My first show!

Its hard to believe that one year ago I moved to Maine and began an internship that would change my life and shape my career. I walked into Cara Romano’s studio in Ellsworth, Maine barely knowing a thing about running a business, promoting myself, or even how to make money in my craft. Throughout this year she has taught me how to make this lifestyle work. It’s about balance, determination and passion. Balancing jobs, balancing relationships and balancing ideas. Determination to make yourself heard, and determination that sometimes places you out of your comfort zone. Passion for learning, passion for community and most of all, passion for craft.

HaystackIncorporating arts administration and non-profit organizations are key to my internship with Cara. I had the wonderful opportunity to work closely with Maine Crafts Association‘s executive director, Sadie Bliss, in registering students for their Haystack Weekend Workshop. Not only did this experience allow me to meet numerous artists from all over the state, but it exposed me to a different side of the art world, arts administration. There are so many facets to the art/craft world: exhibitions, shows, workshops, programing that take place year round. It’s organizations like the MCA, that make these programs happen. It was great to see behind the scenes and to gain an appreciation of how hard the staff and board’s work to run these programs.Portland Show

On that note, I’m excited to announce that this weekend I will be exhibiting in the MCA’s Portland Fine Craft Show in Portland, Maine! This will be my first show. I’m currently preparing inventory right now. Thanks to Cara Romano and Donna D’Aquino I have most of my essential booth supplies. There are simply no words to describe the gratitude I feel towards these women.

In the meantime I’m going to print out my previous blog post Craft Show Preparation and use it as my checklist!  

I’m excited to be back on my blog and to continue share my experiences with you that lead me to this point. Be on the look out for photos and more posts to soon.

Stell Shevis: Inspiration to Us All

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit with Stell Shevis. Stell is 99 years old and making art everyday. I was so taken with her drive to create. “I want to try everything,” she says. The walls of her home were covered her own paintings and works of art by her late husband of 73 years, William Shevis. She looked around the room with such pride and admiration at his work.

Her studio is amazing! I’ve never seen so much enamel in my life. Shevis had made shelves IMG_7083_edited-2that covered the majority of the walls. These shelves held test pieces, and enamels that are used to create beautiful compositions and patterns. She loves to experiment. I constantly found myself looking at samples and asking what sort of technique was applied. Her sense of experimentation and fearlessness with the medium is so evident and inspiring. One of my favorite stories included a wood stove, goop glue and an enameled wall piece. The piece shifted and had to be re-glued. So instead to prying it off of the wood, she just threw it in the blazing wood stove downstairs. The enamel came out untouched and ready for a new wooden backing! (enamels typically flow at 1500 degrees) This was such a clever, yet daring move. I really enjoyed endless stories behind her beautiful works. Many of these stories were quite funny!

IMG_7096_edited-1I feel so lucky and honored to have met such a person. I have to thank Carl Little for the introduction. Carl came to interview Cara for an article in Ornament Magazine and suggested that I meet Stell. Please read the article he wrote about her below. He beautifully captured Stell’s essence and some of her life story.

It’s important to get to know artists in your community. Find out who is in the area, and get involved. Share stories and talk about each others work. You never know what resources and opportunities that can come your way until you get out there and talk to people. I feel more motivated than ever after my visit with Stell. 

I will pass along Stell’s last piece of advice to you all. Get your exercise! At 99, she exercises for 15 minutes every morning. As artists, we are constantly exercising our brain, however we can’t forget a healthy body fuels creativity. 🙂


Notes on Wholesale

Here are some notes that I’ve gathered while assisting Cara in preparation for the Museum Store Association Show in Hartford, CT. This is a very simple abbreviated list of what to consider.  After helping Cara, I definitely feel a little closer to creating my own jewelry wholesale collection.

  • Deciding what pieces/ collections to wholesale.
    • Castings–think of castings as interchangeable parts. For example, something you design as an earring can also be part of a pendant.Metal Trays-Production
    • Design pieces with quick turn around time in mind
    • Keep production work organized. (trays to hold production runs. Note: metal trays work well at the bench and at the solder station)
  • Pricing: Include the following expenses
    • Labor
    • Materials/ Shipping
      • Write on your wire (pink riogrande tags) and sheet (sticker) how much per foot or square inch the material cost you when you purchased.
      • Organize castings into a drawer system with mold number and cost per piece.
        • Divide shipping cost out per item when you purchased each order.
    • Overhead (rent, utilities, tools, supplies)
      • Add up total expenses per year. Then divide out how many days per year you work in your studio (roughly.) This is how much a day it costs you to run your studio.
    • Your retail price should be at least double your wholesale cost per item.
  • Line Sheet
    • Should be very simple so that buyers can view your items with ease.
      • Logo and contact information clearly presented on cover page.
      • Item numbers under each piece, clearly labeled For example, ESN001 (my initials) and “N” for necklace and at least 3 numbers so the collection has room to grow.
    • Photos
      • Showcase items in different sizes and colors.
      • Images clear and free of distractions.
      • High quality (.tiff files for print)

