Donna Millard is an Internationally known lampwork artist living in the northwoods area of Wisconsin. She has been working with various forms of glass for more than 25 years.
Tell us how you got started with lampworking?
I got started in lampworking right after I moved to Alaska in 2001. Anchorage has a huge outdoor “market” every weekend during the summer months with well over 300 vendors. It was there I saw my first lampwork beads. I fondled them, lol, as I could not believe what I was seeing. Flowers inside a glass bead??? How could that be? So I asked if there were classes offered and there were so I signed up for one. The rest is history. It wasn’t until 6 months later that I was able to get my own equipment set up and by then I’d forgotten everything I learned in that initial class. I consider myself self taught as, really I am. Years and years of practice before ever taking another class.
Your style is just beautiful and so distinctive! How did your style develop over the years and what inspires it?
Inspiration I suppose initially came from my environment. Much of my work has an organic and unrealistic feel to it. This comes from years I spent living in remote Alaska, a place as organic and wild as can be. It’s like taking a walk on the wild side when gazing into some of my beads.
I oftentimes don’t set out knowing exactly what my work is going to look like, but I am most comfortable watching where the glass and flame take me, much like being in a trance. If other people end up liking my work, it’s an added bonus. I am not saying this is the best and only way to approach creation, it’s just the way I work and produce best, and I’ve discovered through my own experience that my work speaks most clearly when I let it speak on its own.
Do you have any special projects you’ve been working on lately?
I really don’t have any special projects I’m working on at any given time. I don’t have time. My days are allocated to producing beads to sell. It’s my life and how I support myself. I’m single, this is my income and pays my bills. I have to say though, it would be heaps of fun to collaborate on a piece with someone. And occasionally I have visions of something I’d like to do one day but I need to better
develop my glass sculpting skills first. But I would very much enjoy making a totem series that reflects my love for, and time I spent in Alaska.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own creative business?
Advice….work hard, if you are serious about making a living with your art you need to dedicate your life to it. Become the best artist you can by refining your skills and creating a unique niche in your medium. Interact with your customers, they love it! Be kind, considerate and transparent. And do not mix your personal life with your business life especially on social media.
How do you like to wind down after a day in the studio?
After a day in the studio and depending on the time of year, I’m out with my dogs on a hike or snowshoeing. I finally bought a kayak this late spring and I’m really loving my time on the water in the afternoons when I’m done working. And I do enjoy creating a piece of jewelry now and then during my off time. I travel to Alaska once a year to re-charge my batteries. I work 7 days a week for months on end and I need to get away to get those creative juices flowing again. When I am up there you’ll find me hiking in remote regions, only accessible by boat or plane, camera in tow, snapping photo’s like a mad woman. Photography is my 2nd love.
Where can we find out more about you and purchase your work?
Facebook – Donna Millard Art Glass
Website – FyreBeadz
Etsy – Donna Millard
Erin Prais-Hintz creates one-of-a-kind pieces that capture emotions and reflect the personality, history and passions of their owners.
Tell us a little about you and your business, how it came to be what it is today, where did it all begin?
The name of my company is Tesori Trovati which is Italian for ‘treasures found’. I started making jewelry as more than just a hobby back in 2006. At that time my college roommate had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a vision of making a charm bracelet with a variety of healing gemstones on it all wire wrapped. Of course, I had no idea which gemstones and I had never done a wire wrapped dangle, but that didn’t stop me. I knew from that moment on that I loved making things that had a sense of purpose, told a story or exuded positivity. The first piece I ever submitted to a magazine in 2008 was selected and from there things just kept on going strong, including appearances in books and magazines, winning contests and writing for blogs, like my favorite Art Bead Scene (www.artbeadscene.com). In 2010 I had a very successful collaborative art exhibit at our local art gallery named Gallery Q. It was called ‘Inspired by…’ where I took my love of art and art beads sparked by Art Bead Scene. Seven Gallery Q artists gave me eleven works of art which I sent pictures to thirteen different bead artists around the world and invited them to create whatever inspired them. I had not quite two months to make the collection of 78 art-bead-filled creations for this unique collaborative exhibit. Later that year I decided that I wanted to challenge myself to come up with a line of components that I would like to use in my own creations and the Simple Truths were born. Simple Truths are whimsical polymer clay creations set in metal bezels colored in a bright but soft color palette born of inks, stains and paint and then sealed. Many of the Simple Truths include a message. The very first ones that I made were selected by the Beads 2011 publication as well as gracing the cover of Stringing Summer 2011. I continue to morph that line into an ever-changing set of hand-made components that are sold to designers around the world. This year is the 5th anniversary of the Gallery Q and we just opened up the collaborative exhibit that I suggested called ‘Brought to You by the Letter Q’ that features over 40 pieces of artwork, each with a hidden ‘Q’ in it. I am very proud of collaborative efforts and look forward to doing more!
What inspires your creativity and style?
Color is a huge influence for me! I have been described as a ‘color addict’ and I have taken that passion to a monthly color palette challenge on the Halcraft blog (www.halcraft.com/blog) as well as my highly anticipated Challenge of Color blog hop each November. 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of that blog hop! I will have to do it up big this time!
My sense of design has evolved over the years. I started out with just simple patterned necklace but quickly got bored with that so I started pulling together looks that included found objects, repurposed materials and even hardware store finds. That is where the name ‘Tesori Trovati’ developed, as a way to name my line of found object jewelry. But the name soon became synonymous with everything I made, so it sort of stuck! I like to say that each piece I make is a treasure waiting to be found by the right wearer and it makes me so happy when people tell me that what I created feels like it was made just for them.
I am hugely influenced by nature, architecture, music, world cultures and poetry. The poetry and my childhood crush on Mary Engelbreit and her whimsical illustrations paired with heart-felt quotes inspired my Simple Truths line.
