The Art of Living by Making Art

Jewellery inspired by nature and made by hand.
How I make it, why I make it, the challenges I face and the successes that come my way.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Business as usual

One of the decisions you will have to make as a self-employed artist (read small business owner) is how many of the day to day business tasks will you do yourself and how many of them you will pay someone else to do. The kind of tasks that I am thinking of are book-keeping for example or website design or photographing your work. Any of us who put work in a gallery on consignment have handed over the task of selling to another person, for which we pay commission. Probably if you look at your own business you will see some things that you do yourself and some that you farm out.

Some people are of the opinion that it is more time and therefore more cost efficient to get other professionals to do business tasks for you, while others will say that if you do as much as you can yourself you retain control and you keep costs down by not having to pay out.

Looking at my business I realise that I am definitely in the latter camp - I do my own book-keeping, so have a good idea of what is coming in and what is going out, which is essential. I do my own photography. I am also starting to design my own website, with the help of a one day course I'm taking this week. And I'm in the middle of re-designing all my promotional materials, ie business cards, postcard, earring cards. I actually enjoy doing this as I used to do graphic design in a former 'life' but there is no doubt that it takes time. I have done my own selling too, at craft fairs and trade shows but that is an area that I am really not so good at despite my efforts to improve, so that is one I'll leave to the pros.

I try to maintain a balance between creative work in my studio and business work at my desk, there is a kind of ebb and flow throughout the year as different things take priority but I've had my jewellery business for ten years now and so far so good.

Monday, March 22, 2010


If you are an artist reading this I am sure you have been asked to donate a piece of work to a charitable cause. I often wonder how many electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other tradespeople are asked to donate their work to charity. It probably happens but maybe not as often as artists are asked to donate. I think this is partly because art is eye-catching and will bring people in to the charitable event but I also do think there is an element of 'the artist is doing this because they love doing it and it's not really work anyway so lets ask for a piece for free'.

However as artists we can turn this around to our advantage and feel virtuous about supporting a cause. Often it is a sign that people really like your work if they ask for your work specifically, so if it is a big event with many people attending your work will get good exposure - think of it as promotion. I think the key is to know what kind of people will be attending the event and of course for you as the artist to know who your customers are - when the two coincide then there is a perfect opportunity to donate a piece of work. The charity will gain a donation and you will hopefully attract new customers. If the charity in question is not one who's goals you agree with or the audience will not be your market I would feel absolutely no guilt in turning them down.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Yesterday was a difficult day in the studio. I've been working on the juried show piece for Influx Gallery in Calgary - I'm doing a ring and I was working on the shank. I had an idea in my head and just launched into it in sterling, and it turned out much too heavy and big, but at the same time a very small finger size. Also the rolled texture I had chosen was not right. I was using the hydraulic press to form it and it is very touchy and easy to over do it.

Anyway I very carefully cut it apart, re-rolled it and cut out a new narrower shank and started again on the press and all seemed to be going well when I got over confident or something and pressed the damn thing until it was as small as a bead. I couldn't believe I did that!

I knew I needed a break at that point and went and had a cup of tea and a peanut butter sandwich. Then I just sat down again at my bench and started all over again with fresh silver, and this time it worked out well. I was super careful. I am really appreciative of the fact that either by nature or by practise I am able to work this way - with patience and calmness! Though sometimes it really is a test...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


As it is nearly lunchtime where I am, I just thought I'd share an observation with you. I have really noticed a difference to how my afternoon in the studio goes according to what I eat for lunch. It may seem obvious to some but I find that if I have a lunch with loads of protein in it my productivity goes way up. I am pretty sure this works for athletes but who knew it could work for artists too?

Anyway, I haven't eaten meat for the past twenty odd years, though I do eat all kinds of fish, and eggs, and dairy. So my usual lunch often consists of some variation of the cheese sandwich. I always thought that that was enough protein for me but now I think that not all proteins are created equal because when (and this may gross some delicate people out) I open a can of sardines and have sardines on toast for lunch I always have a really good productive afternoon at the work bench.

