I’ve spent every single Sunday for the past three months working on some detail or another to get the new shop up and running. Today on the list was the installation of the window gate, staining the jambs on my office doors, and the break room door. Well, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans .A week ago Sunday, “life” for most of us came to a standstill as 10 to 16 inches of snow quietly fell, and fell, and fell.
I was determined to get down to the shop at first. Then I realized that the snow was going to come down for hours and I could easily get stranded. I made the “difficult” to give myself a weekend “snow day” to do some sorely needed house projects. Much has been relegated to the low priority list once the shop build-out began.
Much of what was moved out of the old shop was relocated to my basement. It was difficult to even get to my washing machine so I decided to spend the day organizing that space. One project lead to another and soon I found myself sorting the contents of old boxes that had been on my basement shelves since the move out of my home 10 years ago.
I came across a big box of pictures and couldn’t resist the temptation to sit down and look through them. I have never been the photo album type of gal, so the pictures were not in any order, chronological or otherwise. Discovering these forgotten images brought back random, frozen moments in the history of my life.
All were images that I knew so well but that I had not seen for many years. I love to sort and on that snowy day in my basement little piles of pictures started to surround me on the floor. My sorting instincts took over and the categorizing began: High school pictures; sorority fun; ski trips, all grouped and sorted.
Then I came across the picture of my first studio. It was a little desk in the back hallway of my first apartment during college. My first memory of that bench was that if my roommate needed to use the bathroom, I had to get up so she could pass behind me. A very small space!
I came across another studio picture; this one was my bench in Breckenridge, Colorado. I moved there right after college to teach alpine skiing but brought my tools along. Our little A-frame cabin had undependable electricity and infrequent heat so my bench there was pretty primitive space. I remember working by candle light a few times.
When I moved home from Colorado, I moved back to Uptown area of Minneapolis and had a bench in my living room. I was working at Greffin Jewelers as a designer at the time and did my first paid custom job out of that workshop.
Next I found a picture of my first full-time design studio.(see image) It was on Polk Street in Northeast Minneapolis on the second floor of a duplex. My friend Joni and I rented a three-bedroom space and the spare room as my shop. I had become accustomed to working in such small spaces that I remember thinking “what am I going to do with all this space?”
Joni had a lovely dining room table she inherited and I did my design appointments at it during the day while she was at work. This was also the time I started to do craft fairs full time and I recruited Joni and other willing friends to help. “Hey…what ya doin’ this weekend? Wanna help me do a craft fair…you can earn some earrings?”
In 1985 I moved to the artist cooperative Lowertown Lofts. I lived in 900 square feet of open space with my workshop and living space combined. It was one of my most inspiring workspaces overlooking the Mississippi River. The view was incredible but living along with other studio artists working in their lofts was the real treasure at this place.
We would often leave our doors open and wander in and out on each other, checking in on what we were all working on. Many times our work days would roll right into big pot luck dinners. Living in the lofts changed the way I viewed my work. I had always considered myself a craftsman first. But being surrounded by artists made me appreciate the creative freedom my jewelry brought out in me. I became an artist here.
In 1990, I moved back to Northeast Minneapolis. We bought a house and I set up shop in the basement. I was doing the retail craft fair circuit full time which made this little space a busy place. Night and day clients were coming and going. Given the traffic at my house a neighbor approached me with questions as to “what I was up to.”’ (I never did sell her any jewelry – once I told her what I really did for a living, but it was a comfort to know she had her eye on me.)
This studio space has some of my deepest and fondest memories of the rich life of an entrepreneur. When the weather was too lovely to be in the basement, I could wander out to the garden for an extended lunch break. Best of all my clients came into my home. That intimacy brought us closer together as we designed their very important symbols of their love and unity. I formed many, many dear friendships in that basement.
In 2002, the house was just too full…employees, dogs, kids and a whole lot of sporting goods made for a studio that was just too tight to continue growing in. The shop at 18 University Avenue N.E. was a dramatic change in so many ways. The higher profile retail presence provided a brisk design appointment schedule for me. I loved it because it gave me the opportunity to do what I do best…work with clients and design new custom jewelry.
The only drawback was that with that much of my time spent at the design desk and planning the variety of events we threw, my bench hours were limited. I’ve always been a maker of things and need to control every part of my work so the actual construction was a difficult piece to let go. But it seemed the only way to keep up with the work flow and I hired the best jewelers in town to help me. Not only did the quality of my work not suffer, it improved!
In 2012 brought on another change and a shop move. Our new home, like every one of my past studios, is not better but different than the last. The cozy feel of the showroom and workshop being in one space brings the authenticity of our handmade jewelry to the forefront. It invites our visitors to see where it’s made and how it’s made – my clients have always been intimately involved in the process and it was a natural extension of that. The elegance and simplicity of the space is soothing to work in as an individual creative person yet is still invigorating to work together as a group of artisans. And the satisfaction of using the space so efficiently with every inch accounted for feels so manageable while still feeling spacious. We are really beginning to feel at home here.
My “snow day” trip down Memory Lane came to an end when my neighbor unexpectedly plowed my driveway. The trip established what I’ve known all along. That I have always made and continue to make designer jewelry that makes me feel alive and inspired, no matter the workshop I have occupied. I can’t wait to go back down to the shop and get back at my bench because I’m currently working on a secret project to be unveiled next month.
HINT 1: Its a woven project! Being the only craftsman on my team that weaves noble metals, i have not added much new woven work to my collection in the past 5 years but stay tuned…I’m back on the bench and building a new collection of woven work.
HINT 2: I will still weave the worlds most precious and rare materials-24k and pure platinum, BUT there is a new comer that is pure and beautiful and affordable! and the absolute best part is that this new metal is a cooperative delight to weave. I’m in love again!
Thanks for reading my tale and sorry for the cliffhanger ending but the secret project is coming soon and i have tremendous excitement to show you, its my latest, greatest thing!