Hi, jewelry making fans out there! Thought I will start up with a series of interview with jewelry artists with the objective to inspire all of us here with more creative and business ideas. I am honored to have Mei Tan from http://wireblissmei.blogspot.com/ who have kindly accepted the interview. Mei is from Kuching, Sarawak of Malaysia. I admire her wire jewelry creations and is impressed with the effort she took in selling her pieces of jewelry.
- How did you start doing jewelry (or beadmaking) as a business?
When I started making wire jewelry back in mid-2006, it started off as a hobby, a creative outlet for me. Business i.e selling my jewelry was not in my mind then. The business side of it started soon after when I started wearing my own creations. People around me notice them as they are unique. To shorten the story, one leads to another and I started receiving custom orders. As for selling online, I have been contemplating about it for a while but just didn’t take the first step to start one until I got to know a young lady, Corra of décor’s handmade early this year. She encouraged me to start selling my jewelry online. That was how I started my Etsy shop: http://wirebliss.etsy.com/ around end of February this year.
- Every artist has a personal “creative process”, can you explain yours?
I am not sure if I have one. All I know is I just want to Create! Create! and Create! For now, I wish I have more time to create all the projects that are swimming around in my head. When an idea pops up, I will sketch it in my notebook. Other times, new ideas form as I am working on a piece. As a result, the finished project may look different from the earlier idea. It is a great feeling when you can turn straight plain wires into something beautiful. The feeling is a mixture of satisfaction, sense of achievement, empowerment, confidence, gratification, etc! etc.!
- When people start doing jewelry, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them, tell us how has your jewelry work changed since you began?
When I started doing jewelry, I started off with wires and semi-precious stones as well as crystals. Up till today, I am still “addicted” to wires as the main medium in my work. I prefer more wires than more stones and still do. In addition, making wire jewelry requires the most basic material and tools. All I need are wires, some stones/beads and some simple tools to be able to turn them into beautiful and wearable pieces.
As for designs, I tried my hands on most of the basic wire twisting techniques available. These include making jump rings, spirals, wire wrapped loop, p-loop, links, clasps and many other simple shapes. I made a lot of earrings back then as they are quick to make and I can put them on immediately. Now, I have explored into the full range including necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooch, names, etc. There is no limit to what you can do with wires with the help of few simple tools.
As I got myself expose to the world of wire jewelry, I am attracted to the many ways one can manipulate the wires to form beautiful attractive pieces. Some of these techniques are weaving, braiding, crocheting, knotting and knitting. I am particularly attracted to wire weaving and braiding. It is really addictive although most of the time my fingers will be sore from all the weaving. These days, I try to incorporate more weaving into my jewelry works.
- What would you like to work with/or what skill would you like to learn that you haven’t yet?
Besides, wire weaving, I am also looking forward to learning wire crocheting, knitting, braiding, knotting, wire name, metal works and soldering. The potential of making wire jewelry from all these techniques are vast and unlimited. I would like to include metal works as well but for now, I will confine myself to wires and gemstones.
- How many hours a week do you spend in the creative side of your business vs the business side?
As I have an 8:00 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday full-time job, I normally spend my weekends making jewelry. If a customer requested for a piece to be completed within a certain time, then I will spend my nights making them as well. On average, I spend about 15-20 hours a week creating and less than 5 hours in the business side.
- What inspires you creatively?
I am inspired by everything around me – nature, forms, objects, other peoples creations, etc. Every now and then, the urge to create will surface and I just got to find some sort of outlets. Before I discover wire jewelry, these include sewing, patchwork, cross stitching, beading, painting, etc. When I feel I am running out of inspiration and creative ideas, I will flip through books, magazine, watch tv, anything. Ideas may just spring up in the most unexpected ways – sometimes while I am driving and sometimes when I am observing objects around me. If this happens, I will quickly sketch the ideas in my notebook.
- Where do you sell at primarily-website, brick & mortar stores, shows, etc?
I sell primarily through words of mouths, through my Etsy shop and blog.
- Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your jewelry work?
My jewelry work started as a hobby and a creative outlet. It is a wonderful feeling when people like and appreciate what you made. Seeing people wearing my handmade wire jewelry is an achievement in itself. Other than that, one of the important goals I have achieved so far is creating step-by-step wire jewelry making tutorials. So far I have two tutorials published and I am now planning for a third and maybe fourth one.
- What advice would you give to someone who is interested in doing jewelry as a business?
I am not sure if I can give good advice on jewelry business as when I started making them, jewelry business was far from my mind. I was just happy to be able to make pretties for myself and give them away as gifts to families and friends. However, I feel that the most important thing is you must have the interest and passion for whatever you want to do. I confess that I am addicted to wire jewelry to the extent that I often dream about them. The selling and business side of it starts when people notice your creations and would like to have one as well. If you are passionate enough about your jewelry, you will be motivated to promote them to others.
My experience thus far with selling jewelry – offline or online – you can’t just list your items and leave it there and wait for someone to stumble upon them. It actually involves a lot of time in promoting them (direct and indirect) via friends, relatives, social networks, forums, etc. etc. If you have the fund, you may opt for paid advertisement (e.g newspapers, magazines, internet etc.). The main thing is to get people to notice or let people know that your creations exist. It is also important that you wear your own creations, for a very simple reason – If you don’t feel comfortable wearing your creations, how can you expect other people to wear them? If a customer is happy with your creations, they will spread the words for you. I received a lot of custom orders this way.
- Do you have any big/exciting news or different directions for your business this year?
So far not yet. I am planning for a new tutorial in the very near future. For now, I just keep making and creating and completing custom orders.
- If you teach, where will you be teaching this year?
I don’t conduct classes but I do have tutorials that show step-by-step pictorial instructions in creating rings and a donut pendant. You can find them in my etsy shop – http://wirebliss.etsy.com/ and my blog – http://wireblissmei.blogspot.com/
- Who are some of your favorite artists and crafters?
There are many wire jewelry artists and crafters that inspire my work, therefore they are my favorite as well. Among them are well established artists in the wire jewelry world such as Eni Oken, Sharilyn Miller, Lynn Merchant, Iza Malczyk, “Remy’ Heath and Connie Fox and some are fellow wire jewelers like me. There are more links listed in my blog under “Inspirations” list. There are more yet to be listed. Check them out and I hope you will be inspired too.
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