As an aspiring jeweler, Katie Reed feels disappointed whenever people forego a piece of fine jewelry because of its price. Oftentimes, she said they’ll go to stores like Forever 21 and buy something similar for a lower price.
“They don’t see the behind-the-scenes process of the maker who has to design it and make it themselves,” said Reed, a junior metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM major. “People will want to buy for the trend, but they don’t necessarily want to buy for the quality.”
But this is the reality of being an entrepreneurial artist, said Doug Bucci, professor of the “Production Processes” course and a 1998 alumnus of Tyler’s metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM program. In the Lamina Jewelry Exhibition and Sale, Bucci said students are essentially running their own “micro business.”
“When you run a business and a studio, you wear a lot of hats,” Bucci said.
The annual Lamina Jewelry Exhibition and Sale is a product of students’ efforts in the “Production Processes” course. This year’s exhibition was held last Wednesday through Friday in the main lobby of the Tyler School of Art.
“It’s been over 10 years that I’ve been teaching this course,” Bucci said. “And when I look back at what I initially laid out as my vision of what the ‘Production Processes’ course is, it pales in comparison to what’s now occurring. Over the last few years, the course has really grown.”
“There wasn’t even a sale at the outset of this course,” he added. “But I think that having a deadline, having the ability to go public in your work as an artist, and seeing the process of going from sketches to production and show was a great experience for students.”
“Doug always tells us, ‘Don’t underprice yourself,’ because a lot of us, since we’re students, see ourselves as students rather than artists or makers,” Reed said.
On one of the first days of class, Reed said Bucci made each student consider how much money is necessary to compensate for not only the hours that artists spend working, but also the expenses of the materials needed to create what the artist wants. Each piece of the exhibition, Reed said, has been funded by the student who made it.
Having a set deadline, like the one present in last week’s sale, causes students to come to terms with the challenges of production level work, Bucci said.
“Actually making things at the production level is extremely important to learn,” said Jadie Hanley, a junior metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM major and contributor to the exhibition. “In our other classes, we could be working on one brooch for six weeks, yet we have to make a minimum 12 items for one show in this class.”
For Hanley, the Lamina Jewelry exhibition and sale serves not only as an entrepreneurial lesson, but as a milestone that proves that she is capable of working at a production level.
Bucci said students must adapt to the market by identifying the needs of consumers and finding a way to make their work appealing to consumers.
“I’m not a true business person,” he said. “I’m a designer that has adapted and that has adapted his studio and his practice in a way that has made me able to make a living.”
Evelyn Godley, a junior metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM major, responds to the consumerist market with customizable jewelry. Godley’s line featured jewelry adorned in different colored pearls as a small way of adapting to the individual needs of buyers.
“I think that giving people the ability to express their creative ideas and executing it with your own craftsmanship is the most successful way to sell jewelry,” she said.
“With your potential in your skillset, craft and genius as an artist, writer, or even scientist, you can have a fruitful and comfortable life doing what you’re passionate about,” Bucci said.
Chelsea Zackey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.