Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guest post - Melissa Lowery

I am an indie metals artist who has created a unique, handcrafted and independently produced jewelry line, ssd jewelry.  

I have always been drawn to handmade art; I have been crafting and making things with my hands since childhood.  I am mostly a self-taught metal-maven and I have been designing and making jewelry since 2002.  I started out with basic beading classes but I quickly became very interested in metals and bought my first chasing hammer and bench block (which I am still using) in 2003.  I work almost entirely with metals now.  I am a true metal junkie!
After the birth of my first daughter in 2006, I decided to focus more intently on my jewelry business—I really wanted to be able to stay at home to raise my kids so I had to find a way to bring in an income at the same time.  I took my part-time jewelry business and threw myself into it, determined to stay home with my girls and to have a job that I loved!   With lots of hard work, long hours, incredible support from my husband, and a little luck and good timing, my business blossomed into a full-time gig.   

It’s been such a challenge to juggle being a full-time mom and running a growing, full-time business!  But the rewards are incredible and make the very late nights in the studio and work worth it.  I take it one year at a time and each year I try to set a couple new goals to reach.  This year I had the honor of being juried into the American Craft Council show in Baltimore, MD which was an incredible experience.  I learned a lot and picked up a few more store wholesale accounts which has been really nice.  I also was selected to participate in my first runway fashion show this year, fashionSPARK which was held in September in downtown Raleigh, NC. This was a great challenge and wonderful experience.  Earlier this year I started playing around with some designs for some larger pieces that were very different from my show and store work which is very wearable for everyday attire.  So it was a lot of fun to fabricate those larger pieces and to have the experience on the runway.  

That collection was very inspiring and it was the beginning of my working with organic and completely natural components such as the driftwood, fallen wood, and natural fibers.  Even though I still work mostly with metals, I am definitely branching out this year into a completely new line of jewelry using these natural ingredients.  My most recent organic collection will be in the Lavaliere 2011 exhibit at LEDE Studio and Gallery in Wake Forest, NC beginning this month and will run until early February.  This is the most personal collection I have made which makes it very special and exciting to share.  All of the components represent or come from an origin that pertains to some of my history.  

My work is a direct expression and a reflection of me as an individual and as an artist.  I use a lot of quotes in my work….quotes that inspire me and that I want to share with everyone.  And they always have an uplifting or positive theme and that’s important to me.  My work comes from my heart and my message is a positive one and that’s how I want people to feel when they see my collection: uplifted, inspired, and happy.  

I try really hard to run as Green of a business as possible.  Working with metals, it’s impossible to avoid all harsh chemicals, but I use very few and I try to make up for what I do use in other green ways.  I use numerous types of up-cycled, recycled and reclaimed materials in my work. And recently I have started using a lot of natural and organic components.  I’m well known for my patina pieces and I am proud to say that the majority of the homemade recipes I use are my very own and that I don’t use harsh chemicals in them.  

My business has come a long way!  If I can give any advice to aspiring small business owners who are artists it’s to have fabulous photography of your work.  Take your photographs of your work as serious as your work and business itself because in so many circumstances, this is what people see first!  You have to be able to get juried into a show before a customer can see your work in person and if you are selling on-line, the photographs are all your customers have!  They may never see your work in person until they actually order something.  I take the majority of my own photographs, but over the past few years I have started having a professional (Side Yard Studios Photography) take pictures of my collections for runway shows, art exhibit submissions, and for social media promotions.  Photographs help bring your artwork to life and give it character.  And after all, our artwork is a piece of ourselves so it should be represented in the best possible way!

I'm so blessed to be able to share my work with the world. I can't imagine not having this outlet and to be able to connect with others because of it is just really amazing.

You can find the talented Melissa at
SSD Jewelry on Facebook
and @ssdjewelry on Twitter


stacilouise said...

Your work is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. It is encouraging to hear that hard work pays off!!! I can really relate- being a full time stay at home mom in the early years of making this a business.

Patty said...

Wonderfully inspired work, Melissa! I love how you use components from nature, and your use of models really brings your work to life in the photos. Thanks for the post!

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Absolutely beautiful work! I look forward to retiring from teaching one day so I can create all the time..... Maybe in five or so years :o)

mairedodd said...

your work and philosophy are fabulous... congratulations on the growth of your business... you are an example of what can happen when you work hard, set your sights high and put it out there... beautiful...

SoulsFireDesigns said...

I'm with Staci, it's great to hear about a full time mom who makes her business work! Thank you so much for sharing your story :) you are so inspiring!

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