Alchimia 2019 Master & Bachelor.

A Starter's Guide For (Soon To Be) Graduated Jewellery Designers. Part 1

Published: 21.08.2018
Annabel Goris
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret.
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

© By the author. Read Copyright.

With these series of questions and responses, I aim to make a crib sheet for (soon to be) graduated jewellery designers. It are practical questions asked from a students point of view to different profiles. The questions are focused on artistic work, education, retail and contacts and learned lessons. By asking different profiles, you’ll get more insights that could come in handy as a starter. And hopefully they can guide you in making the right decisions and encourage you to JUST DO IT.
The first questionnaire is the one for the artists. I combined the responses of 5 different artists in the field and although these artists have different backgrounds, different ages, and nationalities, there are a lot of similarities in their answers.
When nearly graduating, it’s a bit scary to picture yourself functioning in the ‘real world’ as a designer/artist because you have little clue how to address it. You simply need to find a way to make a living with your artistic work, which is not a matter of course. There are no guiding professors anymore, no assignments that give you a sort of direction, you need to start thinking about earning your money, finding your own contacts and clients, workspace, material… A lot of decisions need to be made in a short period of time. And even though none of them are irreversible, it’s still really intimidating.

Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

1.     How did you address the entrepreneurship and make a living as a starting designer?
Ezra Satok-Wolman (Ontario, Canada)
My approach to making a living as a jewellery artist and designer has always been very simple. It began with my classical training as a goldsmith, which has remained the foundation of my work as an artist and as a business owner. Commission work has been an essential part of my business model and has afforded me the flexibility to produce what I want as an artist. Many school programs and students today overlook the importance of the fundamental skills necessary for creating jewellery and running a jewellery studio. Even if your goal is to create unconventional jewellery using non-traditional materials, being able to address the needs of a client in any scenario will enable you to be successful running your studio and funding your personal passion projects. 
Florian Milker (Leipzig, Germany)
Well, every beginning is hard, isn't it? I am not quite sure if I should call it entrepreneurship. I do what I love to do, by making art. But at the end of the day, I have to pay the bills right? So for me, it is all about organizing the time: earning money in order to have the possibility to do what I love to do. At the moment I work as a freelancer for different kinds of activities and none of them have something to do with art, design or even jewelry. This separation of making art and earning money makes it easier for me to focus on my work without any compromises, but it is sometimes difficult to find the right balance indeed. It is necessary to have a long breath by starting an existence as an artist or designer I guess, but good things need time to grow right ?!
Gésine Hackenberg (Mainz, Germany)
Committing yourself to author jewellery as I do is a hard business and you absolutely need dedication to the field. If you want to survive in this profession you truly need the passion for it.
I never got rich and I work almost non-stop, but it gives me a big satisfaction.
I’ve been lucky enough to receive in the first years some substantial big grants from the former Netherlands Foundation For Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (Fonds BKVB) in a row. These grants gave me the freedom to develop my work as well as my little artistic business instead of spilling my energies on irrelevant side jobs. Though I always had a side job to learn about other facets of the field.
I guess, as for beginning any kind of business, you need a starting capital in some way.
Furthermore, in whatever way you start your business, I believe that it is extremely important to create circumstances for yourself that somehow allow you a certain freedom. You have to protect a certain flexibility in order to be able to grasp opportunities on artistic as well as financial level. It is essential to maintain a certain space in your head to be able to develop your work on a regular basis.
Fritz Maierhofer (Vienna, Austria)
First of all, I am not a designer - there is a big difference between a designer and an artist. for myself, I wanted to work as an artist. I started to learn the „profession“ as a jeweler, gold- and silversmith. this took me several years to be able to work without fear. I was able to do most of the trades work. in 1967(!) I went to England, got a job and got some money, and finally started to do what I thought was necessary to follow my feelings in making pieces to wear which I thought being art. I sold some of my work to keep going. Finally, I could purchase a house and build my own studio.
Sara Malm (Gothenburg, Sweden)
After graduation, I had the great opportunity to be exhibited at Klimt gallery and Gallery Marzee. It was a huge boost. I also got some scholarship that could help me get started with my company. Along with working with my jewelery art I started to teach silversmithing to have some stable income. And also the Swedish employment agency helped me a lot with paperwork and to get started with my company.
2.     Any bad investment decisions after studying, you wish you hadnt made?
Ezra Satok-Wolman (Ontario, Canada)
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the early days of running my studio was over engaging in promotional advertising. I was approached by numerous fashion magazines offering “affordable” adverts and was tempted by the prospect of having my work seen in British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.  Ultimately the cost of running those ads took away from my flexibility as a maker and prevented me from pursuing all of the projects that I wanted to pursue.  I later came to realize that my work was a better marketing tool than any ad I could afford to place and that the attention I sought would be achieved through success at my workbench.
Florian Milker (Leipzig, Germany)
Hmm ... not that I know. I mean there are always some worries by making a decision and especially by making an investment beforehand. You never know the exact outcome of planning an exhibition, but it is always an experience and perhaps some other doors will open. On my current financial basis, I can only work with the amount I have. What I don't have I can't spend. My grandma always said: "Try grabbing into a naked man's pockets !!!".
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

Gésine Hackenberg (Mainz, Germany)
No. I believe that everything is good for something and you can turn every, at first sight, unsuccessful step into something positive. But it is true, not everything has a straightforward benefit….

