Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paige Smith

Graduating Year: 1993
Occupation: Web / Product Designer

When did you start working on these jewelry holders?
 In 2005, I took a three-month sabbatical from my job at Critical Mass. After working there for several years, I felt the need to take a break to recharge my batteries — both on a personal and professional level. I did some traveling, worked in my sketchbook and explored new projects. It was very liberating to allow myself the creative freedom to play and explore my ideas without having to worry about going to work on Monday morning!

Where did the idea/inspiration come from? 
I am a very tactile person and enjoy making things with my hands. I also love going to the flea market and collecting all kinds of objects and trinkets — vintage buttons, photographs, journals, and lots more! Initially, I started collecting orphaned china saucers for their beautiful colors and patterns. I have always been inspired by the idea of salvaging something old and transforming it into something ‘new’ and functional. So now, instead of holding a teacup, the saucer becomes a pretty place where you can keep your jewelry.

Have there been challenges in creating them? 
In the beginning, I was using found parts — in addition to the saucers — to create the jewelry holders. It was a challenge to find sufficient amounts of raw materials. Eventually, I sourced out suppliers for the metal parts, which also helps to maintain a consistent look in the overall design. In the future, I would like to go wholesale but that will require reducing the overall costs of the materials dramatically. You have to keep dreaming, so you may as well dream big! But as a small manufacturer, I don’t have the manpower or financial resources yet to buy materials in large quantities. So, for now, my only challenge is finding enough saucers to keep making ring holders.

What are the challenges in marketing them? This year, I have focused on creating collateral materials and establishing a brand. In building the business, I acquired additional stores to carry my work on consignment, participated in a 3-day craft show, created an online store through etsy and started accepting customized orders. I created marketing materials which included postcards, a web site and a blog. Although I have the channels in place, the challenge is still in getting exposure. (Hopefully this blog will help!)

What are the creative rewards? 
To balance out my corporate work, I have been yearning for something that was truly fulfilling on a personal level for many years. Working for a large company, it is easy for the individual person to get lost in the collective whole. So, the main creative reward that I have is the pride and passion that I feel for this creative endeavor and which is something I can call my own. Plus, it gives me a break from being in front of the computer all day long!

You’ve been working at Critical Mass for ten years, as have many other grads. Can you describe if and how these former students have influenced the creative culture at Critical Mass? 
Every designer brings something different to the table. So over time, as people come and go, the energy is constantly shifting.

Are there any similarities between your creative process in creating these ring holders and working as a designer at Critical Mass?
I would say that my creative process is basically the same no matter what the final form of the outcome is. The only difference is that working at Critical Mass is a team effort, while working on the ring holders is a solo (and sometimes lonely) effort. 

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for students? 
I guess wisdom really does not come from knowing what you are doing, but rather learning from your mistakes while trying to figure out what you are doing! So do not be afraid to make mistakes — because you will make them and that is O.K. It is the only way you learn.

I believe it is important to keep a sketchbook. This does not have to be just another ‘chore’. Just because the word sketchbook has the word ‘sketch’ in it, does not mean you have to draw at all. I most certainly don’t! Instead, my sketchbooks are a place to collect snippets and tidbits of pretty much everything that I find inspiring — magazine clippings, postcards from an art gallery, swatches of fabric or trim, examples of work from other artists, random thoughts and ideas… name it!