Designing New Spaces

You would think that after coming home from shows in Florida and Baltimore things would slow down for Cara and I, it is quite the opposite however! While we were away, her husband and skilled carpenter, David LaValle cut a window into the gallery wall. The space is now open to the neighboring restaurant, Flexit. I can’t help but find the symbolism in this new addition to our space. There are so many new opportunities in the present and future that we want to share with the community. Spirits are high in the Maine Grind building as the snow melts, businesses open, existing businesses grow, and new faces grace each corner.


View of the gallery space from the restaurant.

Along with a new window in the gallery, I have the wonderful opportunity to assist in designing a new studio! We plan to move the benches to a bigger downstairs studio so that the current space can be converted to a retail gallery. Instead of just moving everything downstairs, Cara thought it would be a good idea to design a floor plan with to scale furniture. Electrical outlets, overhead lighting, ventilation, furniture placement, and even walking space needed to be considered. I thought it would be helpful to share this process because it was so successful.

What you need:

  1. Pencil
  2. Graph paper (we used a large tablet)
  3. Calculator
  4. Eraser (we all make mistakes!)
  5. Ruler and tape measure
  6. Cardboard- we want to be able to move the furniture so we could see consider several studio layouts.

We first measured the length, width and height of all the furniture and countertops that needed to be moved. We then measured the new studio space. In order for this floor plan to work and be useful, the drawing had to done to scale on graph paper.New Studio Space

Scale: 1 inch or 1 square : 12″

Example: Sidewall of the studio space = 282″

282″ / 12” = 23.5″ or 23.5 squares

With this scale we were able to draw the room and cut out the all the furniture and countertops. Remember to check your work because one miscalculation can mess up the whole thing! (spoken from experience)

Below is a photo of the floor plan. The studio features three benches, a soldering station, plenty of communal counter space for tools, potential student benches, a bathroom and storage.

Floor Plan

I will continue to post updates and new photos of this growing creative space so please follow and keep reading!  

American Craft Council’s Baltimore Show

MaineHello all! I’ve just returned to snowy Maine from Baltimore, Maryland. I had the wonderful opportunity to assist Donna D’Aquino at American Craft Council‘s Baltimore Craft Show. I also formulated a schedule to assist several other jewelers for the duration of the week. Check out my previous post ‘It Takes a Village’ for more detail on my preparation for the week.

My interactions with exhibitors throughout the week allowed me to get an inside look at craft world. This creative travel solution allowed me to attend without the financial risk of jumping in and having my own booth. I was able to get an idea of the expenses and preparation involved with a week long show away from home. When I’m ready to present my work, I will be equipped with the knowledge and tips that are typically gained by trial and error.

Booth Design

I’ve learned so much about booth set up and tear down by working with Cara. It was great to view another’s perspective on this task. Donna strategically packed her Honda Element so that her entire booth along with personal belongings fit. It was amazing! When it was time to pack the car back up I just stood back and watched her genius. It was like a puzzle! It was quite evident that she had done this many times before.

Donna_boothDonna’s had a 10×20 end cap booth. It was interesting to see how location can affect your show. Corner and end cap booths cost more than a traditional 10×10 space, but are definitely worth it if you can swing the extra cost. Making those decisions and ensuring proper booth placement on the show floor can be vital to a successful show.

Booth sitting for other exhibitors allowed me to see the ins and out of jewelry displays. In my previous post “Craft Show Preparation’ I outlined all the craft show essentials for a show booth. When designing your first booth I think that our list covers the basic essentials, however it’s our job as artists to further customize our space. I took mental notes as I walked through the show however I didn’t write anything down as I do not want to copy others. I want to use my creativity to problem solve and create the atmosphere that best represents my work.


Expenses can add up when traveling to a craft show. Below are some money saving tips that I gathered throughout the week.

