Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: First Year of the Gallery

In front of the Point Richmond gallery on our first year anniversary party. Photo by Steve Holloway.
Mon dieu, 2014 was quite the year. I loved it, am grateful for it, but damn in put me through the ringer. Here are some of the more notable experiences and reflections on my first year having the gallery in Point Richmond:

  • Launching a brick-and-mortar business in an area with no foot traffic is not for the faint of heart. It really builds character to open your doors and then have nobody walk in, sometimes for days. I knew it would be like that, especially in the beginning (Point Richmond has a wee downtown plaza with some commerce, but sustaining a retail space here is hard), and I created my business model to be compatible with zero foot traffic, but still. No matter how many times I reminded myself that I am not a jewelry store, and that my success is not measured by the number of people who come through the door, it was tough to keep a positive perspective. Many a night I would close the gallery and then go cry into Rico's sympathetic ear. I found it disturbingly easy to slip into a "retailer" mentality, focused on being busy, hoping to get slammed with shoppers, feeling pressure to keep longer hours, offer more, do more-more-more. But I am not a traditional retailer, and I don't want to be a traditional retailer. Therefore much of 2014 was about resisting that impulse, and trying to remind myself (and others!) that it is possible to find success through a different model.
  • What is that model? A hybrid of creating custom pieces for clients, selling my own limited-edition jewelry designs in the gallery and online, and selling work from select guest artists in the gallery. About half of my business last year was custom work. The other half was gallery sales, of which one-third was from the guest artists I featured. I find it fascinating to have one full year of numbers to look back on, concrete information that will inform next year's activities.
  • Speaking of numbers, I am excited to report that my predictions for 2014 were majorly on point. No big surprises in expenses, and I exceeded my revenue goal by 15%. So there may not be people streaming in the door, but hey, something went right. ;)
  • Last year brought many intangible successes that don't show up in my numbers. Like Point to Point Richmond, the community event I helped conceptualize and launch over the summer. Together with a crew of fellow artists and small business owners, we encouraged people to rediscover and reinvent Point Richmond one day each month through collaborations, pop-ups, performances, and spontaneous and creative use of our spaces. It was a grand experiment, completely and totally grassroots, that allowed me to connect into a community of peers and meet many new people. Point to Point was not in my business plan, and I never could have imagined dedicating so much energy to community organizing...but I allowed myself to follow my gut, and I can honestly say it was worth it. Not just as a personally fulfilling experience, but as a great way to get people into my space and talk to them about my work (see bullet point #1 about there being no foot traffic..."event-driven" is what we are!).
  • In 2014 I showed work by six guest artists in the gallery, often holding opening receptions on Point to Point days. It was great to be able to show a mix of styles and materials and price points, to showcase local art, and to have my creative friends alongside me in this experience. There were some bumpy times, but I am so proud of the professionalism we all showed, the way we found solutions to whatever wasn't working. In 2015 I look forward to showing more work by guest artists, but with a slightly different format to keep things fresh.
  • I am so grateful for the help and support I've received over the past year. My family, Rico, my assistant Marie, my studio mates, my guest artists, my teachers, my clients, our neighbors, and our friends near and far. It has not been an easy one, but I am aware I'm not in this alone, and that anytime I need to talk or cry or celebrate, I have great company by my side.
  • My favorite comeback of 2014: "What?? You've been here a year? I've never noticed you! You need to advertise more!" "Oh yes, we have been here for a year. We're a hidden gem, just like Point Richmond." Works every time. People like the fact that our neighborhood is undiscovered and under the radar, and I love using that analogy to open their minds about what my business model is all about.
  • Low point of 2014: there was a flea infestation in the gallery. It was horrible and required great discretion and took so much longer to get rid of than I ever though possible. It's all gone now, no more fleas, and I'm at the point where it is really funny to look back on. Hilarious how life throws you a really good curve ball every once in a while, just to make sure you remember you can't control it all.
  • Speaking of, I downsized my planner. After three years using a gigantic paper calendar with scheduling in 30-minute increments, I'm now down to a 5x7 weekly view planner with space to write one or two things per day. This is a good limit for me. Getting through school and the first year of my business, it was super helpful to have tight planning and a to-do list on every page. But now, I can relax a little. I have to relax a little. If I can't write it in the little space allotted for the day, I probably shouldn't take it on...
  • And so goes the first year. There are a lot of takeaways that I didn't list here, but that's okay. This doesn't have to be exhaustive. It's New Year's Eve, and it's time to celebrate. Rico and I are feeling really exhausted and under the weather, and instead of being out at a party we've elected to stay home and chill. My mom said we're getting old. I say we're getting comfortable. There is a fire in the fireplace, cats and blankets on the lap, and White Collar on Netflix. Here's to a quiet end to an unforgettable and intense year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Royal Finish

One of my major custom projects this year involved making a crown using my client's Nana's clip-on earrings and brooches as the inputs. When I said yes, I wasn't even sure I *could* make a crown, but we figured it out. The end result used Nana's vintage costume jewelry mixed with golden grass shapes (capim dourado from Brazil), labradorite, Swarovski crystals, and hundreds of tiny rivets to attach everything to the brass structure. I am still amazed by what came together.

I've been working on another big project, too: creating the structure and content for my new website over at It's still a work in progress, but it's close enough to soft launch and share. I know there are several dead end links, and lots of images and captions yet to upload, but after building this site from the ground up over the past 1.5 years, I'm ready for it to be a thing, out there in real life, a tool to be used.

My new site has a blog, which you can access here. I'll be sharing all of my major jewelry stuff there, writing about my experiences as a creative micro entrepreneur, posting inspiration photos, talking about process and techniques. I hope you'll follow me there, and bear with my dust while the site is still in construction.

Also in the works for early 2015: a revamped online shop! Yay!