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New site

Hi, you guys!

I have been taking a break from making jewelry while my family is living in Sweden, and something I have been meaning to do is update my website.  I have done all the web design since the beginning of AnneMade Jewelry in 2004, first with FrontPage, then Expression Web, Blogger, and now WordPress.  It’s like learning a new language, and I’m definitely using a different part of my brain.

Here’s a picture of my daughter fishing near our home Gothenburg, Sweden. Hope you are having a good summer!

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Interview an Artist

My sweet friend Kaitlyn, one of our babysitters when we lived in Virginia, is a second-year arts student at a state university.  She’s switching her concentration Metals, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her.  She emailed me about an assignment the other day, and I think it is a wise one for the professor to assign: Interview an artist.  I think it would be great for art students to do this every semester!  Unless they are around artisans on a regular basis or plan to teach, I think there’s a degree of disconnect between what they think being an artist will be like and what it typically is like.

I chuckled a little when Kaitlyn sent me the questions because I still don’t see myself as an artist even though I’ve been creating little artworks with my hands professionally for ten years.  Anyway, I thought I’d share my interview here so you can learn a little more about me.

 

1. Would you share with me what were some of your initial experiences with art?
My mom had these craft idea books for kids, everything from paint/glue/egg cartons to macrame. When I was bored sometimes I would just sit and look at the projects. My great aunt was a rock hound, mining and polishing rubies and opals and semiprecious stones even as an old lady. I had a rock tumbler and learned to wrap those slippery little things in wire to create pendants. This was around middle school age, and at the same time I was also into making things out of polymer clay, mixing custom colors and stringing the beads I made. My source for beads back then was a catalog, and I remember freaking out when my wish list exceeded $100. Now that’s pretty common. 🙂 As a kid I also liked to sew and crochet and paint, and I did all of that up through high school and took a creativity break during college.

2. When did you decide to be an artist, and how did you know? 
I took a drawing class as part of my Liberal Arts curriculum, but otherwise the bulk of my art instruction was 8th-12th grade, mostly drawing, painting, and printmaking. I toyed with the idea of studying Art Ed in college, but decided to study biology because I also love medicine and the human body and I figured that field was more employable. After college I worked a desk job while Steve was in grad school, and by the time he graduated I was burnt out so he suggested taking some time off. I would walk our puppy down along the Delaware River (we lived in Old New Castle, Delaware at the time) and I started collecting sea glass. I drew on my experience of wire wrapping, and linked the pieces together to make necklaces. In March 2004 my friend/mentor, Debora, was visiting and saw me wearing one of these necklaces. She has always kind of been a mentor to me, both spiritually and artistically, and she suggested making a business out of my jewelry. I had never even thought of that, but she had a big trunk show at her house and made an appointment with a clothing store to purchase wholesale, so that is how my business got started. So to answer the question I never really decided to be an artist! I just always was, to some degree. Getting to do that for work was just icing on the cake.

3. Where did you grow up? 
Winchester, Virginia.

4. What was your family unit? Did you have brothers or sisters? 
I have a brother who is two years older. My parents still live in the house where I grew up. My mom is big into sewing clothes and quilting, and she nurtured my creative spirit when I was growing up.

5. Did you have artistic peers growing up? In high school? In college?
I had friends in my art classes, but they weren’t close friends. My neighbor-friend who lived up the street was not only boy-crazy (her room was plastered with New Kids on the Block posters) but also a good painter. For one birthday she gave me a set of Windsor & Newton watercolor tubes, and that was one of the best gifts I ever got as a kid. Now she’s a housewife/mom/painter in Atlanta, but we lost touch for many years because she moved during high school so I can’t say she really influenced my art. I would say in general I haven’t had that many friends who could be called artistic; sometimes I feel like I have this secret creative life that my friends don’t really know/care about because they can’t relate. Like, they may know I make jewelry but they probably have no idea what it looks like, but that’s okay because I’m pretty independent.  I tend to turn to the online community when I need feedback or inspiration in my creative life.

6. Were there teachers that influenced you? How so? 
My drawing professor in college would give me Bs and Cs without telling me how I could have improved my work, so that was really discouraging and I didn’t take any other art classes. Before that my art and PAVAN teachers in high school were cool people, encouraging, and gave interesting assignments so that was much more inspiring. Whenever I take jewelry workshops I always love how laid-back the instructors are, encouraging us to develop our own style.

7. What was the most important thing you learned in school? 
Figure out who you are and be that person.

8. Do you have mentors or other working artists who influence you today? 
Debora Haughton, an interior designer who is more of a mentor in terms of general creativity and being an entrepreneur. Also, since I sold jewelry at a shop downtown, the shop owner helped me develop jewelry lines that suited her customers.

9. Would you say your occupation is the same as your career?
Yes, I suppose. I have two jobs, jewelry designer and mom/wife.  Because we’re in Sweden for a few years I’ve had to take a step back from the first one due to lack of space and tools, and to reset my priorities. I fully intend to return, though!