  • Food: Pack your lunches, bring an electric tea kettle and or a french press. Convention center food can be very costly!
  • Lodging: Check Air BnB, check Priceline for cheap hotel rooms, or stay with a friend.
  • Parking: There are parking garages all over Baltimore, but it’s tough to find anything cheaper than $15 a day. But when do you find a garage, be sure to park next to the elevator! (even if it’s on the next floor-it saves time and is an easy way to remember your spot)


Spending a week at a Wholesale/Retail show in the Baltimore Convention Center allowed me to see how exhibitors interacted with each-other. It was great to feel connected to a community of makers that all arrived with a common goal of success. It’s not everyday that we are surrounded by people that understand our way of life, we all choose this lifestyle, to create, travel and share the passion for our work.

Below I’ve listed the names of artists that had a major impact on my first ACC experience. Thank you all for being so forthcoming with information and answering all my questions! Please click on their names to check out their work.

Donna D’Aquino, Lisa Crowder, Melissa Finelli, Susan Mahlstedt, Susan Dyer, Sharon Tuke, Sarah Jane Hassler, Janine DeCresenzo, Megan Clark, Beverly Tadeu, Lisa and Scott Cylinder, Ayala Naphtali, Ashley Buchanan.

I unfortunately did not have a chance to snap as many photos as I would have liked. However I did get a few. Enjoy!

Geeking out on Tools.

From grinding wheels to drill presses to fresh acetylene tanks. There is certainly no shortage of awesome tools here in the studio!  Here’s a look inside as Cara and I prepare for Coconut Grove Arts Festival. I hope you enjoy these photos! If you have any comments or questions feel free to ask.

Read more about argentium silver here.

It Takes a Village

ACC logoIt’s my dream to exhibit my work at a show like the American Craft Council show in Baltimore Maryland. It’s a place where the best craft work in the country is all under one roof!  The show is filled with work from every craft medium created by some of the best makers in the country. There are works in pottery, jewelry, furniture, textiles and glass some of the most beautiful handmade items you will ever see.

At this point in my career, I am not ready to exhibit on my own. It’s my personal goal to participate in the Hip Pop program. This unique program allows emerging artists to enter the high end craft show market and exhibit without to much financial risk. That being said, I still want to go! I’ve never been to an ACC show before and I would love to experience one before exhibiting. I want to meet new artists and gain a new perspective on set up, sales (wholesale and Retail), booth design and tear down.

Living in Maine is wonderful and inspiring however, very rural. Getting anywhere from here proves to be a challenge and costly at times. Normally, a trip to Baltimore might not be in the cards for me. but with a little creative problem solving I think I have figured out a way to get there, be there, and get home…here’s how.

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with Maine jewelry artist, Donna D’Aquino (click link to check out her work). I will travel down to Baltimore with her, assist her in set up, selling and breakdown for both the wholesale and retail portion of the show. Donna was kind enough to connect me with other artists who are participating in this years show who may need assistance at one point or another during week. I’ve already connected with several and told them I could assist with breaks, coffee runs and whatever else they might need.

To stay organized, I’ve made a chart completed with artist contact info, booth number and scheduled breaks. I’m going to be one busy lady! This solution will allow me to gain a new perspective, be part of the craft community, and be compensated all at the same time.

I’m very fortunate to be in touch with professionals who are willing to show me the ropes. The best way to learn something is to actually go out and do it. I am constantly building my relationships with industry professionals that are willing to assist and mentor emerging artists. I would not be able to do what I’m doing, at this point in my career, without the generosity of artists who wish to usher in the next generation. Just like the African proverb , “It takes a  village to raise a child.”

Also, check out my photo gallery by clicking the link of the tab on the left hand side of the screen.

Applying to a Craft Show

Before you can exhibit and sell your work at a craft show, you have to be juried into the show. Depending on what show you apply to, competition can be stiff! To a newcomer, the application process can seem like a daunting task. I have yet to apply to a show, however Cara was nice enough to talk me through her application to the Philadelphia Museum Show. She gave me some tips that she finds helpful when applying for a show. I will dive into this topic again when I am ready to apply for my first show.

Rothshank Mug

First tip…get comfortable! Grab your favorite handmade mug for a warm cup of tea. (I love Cara’s Justin Rothshank mug shown in the image to the right!) Temperatures here in Maine can get pretty frigid so she set up shop right beside the wood stove.

Get Comfortable

 Juried Art Services and Zapplication are both websites that provide application services for artists to apply to shows and exhibitions around the country. Once you log on and create an account you will be prompted to upload high quality digital files of your work, image descriptions, prices and an artist statement. Once you create your portfolio your information is saved for future applications.

