Promoting ArtisansIf you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know one of my firm beliefs is in supporting artisans in creating their craft business. Sure, I also promote The Silver Hook (I’m an artisan, too :).
I believe that many economic and environmental problems would be helped with a shift to supporting small businesses rather than large corporations. In this spirit, I have started accepting applications for blog interviews (if you are an small business artisan, send me a description of your work or website link to info@TheSilverHook.ca). This is my third interview and I am excited to say that it is with Susan of DeChamp Designs – a self taught chainmaille artisan, who began crafting after a tragedy in her life. Even if you skim the interview, please take note of question #9.
“When people hear ‘chainmaille’ they think heavy, big, clunky, masculine – they think of armour – when it can actually be very delicate, airy, and intricate, which takes people by surprise.”
1. Where are you located, and where can your work be found?I live in Milton, Queens County, just outside Liverpool on Nova Scotia’s lovely South Shore.
Etsy and ShopHandmade.com. But, I have found that jewellery sells best when people can see it and touch it for themselves. I recently started selling my jewellery at The Village Emporium in Chester. I also sell at local craft fairs.
2. How would you describe your creations? What makes you unique compared to a similar artisan?I make chainmaille jewellery, primarily, although I also do some work in wire crochet. I have combined the two techniques in some pieces, as well. My work is created in various metals, sometimes with semi-precious stones or glass beads.
When people hear ‘chainmaille’ they think heavy, big, clunky, masculine – they think of armour – when it can actually be very delicate, airy, and intricate, which takes people by surprise. Chainmaille is a great opportunity to take ancient techniques and use them in modern ways.
One of the great things about being self-taught in any field is that you aren’t bound by someone else’s rules – you can follow your own creativity wherever it leads and see what works. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with making chainmaille rings (for the fingers) and have been very pleased with the results!
3. How did you start in your field?I made a chainmaille necklace from a kit bought off the internet after I delivered our stillborn son. I needed something new to occupy my hands and mind. I found the process of weaving all those little jump rings together to be quite therapeutic and fell in love with it. I started gathering tools and supplies and have just kept going.
4. Could you describe your artistic process? Where do you find inspiration?I keep a sketchbook for ideas – sometimes the sketches are quite detailed, sometimes they are just shapes that I want to consider further. Every so often, I learn a different classic weave and new ideas will come from that – there are often quite a few sketches and notes on possible ways to incorporate the new weave into my work before I have that first piece finished.
5. What advice would you give to a beginner artisan?Have confidence in yourself and your work! It does take a certain level of boldness to sign up for that first craft show, but you will never know how your work will be received unless you let people see it. What’s the worst that can happen, in the grand scheme of things? That’s the perspective I gained when the worst thing I could have imagine ever happening to me happened.
6. How do you market your business?I’m still pretty new at thinking of my work as a business, so marketing is something I’m still trying to figure out. I do keep my FaceBook page (www.facebook.com/DeChampDesigns) updated with photos and have made some sales because of it.
7. What goals do you have this year?This year’s goals are to get my work in more bricks and mortar stores, possibly get to more craft shows, and learn more about marketing my work. I also plan to add to my line of key rings and branch that out into zipper pulls/charms to increase my potential customer-base to those who aren’t really into wearing jewellery.
8. What is your favourite creation?Like most artisans, the last piece I finished is usually my current favourite. But, Helm Orbs are fun to make, so are Helm Floral Blocks. I love mastering a new weave and finding out just what I can do with it.
9. Is there anything you would like to add?I came to this craft and business because of tragedy so each October is “Adam’s Month” for DeChamp Designs. A portion of the price of each item paid for in October is donated to the IWK Health Centre Foundation in memory of Baby Adam Douglas DeChamp (October 17, 2009). In 2010, the donation was $2 per item, and this year it may be different, but the details will be announced on the FaceBook page at the end of September.
Thank you for participating with my interview series. I also keep a sketch book of designs :).