Today's post is an interview with Janice Root, a wonderful jewelry artisan we met on LinkedIn. Check out one of my very favorite items of hers here -- aptly named 'Rock Candy'! Here's my Q & A with Janice. If you enjoy, please comment and add your insights and/or questions, from the fellow jewelry designer/artisan/enthusiast's perspective!
Sheila: What inspired or led you to pursue the jewelry design business? How did you learn your craft, and at what point did you start trying to sell what you made, and why?
Janice: I have been interested in (and inspired by) art since I was a young girl. My all-time favorite Christmas present was a gift I received from my parents when I was in elementary school. It was a very large cardboard box shaped like a house, and it was chockfull of craft projects when I opened the lid. I was thrilled! In high school, I was an art club "geek" and loved to sketch and paint. After high school, I entered the military and served overseas and in Washington, D.C. for three years. Except for a small role in the Old Guard's annual "Spirit of America" play, I was not involved in anything artistic. When I was honorably discharged, I decided to pursue a business career after being told that I would "never be able to survive the dog-eat-dog world of art" as there was simply too much competition. Therefore, I enrolled in college while working full time and eventually earned an MBA.
I always felt like a fish out of water in the business world. Something was lacking in my life. Slowly, I began to explore art again. I bought a bracelet kit at a local beading store in Michigan (where I lived at the time) and was immediately hooked. I enjoyed beading, but it didn't "feed my soul." What I really enjoyed was working with metal. I enrolled in a metalsmithing course at a nearby community college in order to learn how to manipulate metal into something beautiful and enduring. Upon completion of the course, I continued to upgrade my skills by taking weekend classes at various jewelry studios. I continue to take classes, as there is always something new to learn. I didn't begin to consider jewelry design as a business until I sold my first piece after posting a picture of it on Facebook. I worked in various markets in Michigan and also displayed my jewelry in a couple of galleries. When I relocated to Florida last year, I had to begin anew. It is difficult to gain entry to the markets here. However, I do have a small shop space near my home in Palm Coast and was recently invited to display my jewelry at the Pena-Peck House museum gift shop in St. Augustine, Florida.
Sheila: What are your favorite techniques/styles/materials? Why?
Janice: My first love will always be the ancient art of chainmaille. I am intrigued by its intricacy and am always thrilled when I am able to master a new "weave." I am also drawn to jewelry that is more minimal in nature; fine jewelry holds no appeal for me. My designs tend to be more streamlined, as I am not fond of a lot of "stuff" attached to bracelets, necklace chains, and rings. Minimalism can be beautiful and elegant—a perfectly formed sterling silver bangle... small stacking rings with subtle patterns... earring hoops with a few special beads attached... My favorite materials to work with are sterling silver, copper, and vintage beads and gemstones. I particularly enjoy mixing the old with the new.
Sheila: What are your creative inspirations?
Janice: Sometimes my creative inspirations simply appear in my head—or I will dream about a design. I always keep a small notepad handy so that I can do a rough sketch of the design and jot down notes about how I might construct it. Unfortunately, these designs do not always come together well. I hate to scrap metal, but it is sometimes necessary in order to rethink the design—or abandon it altogether. I am also inspired by other artists—especially master silversmiths from whom I can learn new techniques. My brain is always churning with ideas for new pieces. At times, it can be overwhelming!
Sheila: What are your goals/dreams for your art and business?
Janice: Like any artist, I hope people will like what I create and that it will prompt them to purchase a piece of jewelry. I have only been making jewelry since 2010 and did not start my business until 2011, so it is very much still "in the red." Every profit I make is reinvested in supplies and equipment. (A silversmith needs a LOT of expensive equipment!) I hope that my business will finally be "in the black" by 2014. As mentioned previously, I have a small shop space in Palm Coast, Florida. Business has been slow, which is not atypical in the summer. I am eagerly anticipating the return of the "snowbirds." I am still trying to break into the local markets, but that has been an uphill battle—so far. However, I can be VERY persistent. The Pena-Peck House, which is the museum where my jewelry is being displayed, is run by the Women's Exchange, which has various locations throughout the country. I am in the process of contacting all of these establishments to see if they, too, would be interested in carrying my pieces. My ultimate goal is to have a nationally based business that will support me financially.
Sheila: Tell us a little more about you—what's a day in the life of Janice like?
Janice: After the sudden death of my husband of 24 years in December 2011, I decided to relocate to Florida to be closer to family. I lived in Orange City for a time but didn't like the environment. It could have been Anywhere, USA. In August 2012, I co-purchased a condo in Palm Coast that is located on the intracoastal. The view from our back windows is gorgeous, and it is such a treat to walk my dog and watch dolphins and manatees swimming by. I am eight minutes by car from Flagler Beach, which is where I go when I need to renew my spirit.
After my husband's death, I was unable to work for many months. However, I am now back at work in my very small home studio every day—in between chores and errands—except for Friday and Saturday, when I work in my shop. There are times when it feels very lonely to work by myself, which is when I head out to do errands—or go to the beach. I love, love, love the heat! Prior to my move, everyone warned me that July and August in Florida were brutal, but I'll take 95 degrees any day over 5 degrees, with blowing snow and ice-covered roads. My schnauzer didn't mind our walks in such weather, as he had a fleece-lined coat,but I grew tired of being blinded by driving snow and ice crystals. Although I don't know if I'll live in Florida for the rest of my life, I can't ever imagine living anywhere again where the temperature drops below fifty-something degrees for months at a time!
Sheila: Do you have a muse/office assistant, like a dog or cat, as we do?
Janice: Although I love my elderly mini schnauzer, Beau, he doesn't inspire me to create. There is a force inside of me that compels me to create. When I ignore that force, it usually results in frustration and anxiety. I think that any artist can relate to that feeling. When one is artistic, it is difficult—if not impossible—to separate the creative process from everyday life.
Many thanks to Janice for giving us a window into her world as a jewelry designer/creator and courageous, talented entrepreneur! We can relate to so many points she has made – and wish all the best for her & her business in the future! View more of Janice's work at these sites:
If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also enjoy one of our previous posts on Cate Yoder– another fine metalsmith who got her start at a community college (MY community college, in her case!) Anyone who hasn't tapped into the incredible resources of their local community colleges – whether it be for training in jewelry production, design, business, photographing art work, or more – think about it!! It's one of the best deals you'll ever find!