Monday, February 2, 2009

Patricia Tschetter: Modern Granulation and Baby Buds!

Patricia Tschetter

I found Tschetter Studio through LinkedIn which is proving to be a great online source for business connections. I was struck by Patricia’s elegant designs, meticulous granulation and delicate bimetal “buds”. I was also interested in her focus on the wholesale side of the jewelry business including her appearance at the upcoming Buyers Market of American Craft in Philadelphia starting February 13th.

Here’s what Patricia told me about her work:

When Jean Stark came to Dallas to teach granulation I jumped at the chance to take her class. That was 6 years ago and granulation is all I want to do. I get lost in this tiny world of granules. It’s like building a tiny city that only I get to see. There are infinite patterns that I can create. I have never been bored with granulation and maybe that’s why I love it. In the 6 years I’ve been making granulated pieces I’ve always been challenged. In 2006 I sent in a rendering to Rio’s Saul Bell Design Awards. I was chosen as a finalist so I had to make my rendering. I ended up winning an award for a beaded necklace made of yellow and white gold granulated cylinder beads with “chevron” bimetal beads in between. The white gold and yellow gold granules fuse at different temperatures and the cylinder beads also had to be first fused together then granulated “in the round”. It was quite a challenge! When asked why I did it I answered, “because I wanted to see if I could.”

I’m always trying to redefine the context for granulation. I have 2 goals when it comes to granulating: I want to make it accessible (meaning more affordable), and put an “edge” to granulation by placing granulation into modern contexts. There are many very talented granulators. So, I need to distinguish my work from all the others. Yes, I’m happy creating “over the top” pieces. However, not everyone can afford them, and I want to give granulation a distinctively contemporary edge to it by putting granulated components into oxidized silver and other metals.

Aside from Patricia’s granulation work, she also creates an unusual, beautiful line called “Baby Buds”:

The inspiration for this collection came from an oak tree in my backyard. The tree, a live oak, sheds all of its leaves at the end of winter. The new sprouts have tiny acorns. The tree sheds many of these tiny “buds”, thus the name, “baby buds”. I started using “bimetal” last year a way to give my clients more choices while offering a moderately priced product. Bimetal is sterling silver with a thick coat of 22kt yellow gold laminated to it. It gives the look of high karat gold without the high price. It’s a wonderful material to use.

You mention that your path to jewelry design was “non-linear”…how so?

I’ve had several “careers” before I settled on goldsmithing 10 years ago. I have been an antique restorer/dealer, a paste-up artist for an ad agency, painter, president of a non-profit, interpreter for a start-up company conducting business in Mexico, and a marriage and family therapist at a United Way agency. I’ve been an artist all of my life, painting, drawing, and sculpting but always on the side. So in 1998 I decided that life was too short to work at unsatisfying jobs.

Since I love granulation, and I love what I do, the time flies. In every other job I’ve had I watched the clock. I don’t watch the clock in my studio. There is nothing more satisfying than making something tangible from sheet, wire or even casting grain. There must be an instinctual need to work with my hands. Although I have had “careers” only using my brain, there was a disconnect that I wasn’t even aware of until I started working with my hands full time. There’s a deep mind-body-spirit synthesis that happens when I’m in my studio. I feel more connected, more grounded, and more “human” using my body/hands, and my brain, and my emotions. At the same time I have never worked so hard in my life! Running a wholesale jewelry business requires everything I have learned up until now.

We are all seeking ways to deal with this economy nightmare. What is your approach to finding buyers?

Education is the key to finding buyers. Once I can explain and show people what granulation is about, they love the “story”. Granulation has a rich history as it was perfected about 5000 years ago. It has gone through periods of obscurity and resurgence since then. Since the process is very labor intensive it holds a special place with people when they realize I put every little granule on by hand and fuse it in place. There is no disconnect between the hand of the maker and the piece itself that is apparent with highly manufactured jewelry that is identical from every shopping mall in America. So, my buyers want a hand-made piece of jewelry, made by a real human.

I believe the Chinese character for crisis also means opportunity. That’s how I see 2009. I can’t do anything about the economy and worrying about it won’t change it. However, since I’m creative I can think about how I can take advantage of this time. One thing that I started considering last year was offering not just the “classic” granulation. I wanted to appeal to a younger audience. I added to my business goal of making granulation affordable. I’ve always offered granulated earrings for below $100 (wholesale), but I wanted to expand on the range of prices for granulated goods. It is a way to get clients to see the versatility of granulation and its value. I believe that education about granulation is the key to its acceptance and commercial viability.

Tell us about the Buyers Market of American Craft…

The Buyer’s Market of American Craft (BMAC) and also known as The Rosen Show, is one of the longest running wholesale craft shows in the country. The reason I love doing this show is consistency. Unlike the majority of other craft shows the BMAC allows artists to jury in once and never have to jury in again (unless their medium changes or their work differs greatly from what was originally used for jury purposes). This allows artist to consistently participate in this show. This consistency is what helps artists run a viable business. As far as expectations for this show, I have modest goals for this year. The economy is frightening people, and I know that some of my current galleries are sitting on unsold merchandise from last year, while others reported good sales through the holidays. I believe that this will be a weeding out period for both galleries and artists. Like any other business, the lean and flexible with great products and service will survive. I will be offering beautiful new work and extras for this show, emphasizing value-oriented pieces, like a two-sided pendant (one side is gold granulation and the other is silver with an iolite stone) on gorgeous natural pastel colored pearls. It is two looks for the price of one.
I love Patricia’s work. I wish her success at the BMAC. Perhaps her new value-oriented designs will exceed her expectations for new sales.
Thanks for stopping by!

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