Sunday, 19 July 2009
Metalsmith Anne Malone of CocoandChia talks about her apprenticeship and subsequent work as a fine jeweller.
I learned to work with metals by apprenticing to four amazing jewelers. Each person had their own style and their own specialties. As an apprentice you work for very little money, do a lot of the dirty work and get a lot of experience along the way. I also worked in jewelry repair. This taught me a lot about how things are made, where things are likely to break, how many people have to have rings cut off (!) and that jewelry almost always has sentiment attached to it.
Being a metalsmith is my second try at earning a living. I worked for years in offices as a book keeper and administrative jobs. Along the way I realized that I was bored to distraction and would end up doing it forever unless I made some changes and took some risks. Now I work full time for a fabulous high end jeweler in New York. I make their jewelry – they tell me what they want, supply the materials and it is in galleries around the world. I particularly love high karat yellow gold and gemstones. My personal favorites are the little boxes that you see some of on Etsy. I don’t think they will ever sell there as the amount of time and energy to make them puts the price pretty high. I love to make intricate small containers with hinges and hidden compartments and precious gems.
Honestly, I have not found my niche on etsy. My work sells in galleries and it is important to keep the same pricing on etsy as it is elsewhere. Etsy is a great website in my opinion. I’m happy that people love handmade. The listing price is low, the site is easy to get used to and the commission is reasonable. Most of the gifts that I have bought in the last few years have come from there. I understand why lots of pairs of $15 earrings sell on etsy.
I know my strengths and my weaknesses. At the very least this is a good starting point. I am not a salesperson. I am a terrible planner. I have at least 20 projects that are finished ninety percent of the way. I’m very meticulous in my work. I often imagine any of the jewelers I have worked for critiquing a piece and I make sure that everything is as technically excellent, beautiful and secure as possible. My work is certainly not an impulse purchase. I have hopes that people will see my work on etsy, appreciate the craftsmanship and materials and make a decision to buy after some thought. As I’ve grown up a bit the things I buy for myself reflect that I know what I want when I see it, that I am willing to spend money on great craftsmanship and that I’d rather have one really nice thing than ten OK things. I’m always searching for the perfect pair of blue jeans!
In five years time I’d be quite happy to be doing what I am doing right now. It would be great to have more exposure online and in galleries. I’ll keep on making things. I know that I am lucky to be employed as a jeweler in this economy and that there are thousands of people who would love to have my job. I get to be at home with my dog and take long walks in the afternoons and sometimes naps! A super added bonus would be to have my own studio … I dream of my very own space in an artist’s collective.