So that is what I am going to do now, and for your information I always buy Ramirez Portuguese sardines in olive oil with a hot chili pepper, they are very tasty!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


There are many great things about being an artist, you are your own boss and you can ultimately organize your life however you want in your quest to satisfy your creative urge. Then again there are some not so great things, like being your own employee and not earning much money. Yesterday, despite a full slate of TO DO, I decided to go skiing. Various reasons - I felt like it; 20cms of new snow; John, my husband wanted to go (he is the best person to ski with bar none); I knew I would be working all weekend. It was an easy decision, I didn't feel guilty, I had fun and I was too tired to write this when I got home.

I used to organize my working week quite rigidly a few years ago, and although it would change with the seasons, it would basically be set out for the winter or summer and not change for months at a time. Since John started working at a new job that requires him to use the car and do a 24hr or 48hr shift away from home I have found it easier to tailor my work week to his. We have one car between us, so now I work at my home studio while he works away - I have complete peace and quiet and few interruptions - then when he is home I can take my 'weekend' with him and go skiing.
I think this works for me because of all the previous years I put in being disciplined about work. Here's a great photo John took a year or so ago at our local hill, Red Mountain.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I just had an email from the art school where I studied jewellery-making for three years - Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson BC. They have invited me to take part in a faculty exhibition of work next year. I used to teach part-time in the jewellery dept several years ago before the school became part of the larger Selkirk College and they down-sized the course, needing fewer instructors. I have been there since as a Visiting Artist (giving a slide show) and recently have given some Continuing Ed classes, when enough people sign up, so it is nice of them to invite me into a faculty show.

I've spent this morning putting some info together for them along with three images, all needed right away. I keep copies of all the artist statements and bios I've written, as I can often use them over again, maybe with a small change here and there. Today I rewrote both in bullet style format for a change, I think it is easy to read that way and since they wanted the info quickly, it was quicker to write too.

The best thing is that the exhibition is not until spring 2011 and I will have time to produce new work for it, it is always so exciting to think ahead like this and imagine the amazing, incredible pieces I will produce!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Juried Shows

One of the things I have been musing on lately is the subject "Fiat Lux" meaning - let there be light. This is the theme of a juried jewellery exhibition at Influx Gallery in Calgary that I am planning on entering a piece for. I have been with Influx Gallery since they opened and they have been fantastic in the number and scope of the exhibitions they put on. They are also incredibly professional and nice to deal with , which isn't always the case with galleries.

I had an idea for Fiat Lux right away that inspired me, I feel like I want to keep it secret until the piece is done though, I'm not sure why. What I need to work on is the actual design and how my idea will work, whether it will work in fact, and how much I want to spend on it in dollars. Of all the pieces I have ever made for juried shows only a few have sold, but I think it is incredibly freeing to make a piece with absolutely no thought as to whether anyone will like it or anyone will buy it. I aim to do one or two pieces like this a year, I wish it were more but I need to actually make a living.

I will show you the piece when its done, but until then it remains in my head, and sketch book. Now I must get on with it as the deadline is in April and we all know how time speeds up as the deadline approaches.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Not Working

I think of myself as fairly disciplined when it comes to my jewellery business. I have been doing it long enough that I have a routine that works. I can always find something that I feel like doing even when I hardly feel like doing anything at all. However this past week has been somewhat difficult and the result is that I've done very little at my workbench, desk or computer. A combination of having a family member staying (learning to snowboard), a friend from Montreal coming into town for just a day (I must go skiing with her), lots of domestic stuff that had piled up to Everest proportions, getting the car fixed and I could go on and on.

However the good thing is that although I have little to show for this week in my hands I can always be thinking about new ideas, new designs, interesting shapes, forms and textures while I am doing other things. I haven't been able to jot anything down in the big black book but I do have all sorts of things circling around in my brain that are sure to emerge as jewellery at some time.