JAS Zapp_95

Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about show applications.

  • Apply Early –  demonstrate to the jury that you are serious about participation.
  • Do several show applications at a time to avoid missed deadlines.
  • Keep in mind when applying for an exhibition you will have to send physical work if chosen.
  • If a booth shot is required, make sure your name/ logo is not visible on your sign. Use photoshop to edit or crop this out. All applications must be confidential.
  • The images you select should reflect a cohesive body of work.
  • Artist Statement- Your statement may vary according to which body of work you enter.
  • Show applications cost money and can really be a significant chunk of change each year. If you don’t have the money to pay right away, JAS and Zapp enable you to start and save an application….before payment don’t forget to go back and check your work!

I hope this introduction finds you well and gives you some insight into the show application process. Please comment if you have any questions or some good tips of your own, we would love to hear from you!

Most important thing I’ve learned from school.

Yesterday I drove back to Pennsylvania to spend a week with my family. As I was driving home I couldn’t help but reflect on everything. After all, it was only 7 months ago that I graduated from college. I remember arriving home after the ceremony and feeling completely lost and overwhelmed. I just came out of a stage in my life where I had everything planned out months ahead of time. I knew what classes I would be taking, where I was going to live, and if I could afford it. However, that part of my life was over. It was now time to be a big girl and put everything I’ve learned to the test. The next day, I packed up my car, said goodbye to my family and friends, and moved from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire.

Current town of residence. Surry, Maine.

Current town of residence. Surry, Maine.

Since that day, I’ve been a shoe apprentice, camp counselor, teacher, restaurant employee, house+dog+baby sitter, jewelry, and administrative intern. I’ve moved 6 times and only have enough belongings to fit in my car…..and…drumroll……….. I’M OKAY! Countless times I’ve felt scared and wanted to back away. In fact, I possess a very anxious personality that can be quite inconvenient. However, somehow, I always push through it and come out okay. I want to love and care about what I do so if that means I have to start from the ground up, I’m going to do just that.

After earning two bachelors degrees one of the most significant things I’ve learned is how much I DO NOT know. This is one of the reasons why I am so incredibly thankful for the internship I have with Cara. I think in this field, internships are vital to a newcomers success. Its allowing me to see what works and what doesn’t before I dive in on my own. I’m able to observe, save money and sample the industry while under the protection of an active mentor.

View from my workbench.

View from my workbench.

I’m not finished learning and will not be for a long time. Just because I’m technically not enrolled in school does not mean I’m not a student.  So keep the adventures coming! I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.

Speaking of learning…I hope all of you know how wonderful is! I will be spending this little holiday breather watching online courses about my dslr camera and photo editing resources. Lynda offers courses on pretty much every software out there. It contains videos taught by industry professionals. I know many of you are work-a-holics such as myself…what are your holiday plans?

Must have new tools!

This post is for all you tool junkies out there. This is a tool that I can no longer live without! It’s called the Wolf Belt Sander for Flex Shaft.Wolf Belt Sander I highly recommend this tool for those who make metal jewelry for a living. I’ve quickly come to realize how important production is to jewelry. It’s key to have a few designs that can be quickly made to supplement one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Tools like this allow for quicker jewelry production while not compromising quality. This compact belt sander is cutting my filing and sanding time in half! It will surely pay for itself in no time. The 3M belts cut effectively and evenly while I control the speed with a foot petal. I now have two flex shaft motors at my bench. I will add that a cheap economy flex shaft will suffice for the belt sander attachment. No need to purchase an expensive Foredom!  Check out Wolf Tools for even more information on this amazing tool.

H.20 Handpiece, Quick Change

I love this handpiece. It’s super lightweight and the lever is sleek enough to not get in the way. Click the image find this piece on Foredom’s website.

For normal flex shaft functions you will want to have a Foredom. When comparing a Foredom flex shaft to an economy flex shaft there quite a difference. A nicer flex shaft with a good foot petal give you more speed control. I recommend buying a quick change handpiece for your flex shaft. Jewelry production means that you will be switching out burrs frequently. The quick change handpiece allows for mindless, fast changes during heavy periods of production! This piece, like the belt sander, will pay for itself in speed.

I know it may seem expensive at first to have two flex shafts. However you will quickly see that having both at your fingertips at all times will save your time, which in turn saves money! Having to switch machines and handpieces frequently can quickly become a pain in the butt. Click on the links above to find where you can purchase all the products I’ve mentioned. If you have any questions feel free to comment!