I met fellow artisan Karen Smith about 3.5 yrs ago in Charlotte, NC. We were both vending at a Art Festival/Block Party on a hot day. I was a novice, Karen was more seasoned. Karen had a tent, I did not. Karen had a fan, I had my hand. Advice, contacts, and other valuable information was exchanged and a friendship blossomed. We are both jewelry designers who have mutual respect for each others craft! Meet "The One to Watch"... jewelry designer Karen Smith.
1. Tell us about yourself: I have been in the graphic design field for over 17 years. Graphic design is very 2 dimensional and I wanted to challenge myself by creating 3 dimensional work. With my strong design skills and eye for color, creating jewelry seemed to be the perfect choice and it was a natural transition. I started making pieces for myself and had an overwhelming response! I took metalsmithing classes at Central Piedmont Community College to hone my craft. And so began Karen Smith Metalwear.
2. Do you do this full time? not yet (wink)
3. Where can we purchase your designs? Check the website (http://www.ksmetalwear.com/) for store locations (with more locations to come!) and show dates and locations. You can't purchase from the website right now but we're working on that.
4. Where do you find your inspiration for your designs? Nature, architecture and different cultures inspire my design concepts. And believe it or not, other jewelry designers! I had a design teacher in college to tell me, there's nothing new under the sun! You can be inspired by someone but rework the design by changing elements to make it your own. It's not worth being inspired by someone if you don't make it BETTER than the original design.
5. How do you promote your business? I am fortunate to have my customers, friends and stores to promote my business. I post new pieces and events on FaceBook and I'm walking advertisement. I only wear my jewelry and have often been asked where I purchased it. I whip out my card like the character from In Living Color (BAM!)
6. What advice would you give someone just starting out? Don't expect to make alot of money to start. It will come. Just be patient. And if you think this job is glamourous, think again. It's really hard work especially if you work the craft shows. Do your research with buying your materials. Compare prices. And don't be afraid to ask someone who's in the business questions. Most of them will help you. Before I make a bunch of new pieces, I'll make it once, wear it to see what kind of responses I get. I post it on FaceBook as well as wear it. If it gets a great response, then I make more. You don't want to be stuck with a bunch of products that don't sell. Also, go to your local art schools or colleges and see if they have an intern program. I have a fashion marketing student that will help me with marketing and advertising my business. She will do a 10 week internship. During that time, she will send out press releases to local and national magazines, locate reputable galleries and boutiques to carry my line and maintain my Twitter and FaceBook fan page.
7. One interesting fact about you that you want to share (does not have to be about your business): I would LOVE to travel to Paris and Italy singing jazz in sold out venues. That's just one of my fantasies. I also design/make furniture and accessories for interior design. I think that will be my next business venture.