This week's blog was written by jewelry artist Marty Hogan of Marty Hogan Jewelry.
I love making jewelry. I should say, I am driven to make jewelry. I can’t help myself. If I weren’t making jewelry, I’m sure I would be making something. I simply need to be able to create. I’m a maker! Jewelry fills this need for me now because it involves multiple processes, including designing, planning and fabricating the final piece. In the past, when my three children were small, I spent time as a basket weaver, potter and papermaker. These were all crafts that I could do at home with small children at my side. When my children grew older, I went back to work at my chosen career, clinical social work. I worked primarily in hospice and end of life care until 2013 when I decided it would be best for my mental health if I looked at other options.
I decided I wanted to try my hand at being a jeweler. I walked away from end-of-life care and feel it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. In the early days, when I sold my baskets at craft shows, I lingered around the jewelry booths every chance I got, pondering how each piece was made and trading baskets for jewelry. I examined each piece I obtained as if it held a secret message that I needed to decipher. My first metalsmith class at a local community college taught me basic skills such as riveting, sawing and hammering metal. I moved on from there to the school of “trial and error” and You Tube. Six months after making my first piece of crude jewelry, I attempted to jury into a local artisan guild in Ashland. I was rejected and told my work was “borderline dangerous” and needed “refinement”. Harsh news, but I persevered and paid more attention to such details as sanding away rough edges and polishing. I returned the next year with new pieces of jewelry and this time my work was accepted. This opened me to participating in the guild’s weekly art and crafts shows in downtown Ashland. Once I had sold a few pieces and realized that people would pay money for my jewelry, I was amazed, inspired and delighted.
When I first started making jewelry, the thought of making something that would appeal to a potential buyer enough for them to lay down money for it seldom entered my mind. Now that I am participating in more art and craft shows and selling at Artistic Portland and the Portland Saturday Market, that is always at the forefront of my thoughts and seems to guide my creative process more and more. I grapple with making something that gives me pleasure, stretches my artistic skills, and nurtures my soul, versus making something that will appeal to a potential buyer. The practical truth is that to continue making jewelry, I must sell it. I sell it to buy more materials, so I can make more.
I have learned that it is important for me to know my buyer. My work seems to appeal to the older woman who has a solid sense of herself and isn’t afraid to express it (not unlike myself). She is an individual and likes for her jewelry to reflect her uniqueness. She may even be a little quirky, but in a good way of course! Each selling venue presents new challenges and new opportunities for getting to know your buyer and also getting to know yourself as an artist.