3.     How did you get your artistic work in the spotlight and afterwards, how do you stay hot? And when doing this, you focus on a certain audience?
Ezra Satok-Wolman (Ontario, Canada)
Competitions and group exhibitions are a great way to put your work into the spotlight. I was extremely active in the early days of my professional career and participated in numerous events around the world. In addition to sending my work abroad, I actively traveled to attend as many events as I could in order to develop relationships and contacts. Having now developed those relationships and contacts, I can now be much more selective with regards to what I participate in and how my work is seen.
My audience are those who appreciate my work and I learned early on not to tailor my approach to jewellery making in order to appeal to a particular group of people. Stay committed to your vision, become the best at what you do, and you will find yourself in the spotlight. “Staying hot” has a lot to do with continuing to challenge yourself and being prolific without being redundant.
Florian Milker (Leipzig, Germany)
In some conversations with colleagues I always see different perspectives: Some say it is important to stand out all the time and show nearly every step, others take their time to develop new work, choosing the right spotlight. I mean it is always a process and only you can find out how it will work out the best for yourself.
Gésine Hackenberg (Mainz, Germany)
As it worked in my case, I strongly believe that the graduation show can work as a kick-off for your career. Within this, I was very grateful for the strong network of the academy and especially my tutors.
In the very beginning of my career, I’ve been applying for as many awards, competitions, exhibitions, fairs and other events as possible. I took every opportunity to profile myself and getting my name out there. It was a time of also experimenting a lot with where my work would fit in and who would be my audience. Where did my strengths lay, in creating reproducible or unique work?
As explained earlier, the grants were an incredible chance to totally go for it.
I suppose that social media nowadays have a big role in putting yourself in the spotlights. In this respect, one can nowadays have a much easier influence on making your name/work known than it was in my beginnings. I had to rely much more on printed media like catalogues, arts and design magazines or (interior) stylings.

Fritz Maierhofer (Vienna, Austria)
How to stay “hot“: keep on going! a day had a lot of hours! and still has! as an artist, my focus was always to do the work I was interested in and developing it further. regarding the audience and contemporary jewelry, you have to kind of teach people in a very similar way as students... and I always liked to look at other things as well - like simply living in the country I got interested in horses and dogs. things like this give you the chance of meeting different people.
Now I like to go to different countries and places to get a feeling of what I want to do. it is very personal. my last works' the theme is mountains, ice, water, and space. i am fascinated by all this. it began with a stay in Italy and ended up in Erfurt, Germany where I got interested in enameling!  
Sara Malm (Gothenburg, Sweden)
I mentioned above I got a really great start with exhibiting my exam work.. It has been 2 years since the exam and my work is still on show. Traveled across the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Tokyo and soon back home to be exhibited in Sweden again. One thing always leads to another.. You meet some, talk, share, compare. find your way, make mistakes, work hard, sleep, eat, wait, cry sad tears, work harder, travel, meet fantastic people, cry happy tears, always like a rollercoaster. 
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

4.     How did you choose collaborations in the past (with a gallery, another artist, with a company, etc.). How did you find them and how did you assure they would work?
Ezra Satok-Wolman (Ontario, Canada)
As the saying goes, “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole". I never like to force anything to happen that doesnt feel comfortable and have always pursued relationships that feel good and make sense. Whether collaborating with a gallery or an individual artist, my relationships and projects have always developed naturally and tend to center around a common goal or philosophy. 

Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

Florian Milker (Leipzig, Germany)
In the past few years, I have been lucky enough that collaborations actually came to me.
To plan something together with other artists is a great possibility of getting in touch with different ways of thinking and getting things done. But also of receiving feedback about your own strategies. Regarding the contact with galleries: I was told during my studies, that 'they choose their artists'. As soon as a collaboration with a gallery starts I keep them informed of my work. I share new developments and plans for the future and in return, I also like to be informed by them within the same means. For example regarding the possible future.
Fritz Maierhofer (Vienna, Austria)
You have to contact galleries personally and speak about your work. other artists, you will meet at all kind of events. taking the effort to travel, sometimes far! I don’t think this is any different from the early days! but I think, generally speaking, people were more down to earth back then, and you could trust them a lot more how they would work. 
I also believe that artists were putting more quality into their work. in general, it seems to me that the value of contemporary jewelry is getting more and more lost today, in the sense that a lot of work remains too superficial.
Sara Malm (Gothenburg, Sweden)
I contact the people I want to work with. Then it’s up to them to make up their mind. 
I also get some request from galleries, shops, art events/exhibitions. I almost every time say yes and try, if it doesn't work at least I tried.
I think Instagram is a great tool for getting in touch, I get some request from IG... it's quick and easy. Also recommendations from artists friends and colleagues.

About the author

Annabel Goris
, is a master student Object and Jewellery Design at Mad-faculty Hasselt in Belgium. She recently finished a year with diverse internships. Because her scope of interest is very broad and she wanted to expand her experience before starting her master. This included internships at Klimt02, DIM atelier, focussed on lamp design, … She got introduced into the world of design and product during her Erasmus time in Dusseldorf, but also fashion and social design get her attention. In the end she would love to work in an interdisciplinary manner.

Ester Vilaplana Miret is a graphic designer and illustrator born in Barcelona and currently based in London. She studied 4 years of Graphic Design at EINA, Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona (2010-2014). After graduating, she moved to London to do the MA in Graphic Moving Image at London College of Communication (2015) and stayed in the UK where she is currently working as a freelance.