – the challenge is how each artist finds their market/audience.

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

Take in as much as you can – listen, learn, explore, and consider an apprenticeship. There are many facets to this business, ask yourself what you want to wake up and be doing every morning. Start a blog. Mine is www.thinkermaker.com

How have you found it best to showcase and sell your work?

I am, really, still finding my way. I have formed many good relationships with retailers, and I am still actively pursuing that form of marketing. However, I believe my future lies in a combination of developing contacts via the internet through e commerce and blogging as well as selective trade shows, commercial and non-commercial exhibitions, and print/web based media exposure.

I have tremendous admiration and appreciation for the beauty and quality of Donna's work. To me, it embodies the best of classic contemporary design.

Thanks for stopping by and as a side note, this blog can now also be viewed through the Orchid Blog Network as well as an A Blog On Etsy Blogs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lilian Chen: Design Innovator Finding New Success!

Lilian Chen

It is such a thrill to watch a friend experience long-sought success...especially someone so deserving.
I first met Lilian when I signed up for one of her classes at the Pasadena Bead & Design Show over a year ago. Lilian taught interesting wire design and innovative cold connection techniques. I was transfixed and ended up taking a few additional private lessons from her as well. In the process, we became friends and supporters of each other's work.

Lilian makes such gorgeous pieces but she doesn't sell any of it! Seems funny to me, but Lilian much prefers to teach than to sell what she makes. She teaches at several bead stores in the Southern California area including You & Me Findings, Aubrey's Beads and Bead Source, but her goal has been to be accepted as an instructor at the major trade shows and she made a huge step in that direction this past week when she learned that she was accepted as a Swarovski instructor at The Tucson Bead Show under their CREATE YOUR STYLE IN TUCSON 2009 program and she will be teaching four classes at the Bead&Button Show .

Lilian is a self-taught designer whose work has been featured in several bead magazines. She works mainly in base metals and colorful beads; making the design rather than the materials the show-stopping effect of her pieces.

My hat is off to Lilian! Much more success is surely coming for this remarkable talent.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Holly Gage: Precious Metal Clay Pioneer Artist

Holly Gage

Holly Gage specializes in creating gorgeous Precious Metal Clay (PMC) jewelry--and teaching/writing about PMC techniques. I first saw her work on the Ganoksin Gallery website but Holly is also a regular contributor to the Orchid forum where so many opinions and jewelry making information are freely shared. And, by the way, if you don't already subscribe (free) to Orchid, sign up immediately! It's a fascinating, inside look into the world of jewelers who are daily confronting the technical and business challenges of our times.

Holly shared with me some of her PMC work and insights:

Precious Metal Clay is a little more than 10 years old and there is so much to be explored and learned. My non-traditional way of looking at things has been an asset in working with metal clay because I am always asking "what if?". I've developed a couple of new techniques that have been springboard ideas for new directions in the medium and I find that very exciting.
I love its diversity. Its moldable quality brings a world of possibilities to the jewelry artisan. It allows traditional metal smiths to add a new arsenal to their toolbox, as well as allowing a whole new breed of talented artist to emerge in the jewelry community. The real strength is in the doors it opens to new creative discoveries in the field.

You mention that you like to enlarge small details in your work...tell us about this.

I like to explore the forms of everyday things. When I abstract them, I take something real and accentuate it allowing people to look at it in new ways. I think it is neat to take the viewer right into the symmetry of a form, its folds, shadows and colors that one might not notice unless an outside person pointed it out to them -- that person is me.

Just like the many sides to your personality, there are several styles of art that I like to work in. I have my "Botanical" collection, which explores my immediate environment and experiences. My husband selects and grows plants that he thinks I'd like to draw, photograph and then sculpt into jewelry. This is a line that allows me to express myself in a more poetic form. The process of carving is slow and meticulous, but very satisfying. While working on it, I am reminded to appreciate the little things in life, such as the small flowers that appear before the peas arrive in the garden or the sound of the outdoors when my eyes are closed, or the warmth of my husband's arm around me when stealing three minutes on our hammock. They are small slices of life, but nevertheless important.

The other line of jewelry I have is the "Metal Clay and Rainbow Titanium" line. There is an interesting energy that bubbles up when I work with it -- it is hard to explain, but ideas fly and I often have several pieces going at the same time. My Titanium has a fabulous sculptural quality. This rare form of Titanium has an amazing play of light on the crystalline surface with saturated and subtle hues of color. Because it is named after the Greek Gods for its mighty strength, I often play off this theme in my jewelry designs to empower and celebrate the strength of the human spirit.

You seem to have a thriving side business selling components, beads etc...what do you enjoy about this aspect of your business?

