Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Interview with HippyBeads

Hello all! I think it'll be great to have interviews with artists once in a while to show some deeper perspectives on the artists' work. So here goes my first interview with HippyBeads [her other store can be found here]

1. What is your chosen medium and what originally drew you to it?
I have done arts and crafts of all sorts and I really have 2 primary mediums: jewelry and dance. I love them both, but jewelry is the one I market. I make plenty of jewelry for the sake of making jewelry, but I actually enjoy the custom requests, the festival and craft show atmosphere, meeting new people, and a lot of the things that come along with having a business. Dance is the one I do solely for me. I do actually teach a class, and have taught other classes, have worked a paid show, have entered competitions on my own and have done private lessons in the past, but it's not something I try to do full time, and it's not an area I market myself in--I teach, do performances, do competitions, etc. when I am inspired to do so. In fact, the place I "work" for now teaching tap dance on the weekends could probably forget to pay me and I wouldn't notice because I'm having so much fun.

2. When did you first decide that art was a necessary part of your life?
Like you, I grew up taking classes, etc. Really, I don't remember a time where some form of art or craft didn't enter into my life. Even in preschool, I was the child who would rather play with shells or tiles or buttons than anything else.

3. Has anyone inspired you in a drastic way?
You know, there are lots of people. Anyone who's work I admire is usually a huge inspiration if in no other way than to keep me going. Seeing that other people can achieve beautiful or amazing things just by being persistent helps me feel like I can get closer to my goals if I just keep trying.

I think my biggest Inspiration of late is Amanda Palmer. She's a musician, but she really encourages art and creativity in all forms and she and her band, The Dresden Dolls, have come up with some amazing things in the way they interact with their audience and fans in regards to art and creativity. They often allow fan performers of any and all types at shows, they have set up which involves independent artisst creating art related to the band, Amanda and her/their music.

I first related to the dolls and Amanda through their music. I really felt from the way she expresses herself in songs, that we probably had some very similar feelings, traits, etc. Once I saw and heard them more and more, I noticed that she really seems to be in that "world" I talked about in my blog-- where her art and her expression are the only things that matters-- when she performs. She has found a way to make a big part of her life about the things she loves the most--music, art and performance... And has managed to do a great job branding herself and the band through some very, creative, unorthodox methods, which I would love to be able to do, too. She is an inspiration just because she does what she does. It makes me feel that if she can create her own little "world" of art and expression and have people appreciate what she does, then it's possible. When I get frustrated, remembering what she has done, and what others have done, through persistence and creativity, helps me feel like there's the potential for it to work for me too.

4. On the other side of this, has anyone tried to dissuade you from pursuing your work, how has that affected you?
No one really dissuades me from being creative. There's been questions as to whether it's worth my time or the amount of money I make to create jewelry, do shows, etc, but the art itself, everyone around me understands that that's what keeps me going. The most discouraging part is really trying to balance art and life. Sometimes, you husband would like you to get home before 9:00 or like to see you without jewelry pliers in your hand, or sometimes your family would like you to see them on the weekends instead of traveling to where they are only to sit at a craft fair all day.

5. Are you currently in the process of trying to/ do you currently make a living off of your work?
I don't make a living off my work, and I'm not trying to. I have thought about that possibility, and aside from it being really difficult, I don't think I want to for a few reasons. First and foremost, I am a social worker, and I love what I do. I have thought many times about different paths I could take and the answer always comes back that I want to help people and want to be a social worker as my primary profession. Aside from that, the life of an artisan jeweler, crafter, dancer, dance teacher or chorgrapher isn't the kind of life I want. They're all a little different but they often involve odd schedules, no health benefits, uncertainty of hours and income, etc.
Another thing that I thought of in the process of this interview is that if I tried to do jewelry or dance full time, they would cease to be the uplifiting safehavens that they are. Sure there are frustrations when a piece of jewelry isn't working right or when I can't get a dance step to save my life, but overall they are both an escape for me. They're a way for me to feel creative and productive. If I were to do them full time, they would then be the thing that I have to do no mater how tired I am or have to push through no matter how much I need a break in order to get dealines finished. I think that would be really frustrating, and on top of that, where would I turn? If jewelry is my work and I'm tired of it, what do I then do to feel better about myself, take a break, get a sense of accomplishment, etc.?

My financial goal is that I would like to have a somewhat steady small income from my jewelry. For dancing, I have no specific goal. Like I said before, sometimes I dance to get paid, and sometimes I don't-- the money isn't important.

6. How did you/your company get started?
I actually have 2 businesses right now. The first one, Happy Hippy Jewelry, started about 8 years ago when I got inspired by beads. I found some beautiful beads, started creating things, and didn't want to stop... So, I figured I should start selling them. Over time, this has developed into a business that does afforable Hippy and Bohemian Jewelry. I have tried many different pricing schemes, tried upgrading materials, tried more sophisticated styles, etc. and I keep coming back to inexpensive beaded and wire wrapped jewelry with a very hippie or boho flavor.

During the expirmentation that happened with new styles, materials, pricing, etc. I learned a few things that lead to the founding of another jewelry business. I found that those who like high quality materials, expect to pay a high quality price and are often not trusting of prices that are too affordable. I also found that "medium" quality items (like things made with silver or gold plate) are in very low demand and not really liked by the sophisticated crowd or the more causal crowd. another thing I found is that there is only so much "style diversity" you can offer in one shop before people lose interest-- I'm not sure if it's from feeling overwhelmed or feeling that your art has no specific direction, but people as a general rule don't like overdiversification. I decided that I really wanted an opportunity to work with higher quality materials like sterling silver and gemstones and make some more sophisticated designs, so Artful Unity was born in late 2008.
7. How has the process of making work to sell changed your working process?
The working process itself is much the same. In the beginning, I did learn alot of new techniques for jewelry making to help make the jewelry have a cleaner look, be more durable, etc. But overall, I still sit at a table of in front of the TV with wire and pliers in hand and beads nearby.
8. Has it changed your creative process? Has this been negative at all? Or have you seen it as a positive experience?
Selling my work sometimes means I create less, but that's a personal choice: just because I have a lot of inventory and don't have a custom order to work on at the time doesn't mean I have to stop creating, but sometimes I do.

Selling for me has meant a lot more custom work, which, overall, I really enjoy. Custom work is always a challenge, but it's always really rewarding when you get something right. The only negative thing about custom work is when something doesn't work the way the customer epxects it to or your artistic vision is different from the customer's. Overall, though, i much prefer creating personalised works to just constantly doing whatever pops into my head (which can be really fun sometimes too).

Artful Unity has ended up changing a lot of things for me and, so far, I'm really enjoying it. The biggest change here is that I don't have much to work with in the way of materials because they are expensive, so I have tried to find other ways of expressing my ideas such as sketches, prototypes, etc. Artful Unity has been really challenging, but overall, I'm enjoying the new challenges it brings.

As you can probably tell, I am all about diversity and variety, so anything that adds that element to something I am doing is generally positive for me, even if it brings some frustrations with it.

That's all for now! If you would like to be interviewed and share your thoughts with the art world drop me a line!