Today we're featuring Peter Nestler, Jewelry Designer and Metalsmith -- another incredible story of self-teaching, determination, and creative entrepreneurship!
In 1972, Peter opened an antique shop, taking on a partner who knew how to make jewelry. After a year or so of watching his partner do his work, he thought, "I can do that!" (Sound familiar? I know I've said this to myself a few times over my looong lifetime...) Anyway, Peter went out and bought some tools, and never looked back.
He says if he has a specialty, it's taking the best quality stone he can afford at the time and making the simplest, yet boldest mounting he can to present it. He doesn't like heavily embellished pieces that detract from the main stone, and likes to take on the challenge of making a statement 'with as few parts as possible'. I would have to agree, since what led me to invite Peter to interview was the most amazing moonstone ring in his Etsy shop: http://tinyurl.com/ndsnhhf (see image here). It drew me in immediately and I was inspired to build a whole Etsy Treasury theme around it: 'Wonderful Night for a Moondance'. Here's the link if you want to check it out: http://tinyurl.com/pghwg9l
Another specialty of Peter's is a line of 18k gold hammered pieces, which I also LOVE!! - here's another image from his shop, in this case a gorgeous pair of earrings, also pictured here. Pieces like this combine three basic techniques: hammering, forging, and fusing -- very basic, yet neither Peter nor I have seen work quite like his anyplace else. His metal choice is usually gold -- nothing lower than 14K. He likes silver, but says you must sell in quantity to make any money. His 'ideal customer' appreciates the handmade 'one of a kind' creation. Like many of us in the handmade business, he can't stand the mall and the 'off the shelf/out of the box' offerings. I loved his visualization of this ideal customer -- he pictured them wearing flip-flops, carrying a credit card with a hefty limit, and having a Hippie sort of background. He sees them getting back home after a jaunt through the country, excited about their purchase of an incredible find in this backwoods Florida store.
His shop is out in the middle of nowhere, on a two-lane, very busy highway -- only a mile from his home, near Jacksonville, Florida. His shop, in fact, is another one of my favorite things about his artistry. Just the sight of incredible array of tools helps you understand that this is a man who takes his craft very seriously. And then there's the whimsical touch of a cheesecake pinup of some 50's starlet plus a figurine of Mickey Mouse and a giant Mr. Peanut!
When it comes to sales, he says antiques sell well, jewelry, not so much -- though Etsy has helped with that. In any case, he's happy to be living far from the big city and currently planning to expand into showings/sales at art and craft fairs. His most critical advice for jewelry entrepreneurs? Have great people skills, as well as basic business and marketing acumen. In his opinion (and I agree), you could be the most talented jeweler in the world, but if you don't have these skills under your belt (or have a great manager), you're going to have a hard time.
Here's a photo of Peter with his sons, who he says may not be as excited about jewelry as he is, but 'that's okay'. :-)
Thank you, Peter, for sharing your story with us. Personally, I think you may have a latent career in writing, as you have a wonderful VOICE that shines through your written notes. We wish you all the best and look forward to the day your shop sign morphs from 'Antiques' to 'Peter Nestler, World-Renowned Goldsmith'. In the meantime, we'll be out there thinking about how we might buy some of your most beautiful pieces.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy 'Passing the Flame', an entry we wrote about a very inspiring book about the craft of lampwork.