Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Artist Interview: Elisa Drumm

I got to know Elisa Van Auken of E. Drumm Designs because she is often my neighbor at The Buyer's Market of American Craft.  Anyone who attends the big wholesale shows is familiar with her and her amazingly talented family. She's been in business for 25 years creating whimsical clocks, mirrors and sculpture out of wood which she hand paints with delightful designs. I've always noticed her work because it's right up my alley - bright, bold, fun and playful. Walking into Elisa's booth feels like walking into a birthday party, it's such a happy place.
Describe your business in 30 words or less 
I work with pine and MDF board as well as cast pewter and found objects. Most of the mirrors and clocks are cut from pine plank, carved, then painted and adorned. My background and education was in Textile Design, working mostly in surf wear, so my colors are naturally bright.
How did you get started? I grew up in this business. My parents are artists and gallery owners. As kids, we always tagged along to shows or worked in the gallery on the weekends. It was natural for me to choose this as a career path.

How much of what you do is fun and how much feels like work? I love designing new pieces which usually happens twice a year right before the wholesale shows. Sometimes I get inspired right in the middle of my production time which distracts me, but you can not turn off creativity. I hate paperwork!!!!!!

Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what are the strategies that you use to get your work in stores?

Yes!!!! For most of the 25 years I have been in business it has only been wholesale. When I did clothing I would host several trunk shows during the year for private customers. I have relied on the BMAC as my main source for sales. I used to use sales reps, but the website has taken over that area.

What is the biggest challenge of being a self employed artist? Balancing work load, finances, and family… They are all 3 intertwined. In the early stages of my career, I had too much work and had to hire people to help. My kids were young, so I wanted to make sure I saw all of their soccer games and dinner was on the table. Much of my income then went to pay for daycare and assistants. Now that they are in college it’s getting enough work to pay for their college tuitions and I am doing all myself.
Who was your greatest mentor or inspiration when you started and why? 
My parents!!!!! They have always encouraged me as well as being great roll models. Now I am collaborating with my father. I ask Dad to design a pair of “bird legs” in pewter for my new clock and I get 5 different designs. I also have great admiration for my baby sister who is really, truly talented.

You can find Elisa's work in stores all across the country. She is also on Facebook and her website is www.edrummdesigns.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Artist Interview: Dee Janssen

It's always interesting for me to talk to other artists about what inspires them, how they got started, how they run their business etc. It's my favorite part of doing shows. I get out of the studio and meet people from all over the country who live the same kind of solitary, creative work life as I do, and share a common experience and world view because of it. So I've decided to do a series of interviews to share with you. I've invited artists from all over the country to participate in the series. I think this is going to be fun!

First up: DeeJanssen of Dee Janssen Glassworks.

I first met Dee in person at The Buyer's Market of American Craft after talking for years on the (now defunct) American Craft discussion board. She has been in business for nine years creating distinctive dichroic glass jewelry and jewel toned kiln formed glass plates, bowls and home decorative items.

Describe your business: 
I create a different style of glass jewelry using dichroic glass for it’s brilliant and intense colors that stand out from all the rest, adding new lines of functional and decorative glass items for the home and table.

How long have you been in business?
I started working with kiln formed glass in 2001 and went full time in 2003.  I sell my work through galleries and gift shops.

How did you get started? When I started I painted t-shirts with my original designs and designed jewelry as an accessory item from mass-produced beads and findings.  This led me to the discovery of dichroic glass beads and pendants made by different American artists. Ultimately, the lure of working with glass drew me into my current journey in the world of making my art for a living.
What do people not know about you or your work that you’d like them to know? The combination of color and texture is a prevalent theme in my jewelry as I believe glass wants to be caressed as much as viewed.  I’m incorporating this into my new functional items as well - both texture captured within the glass and texture to be felt on the surface of the piece.

How/where do you advertise?
I do some print ads with Niche Magazine or Wholesalecrafts.com Buyer’s Guide and 1 or 2x a month on the wholesalecrafts.com buyer’s page on their website.

How did you name your business?
When I first started out, I had a whimsical name that I felt described my designs.  My mentors recommended changing it to something more personally identifying to buyers when I was about to start doing the wholesale shows and after many emails and tossing variations around with my spouse, I chose Dee Janssen GlassWorks.

Do you have a favorite piece, project or idea? 
My Hidden Treasures in the Chrysalis shape are my most favorite out of all my favorites. (pictured left)

How much of what you do is fun and how much feels like work? 
R&D is ALWAYS the fun part and playing with new techniques or materials even if they don’t end up in a product line.  The part that feels like work is the business side and some days [but not many], going downstairs to the studio can feel a bit like work.
Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what are the strategies that you use to get your work in stores?
I sell only wholesale at this time.  I attend BMAC and Niche the Show as well as maintain a presence on wholesalecrafts.comAdditionally, I do direct mailings either by email via Vertical Response or snail mail with a color postcard to catch the attention of new galleries.

What advice would you give others just starting out?
Don’t use credit cards to keep your business funded. Develop a cohesive product line in your medium and refine it.  Learn business computer programs and photo editing skills.  

What inspires you?
I'm inspired  by colors, nature & textures.

What’s the best/most rewarding thing about doing what you do?
Hearing from the gallery owners how much they like my work and how much their customers like it.

Who was your greatest mentor or inspiration when you started and why? 
Sara Creekmore and Nancy Goodenough - they have both helped me either with glass technical issues or business issues and it was their work that really started me on this journey thru glass.

You can find Dee on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @djglassworks. And if you missed her website above it's http://deejanssenglass.com/