Since I came of age in one of the great times of women's liberation and the feminist movement (60's - 80's), I truly appreciate the recent resurgence of passion for women’s rights and empowerment. We know we still get paid less than men in many cases, and we're frequently harassed and attacked simply for being women. We get labeled and stereotyped, and much of society still resists the idea that a woman can be a legitimate, competent, respected, and powerful leader.
So I particularly enjoyed this snippet I ran across while perusing Facebook -- from Nancy Fahey McCune. She said:
Here's another little story about me...
I ran a multimillion dollar corporation in Miami. Behind my back I was called the dragon lady. When I had had enough, I retired and began making artisan jewelry. I called my new business Dragon Lady Bling.
I loved this story because I used to run -- not a multimillion dollar corporation -- but a very large college. Behind my back I learned they called me "The Benevolent Dictator". But my two beloved secretaries gave me my favorite 'to my face' nicknames -- "Girlie", and "Sheila Monster" (think 'Gila Monster')...
So Nancy and I have something in common, and I decided I had to feature her here. She was gracious enough to agree, so here's a bit of what I learned about her and her lovely jewelry.
What made you turn your back on the big bucks and get into jewelry design & sales?
I really did not have much choice. When I was hired I was not informed that the former manager was demoted to operations manager and I would be his boss. I had encountered tough management situations previously but this was the worst. Despite the issues, I took this branch of the company that billed out 30k a month (not enough to keep the doors open) to 1.3 million dollars a month, and we dropped 28% dead net to the bottom line. I created a new arm of the business and it was profitable from day one. But because of the unpleasant personnel situation, I knew I didn’t want to stay. And I had reached an age that I knew my employment chances in other big business venues were slim and none.
And then one day a good friend was coming to Miami for a bead show and wanted me to come have lunch with her. I did, and I bought about $300 in bead supplies and began stringing beads.
Soon I was branching out into metalsmithing, copper, precious metal clay and then polymer. When I had a hard day at the office it was relaxing to come to my little studio and use a hammer to beat the crap out of a piece of metal.
How would you characterize your particular style?
My style is to create statement pieces that one doesn’t see on anyone else. I favor large colorful pieces and am particularly fond of bracelets.
What are your favorite sales venues?
My jewelry has mostly been sold in galleries. Craft shows are not my forte’. I have a shop on FaceBook:
Unfortunately neither Facebook nor Etsy has a lot on it at the present time due to the fact that I have spent the last 8 months moving cross-country. That will be remedied over the next couple of weeks as I begin to set up my studio again.
What are your favorite materials to work with and why?
At this point I am really into polymer clay. I am continuously enthralled by the color and versatility of this medium. Polymer has come a long way since it was the red-headed stepchild of the artisan world. Once I had an appointment with a buyer in a gallery and had been told that she would not buy any polymer. As I was showing pieces I took a tray out of my case and set it aside as it contained polymer. She kept looking at the tray and finally asked to see it. I handed over the tray and she took every piece. After I mentioned that it was polymer she was very surprised. Said that she thought polymer was kid stuff and this was definitely not.
With that I knew I needed to rebrand polymer so now when anyone asks what a piece is made out of I simply state, “This is a mixture of layered clays and pigments that is formed and cured” !!!
Tell us a bit about where you're from and what you like (or don't like) about it...
I grew up in a small Ohio town along the Ohio River. As soon as I had the opportunity I left the area and have lived in several states. I find I do best where it is warm and sunny so my move to Florida recently is ideal.
What's your advice for people who'd like to quit their day job and move into this field?
You must be well funded. You will work far more hours than you did in your job. Unfortunately most of your friends and family will be reluctant to believe that it is actually a career and you will have to set strict guidelines about interrupting you while you work. I am not in favor of consignment. If you set up a contract that truly protects you, then most places will be reluctant to take your pieces. Don’t drop in on gallery owners. Send an email with a picture of piece that you think will complement their style. Tell them in the email that you will call for an appointment and then follow up.
And the biggest advice I can offer is... Do not under-price yourself. I see far too many jewelry artisans priced way too low. Undervaluing your work is counter productive.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Don’t wear any jewelry but your own. Be a walking billboard. People will be waiting to see what you will wear next. When someone asks about a piece you are wearing say, “ I made it and it’s for sale.” Be prepared with a price.
I really enjoyed talking to Nancy, and I admire her for her ‘can do’ attitude on EVERYTHING! Check out the beautiful pieces now featured in her Etsy shop if you get a chance – and enjoy the ones shown here – from top to bottom are: Gemstone and Copper Necklace; Daydreamer Rope Necklace; and Turquoise and Magnasite Necklace.
Until Next Time,