How To Become an Indie Jewelry Designer

When meeting someone new, one of the first questions asked is “What do you do for a living?”  I’ve struggled with how to answer this question.  I’m a business owner?  True…but vague.  I’m an artist?  That’s a tad pretentious (plus, I don’t particularly feel like an artist, not really).  I’m a jeweler.  Yes.  I am a jeweler.  

“Oh?”  comes the response.  “Who do you work for?”  

“Myself.”  I will reply.  This usually leads to equal measures of confusion and disbelief.  My least favorite response – and the one that results in an abrupt termination of said conversation – is “Okay.  But what is your real job?”   Implying that being a self-employed artist/craftsperson is somehow not a valid form of employment.  Sometimes I’m flip.  “Dominatrix,” I’ll say.  Or “Logger.”

But usually I give them the spiel:

I used to work as a researcher for an ecology lab.  A glorified lab monkey, I cultured transgenic bacteria, extracted DNA, subjected countless plants to various fungal innoculations and environmental stresses, recorded the results, blah blah fucking blah.  Lab monkey.  At the time, I was convinced that was what I wanted to do.  I was working at the lab to gain DNA extraction and analysis experience, which I was then going to utilize while working on my PhD.  

“Whoa.  You used to be a scientist?” 

Yes. Shocking, I know.  I’m not a flighty peabrained “artist” I can, in fact, employ both sides of my brain.

Anyway, PhD program fell through and I took a metalsmithing class as a way to kill time (the book-binding class was full).  Long story short:  fell in love, took more classes – all of them, in fact – and started my own company.  The hardest part of all of this was coming up with a good name.  Trite but true.  Never underestimate the value of a name, a brand.  Easy-to-remember is a must.  Catchy is helpful.  Cute never hurts.  Hence:  Flora and Fawn.  Oooh, a play on words!  clever, AND I get to have a sweet baby deer as my icon.  

Okay, this is supposed to be a how-to, of sorts (I’m assuming you already know how to actually make jewelry…).  Right!  Here goes:

Step One:  a name.

Step Two:  design a line.  Have a theme, an aesthetic, an overarching “look”.

Step Three:  make a bunch of jewelry.

Step Four:  approach a store.  Pick one that caries stuff that meshes well with your own work.  Ask to speak to the owner or purchaser*.  Schedule an appointment to show your goods.  

*often the owner is the person working.  WEAR YOUR JEWELRY! It’s tremendously helpful to be able to say, “Oh yeah, I made this!”

Step Five:  take over the world.  I’m still working on this.

To be fair, I feel like I’ve been insanely lucky.  I had to cold-call two stores.  All of my other accounts came to me.  I don’t know how or why I’ve been so fortunate, but believe me – I thank the jewelry gods every day. 

Et voila!  Now you are an indie jewelry designer.  Get out there and kick some ass.

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~ by angelarenae on August 10, 2008.

One Response to “How To Become an Indie Jewelry Designer”

  1. Hello. I like your blog. I am a jewelery artist/silversmith and have run into the same responses. I used to own a small retail store in which I sold my jewelry so that was easier to say. Thanks for posting that. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in this struggle to find my niche. Kathryn
    http://kathryncoledesigns.com

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