10. Did you have any benchmarks in your career? By the time I’m X, I’ll have done Y? 
Nope. Although I think setting goals is good, I haven’t been very good at it. Because my priority is my family I said from the beginning that I don’t want my business to become an empire, which is why I named it AnneMade Jewelry. There are dozens of ways I could be building and promoting my business, but while the kids are at home I want to keep it manageable for just me to wear all the hats (design, construction, shipping, invoicing, accounting, etc).

11. Were there any gatekeepers in the art world for you, people who either let you in or barred the way as you were coming through?
I didn’t really try to go through that gate. It does help to know people!

12. Is there any professional organization that you joined that you found particularly helpful to your career?
In Delaware I was part of the Chamber of Commerce as a small business owner, so that helped make connections among merchants. I was looking into being part of the Delaware Arts Alliance when we decided to move to Virginia, so I didn’t get to it. Same thing with the Shenandoah Arts Council when we moved to Sweden.

13. What do you think are the major turning points in your career? 
Shifting my business sales from retail (home parties) to wholesale (selling through stores). I’m sorry, but people can be a pain to deal with! I’m happy to pay someone else to sell my work and deal with customers. Being able to say no to something that wasn’t fun anymore was very empowering.

14. What’s been your interaction with or relation to the public over the years? 
I have done a few public shows where I have met some wonderful, long-term customers, but in general I prefer not to deal with the general public. My feelings get hurt when I overhear someone saying that they could make a piece themselves for less, or criticizing the design in some way. I also think it’s too much work to set up, sell in, and take down a booth at a venue over and over in order to peddle my wares.

15. What kind of control do you think you exert over your own destiny as an artist? 
Lots! There are definitely things I can’t control, but I’m pretty confident in my talent and the quality and style of my products, so I think that speaks for itself. Finding the right niche is important, so being able to recognize when something (a design, a venue, a pricing structure) is not working and then change course is also important. Just keep trying different things until you find a niche that works for you.

16. What are you own criteria for success as an artist? 
Mental fulfillment and validation outside my role in the family. I am really thankful that my business was profitable from the beginning and we don’t have to rely on income from it in order to pay for rent and groceries, so any pressure to succeed came from myself.

17. Has money or critical success influenced your artistic decision making? 
Ooh that’s a good question! I guess I’ll say money because I don’t care if I’m famous or if I win any awards, but I do care if my pieces sell. It got to the point where I’d be taking last-minute Christmas orders for men who don’t plan ahead, and then burning out and dreading Christmas each year. When I set a deadline early in December I could close my studio door and enjoy the season.

18. Are you satisfied with your career as an artist? 
Yes.

19. What do you think is your greatest disappointment in your professional career? 
The realization that making jewelry was more fun than being a mom of little ones, but being a mom is more important. That’s why I didn’t bring any tools here to Sweden, to enforce a break and reset my priorities.

What has been you greatest success? 
Buying a new car in cash with the money I had made. Sure, Steve could afford to (and wanted to) pay for it, but I was so proud to have earned that money and saved it up instead of reinvesting in cool components or spending it on other things.

20. What advice would you give someone who wanted to be an artist today, as opposed to when you started? 
Art doesn’t have to be your career or define you. You can always do art even if you can’t afford to take the plunge and make it your sole source of income. Also, not everyone you know will understand your need to be creative and make things, but you can be friends for other reasons.

We’ve been living in Sweden for almost nine months, and it’s going really well. You can read about our adventures on my family blog.  I do miss making jewelry, but it has given me the chance to refocus and so I am planning to bring back a few tools when I’m back in the States over Christmas.  I wish you all a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Changes

AnneMade Jewelry is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary!  I’ve been making jewelry since I was a kid, but I took a break during college and picked it back up after I started collecting sea glass when we moved to Delaware in 2003.  We were new in town, I was looking for work, and my mentor from home (Virginia) saw a necklace I had made and encouraged me to make a business out of it.  And so I did.  And then we moved to Virginia and AnneMade Jewelry continued to evolve and flourish.  When our kids came along it was great because I could work from home while they were sleeping.  And last year I even worked from a studio downtown while they were in preschool.  Bliss!  But then…

My husband was asked to spend 2-3 years working at his company’s office in Gothenburg, Sweden beginning in February. (!) Amidst the shock of learning about the move and thinking of the dozens of things we needed to do before then, I had this thought whispering in the recesses of my mind…  What if I took a break from work and just enjoyed being there?  Making jewelry has become less like recreation and more like a job, so I’m looking forward to a break from special orders, inventory, deadlines, paperwork, shipping, and ordering supplies.  After ten years of that I welcome a sabbatical.  I look forward to having time to read, meet friends for fika (coffee date), take pictures, and go for walks.  I’ll still bring my jewelry tools because creating is still something I enjoy doing.  I’m even looking forward to meeting Swedish jewelry people.