I like to make components that are elegant and something you can't get elsewhere. The pressed bead caps for example came about because I was making a lot of lentil lampwork beads, but there were no caps that I could find on the market that could fit the narrow profile, so pressed bead caps were born. The sole companions came about as a, “what if?” idea. I love to collect artisan beads and I just thought the idea of combining glass and the metal clay seemed very natural. Well, the look was neat, but the process is a bit more involved -- certainly some trial and error initially, but the results can be very eye catching.However, in general I like to provide the market with items that are new, unique and different. It’s a thrill when someone sends me a picture for my “Customer Gallery” of his or her finished creations.

You seem to thrive on the teaching aspect of this work, with numerous entries to the Orchid forum, your web site filled with tutorials and student work and the classes...what about teaching is special for you?

I like the idea of helping others express themselves through their art. I know it has been very freeing for me to find my inner voice. Through my art, I speak in a language that comes easier to me than the written or spoken word. I also know that there is a drive for creative people to express themselves. I'm afraid if they deny this inner need, then they find something is missing in their lives. Usually they cannot figure out what is missing until they find their comfort zone and create with a medium that lets it all flow. You can actually see it in a student's face when they arrive in that really neat place, and this is the gift my students give back to me.

Tell us about the concept behind your When Peace Talks jewelry.

The original design of When Peace Talks© is a personal expression of hope and peace. I asked myself, if peace could talk, what would it sound like? Its voice would be rich with meaning, speaking a universal language that transcends the borders and boundaries of countries and nationalities, bringing together different faiths and races, and uniting opposing political parties and systems. When peace talks, it speaks of love, equality, preservation of and respect for art, science, and religion within different cultures, and world unity passed on to future generations. This is the calming message I wanted to spread around the globe and the symbols that I researched and chose to incorporate into the design on the surface reflect those beliefs.

What have you found to be the most challenging part of trying to make a living at jewelry design? Most enjoyable?

Well, there certainly is a different pace when you make jewelry for your living verses a hobby. I'm not a particularly fast worker and I need to kick the "little devil" off my shoulder -- my conscience that nags me constantly about working too slow. I needed to figure out a way that I can enjoy my slow carving work without worrying about the clock. When I came up with a line of casted items, that allowed me to work as long and slow as I'd like on carving the prototype without worrying so much about the clock. It also allowed me to have a lower cost line of jewelry, freeing me up to create involved one-of-a-kind pieces, which is my real joy.

How has the price of metal (and PMC in particular) and the economy affected what you are doing?

The prices in the market are very volatile. I try to watch the market and buy when the prices are lower, however that is rarely practical, so I buy in quantities that give better price breaks. My prices do not change daily, but I do adjust my prices when I need to. On my site I have a link to a page that explains the metals market to help buyers understand any fluctuation. I try to be fair to the customer and fair to myself. I think as artists, we should respect ourselves as much as the customer and pay ourselves a fair wage. I think it is a shame when I see artists underpay themselves in order to make a sale. In the long run I don’t think they will be able to continue doing business that way and making a living. I must admit the current economic crisis has put me on edge – psychologically it isn’t good for anyone. Up until this point things have been on a steady pace, but instead of waiting for the shoe to drop, I’ve been trying to prepare by keeping a nice balance between shows, teaching, and internet sales, so all eggs are not in one basket.

What have you found to be the best way to find clients?

I like to go to shows. I’ll meet more qualified people in a weekend then I could by any other means. In addition, the personal interaction with my customers makes them in turn feel more comfortable buying from my website at a later time.

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

Be passionate, be persistent, and be stubborn about your own success. In my other life before going full time into jewelry designing, I was surprised to seize a big account with my graphic design and publishing business. My attitude was to pursue this client even though in the back of my mind, I really didn't think that I would actually get the account. I went for it, putting my best foot forward. I guess they saw something in me and my work and I ended up having a successful 10-year relationship with this customer. It taught me not to shut the door in my own face ever again. Obviously, it is uncomfortable to face rejection, however cutting short your own opportunities by not trying is the worst thing you can do to yourself.

I think having a plan is a great idea too. I know the words, "Business Plan" make people want to run in the other direction, however there is a lot of validity that comes with "writing your plan down" It forces you to think about the intricacies of what you need to do, not just the overall picture. It will also create a sturdier foundation. As a creative artist, it is easy to go into many directions, but a plan will keep you focused on just one.

I have tremendous respect for what Holly has been able to accomplish! Her work is amazing and her website is one of the most sophisticated and content-filled of any I've seen from jewelry artists....must be that graphic designer still lurking within Holly!

Holly's next show is coming right up at the 12th Annual Craft and Art Festival at the Nassau County Museum of Art Oct 11 - 13 Sat., 11 - 6, Sun., 10 - 6, Mon., 10 - 6 Booth 215 and her work is in shops from New Jersey to California and many states in between. Holly has also published numerous pieces on PMC, most recently a self-published calendar, The Art and Design of Metal Clay Jewelry and More 2009.

What a talent Holly is! I enjoyed meeting her greatly.

Thanks for stopping by!