I’m planning to document our Swedish adventures on my family blog, maybe a little here too when it relates, and I will definitely be pinning away.  My jewelry will still be available at Simply Charming Boutique in Winchester, Virginia, and my jewelry tutorials will still be available on the AnneMade Jewelry website and Etsy. I’m excited to go to Sweden, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be excited to come home to my studio, too.

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Spring is here

Hi, gang!  It’s been a busy spring here in my studio, on account of the miserable weather we’ve had.  A new collection of pieces is looking happy at the shop downtown

I’ve also been able to work on some other projects like…

…the PMC Round Box Pendant tutorial!  It is a pretty simple and straightforward design, but I take you through step-by-step with little tips on things to look out for along the way.  I also show you how to modify the design to make your own resin blanks. 

This is a snippet from a map of Gothenburg, Sweden, in case you’re wondering.

More tutorials are in the works!  See that pair of flower bud earrings up there?  Hint, hint.

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Thankful

We finally got the rain, all night Wednesday and all day Thursday. I even had some sprinkles today on my way to Dulles to pick up Steve, who is home safely from his work meetings in Sweden. Between The Lag and the holiday, I think we’ll be relaxing a lot this weekend.Get this… As soon as he got in the car Steve said he wasn’t hungry or anything; he just wanted to run a quick errand and buy me flowers. (I know!) He’s the best.
Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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Midsommar

This weekend is the Midsummer holiday in Sweden, celebrating the longest day of the year (remember – they’re pretty far North so sunlight and warmth are not taken for granted). It’s as important as Christmas, and Steve’s Swedish colleagues who have been in the States went home last week to be with their families. It party time all over Scandinavia where one can dance until dawn, don folk costumes and dance around a leaf-covered maypole, or just have a barbecue and spend the time with family. (This is my favorite account.)

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More berries

The other day I stopped by a farm stand and bought a quart of strawberries. You can brag about your apple-sized berries from Costco, but there’s nothing like the flavor of small, sweet, sun-ripened berries that were on the vine just yesterday. (Full disclosure: these strawberries were from the market in Sweden; I ate my Virginia berries before getting a photo.)

In other berry news, blueberries are 2 for 1 at the grocery store so today’s smoothie was blueberry & lemon.

I’ll probably do another round of Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with blueberries soon, too.

If not for the thunderstorms and smelling honeysuckle from the screen porch, I love summer for the berries.

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Volvo

Once in a while I come across a blog post that really entertains me, so today I share with you “an open letter to my Volvo.”

My parents bought a Volvo in 1982, a medium blue 240 that was square in more ways than one. We named it Ovlov because that is how the logo on the window read when viewed from the back seat of the car. I remember long trips in that back seat, up and down I-81 in the summers. I learned to drive in it and did like the clutch on that one more than my dad’s Chevy truck. But, it was so heavy and underpowered that it took at least a mile to get up to speed on the highway, which is pretty scary when you’re 16. My dad seemed convinced that we’d be able to drive it for the rest of our lives, but I was rear-ended after school one day and the insurance company was less sentimental than Dad was.

Then we had another Volvo 240 named Goldie, aptly named for its color. My brother and I drove that one in college, and now that it’s owned by people we don’t know and we are too old to be grounded I will share this tidbit. One night on a country road in central Pennsylvania, Tom actually caught some air at the top of a hill. (For those of you who have not experienced this, you hear a screeching of the tires as they spin while barely touching the pavement, then nothing but the engine for a split second, then screeching tires regaining contact, then a huge bang when the weight of the car lands on shocks that were never intended for jumping.) Driving like that was our way of dealing with having a dorky car to drive, and to my knowledge we never did any permanent damage. Tom is now a pilot and drives an Audi.

This entry started when I read about say la vee’s sickly Volvo XC90, which reinforces Dad’s view that driving a Volvo was no longer worth the investment after they started making turbo engines, stopped making 240s, and other car manufacturers caught up in safety ratings. Of course that’s around the time it actually became cool to drive a Volvo. Love those Swedes.

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Good weekend

Steve was gone all last week, so I was extra glad to have him home. We kicked off our weekend on Friday by checking out the new Thai restaurant in town and watching Reign Over Me. On Saturday morning we rode the Metro to DC and met up with Steve’s Swedish boss who was in town. We walked around the Mall so he could see some of the monuments, then we went to the Air & Space Museum, had some Mexican-style tapas (!), and did the Museum of Natural History. The funniest moment for me was in the Minerals exhibit Steve & Jan were taking pictures of the huge quartz specimen to show colleagues (quartz crystal is the basis of their technology), yet only steps away everyone else was crowded around the Hope Diamond.

Yesterday (Sunday) we hung out with my brother Tom and his family who were visiting from Kentucky. Travis is almost 2, cute and sweet, and is very close to saying “Anne.” After dinner my dad got a call from a neighbor inviting us to come over and use his telescope. The Orion Nebula (M42 on this map) and Saturn (and the telescope itself) were pretty impressive. No pictures the whole weekend – sorry! I did just order a pocket-size camera so I can keep it with me for times like these.