What do you regard as the most rewarding/frustrating/ aspect of your work?
Creating something from nothing is a huge rush for me. However, there has to be a back story to every piece that I make. I have to be inspired by something. Sure, I can crank out pretty jewelry made with pretty beads, but if it doesn’t tell a story then it is not infused with life and is therefore rather hollow to me. Fortunately, there is no shortage of inspiration!
The most frustrating aspect is that there is no shortage of inspiration! I only have a very limited number of hours in each day to create – I usually say that this is my 9-midnight foolishness – so I have to be choosy. I have so many ideas and would love to work more with metal (every single class I ever take is devoted to metal work in some way), crafting each piece in my art jewelry by hand, but I often have to sacrifice a fully hand-made piece to one that completes my vision in the limited time I have.
You create both jewelry and components, which do you prefer?
Jewelry is where I got my start so it is really what I love to create. I love the meditative effect of going to my bead cabinet (or bead bowls or bead bins or bead bags – truly, I have a sickness!) and finding just the right art bead to start the process. From there I love to put together unexpected color combinations, play with textures and shapes, mix metals and materials, and make a piece that has a life of its own.
From the moment that I started making my Simple Truths, I loved them! Originally, I had the idea that there would be no two alike, but that became hard to sustain. Now I only
make limited runs of the pieces that I make so that keeps them special and helps me to never settle for boredom.
I love to come up with new pieces to add to my Simple Truths line. I try to stick to items that I would like to use and not so focused on following trends, but sometimes I get lucky, like with my new ‘Wanderlust’ series. These tribal-influenced pieces are perfect for the gypsy soul and I love the bright pops of color that make me feel happy! They feel very retro but also very now.
In 2012 I started offering the Simple Truths Sampler Club. This subscription service is limited to only 20 participants per month and can be purchased in 3-, 6-, 9- or 12-months. Because the participants are few, I get to know them like treasured friends. In 2013, I decided to stretch myself and vowed that I would use the Art Bead Scene art as my inspiration. I think that I have created some of the best Simple Truths from limiting myself to this art. I also challenged myself to find new-to-me methods of working with polymer clay, from creating canes, making reliefs, using gold leaf or carving my own texture plates. I am working right now on both the July Sampler and I am very excited to be bringing this one to life!
What does the term “handmade” mean to you?
To me, handmade is heartmade. Focusing on hand-crafted beads and findings and putting a personal stamp on everything you do, that is what gives a piece the heart. I would love to make all my components (clasps, chain, etc) by hand, but that is not realistic for me at this time and not necessary for me to believe that it is handmade. If it is a design that truly comes from the heart you will know it when you see it!
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Etsy: www.TesoriTrovati.Etsy.com – For one-offs, samples and very limited edition Simple Truths
Web: www.TesoriTrovati.com – for custom, made-to-order Simple Truths and available jewelry
www.ArtBeadScene.com – where I am one of the editors and write weekly posts
www.earrings-everyday.blogspot.com – where I host a montly We’re All Ears challenge on the first and third Fridays of the month
www.halcraft.com/blog – where I host a monthly color palette challenge called Pretty Palettes generally on the first and last Wednesdays of the month, including inviting another blogger to be my Pretty Palettes partner for the month
Where does the name Suburban Girl Studio’s originate from and how were you first introduced to ceramics?
When I first decided I was going to register my business as an LLC I was tossing around names with a friend of mine who is also in the jewelry industry. Her and I just kept coming up with things and bouncing them off of each other. I’ve grown up in the suburbs so when Suburban Girl Studio popped in my head, she agreed that was the one. It seemed very fitting.
I was actually exposed to ceramics early on as it was part of our public school’s art program. I didn’t take a strong interest to it though until I was at Riker Hill Art Park several years ago taking metalsmithing lessons. There was a really nice ceramic studio in the building next to us. I signed up with a friend and after a few rounds of making some pottery I decided I’d just make beads. I haven’t stopped making them since!
I just love your little funny face beads! They’re so full of expression! Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?
Thank you! The funny face line is a result of my weird sense of humor. I’m from north Jersey so I’m full of sarcasm and I think that comes through in those little guys. Aside from that, I’m inspired by nature (especially the ocean), ancient history, Steampunk and random ideas that just pop in my head.
Typically, at the end of a bead-making session I’ll take the last bit of clay and just play. I’ll sit there and poke and prod at it with my tools and just see what happens. This bit of free play has lead to some magic and has also lead to some of the ugliest things I’ve ever created.
Do you have any favourite tools or mediums that you work with?
When it comes to the clay, I stick mostly to the basics. My needle tools, mini cookie cutters and silicone molding compound definitely get a workout. For my jewelry, I LOVE my Lindstrom pliers. They were one of the best birthday gifts I ever received from my parents. They are so easy on my hands and are nice and lightweight. I highly recommend them.
You not only sell your work online, but you sell at some of the biggest bead shows in the USA. Do you prefer one method of selling over others? What are the pros and cons of each?
I love being a vendor at Bead Fest. Meeting my customers in person and hosting the art bead swap are highlights of the show for me. Prior to being a vendor, I remember getting so excited about meeting my favorite artists when I’d attend the show as a consumer. Now that I’m on the other side of the table it’s really thrilling for me. On the flip side, I spend about 3+ months prepping for the show. 3 months in the summer when I’d much rather be outside enjoying the warm weather instead of sitting in a basement churning out beads.
Selling online involves so much extra work because you have to photograph, edit and write listing descriptions. On top of that, I don’t get to actually meet the new people who are purchasing from me. On the other hand, I can watch movies while doing all the work and I don’t have to drive 2+ hours, stay overnight in a hotel and stand for hours upon hours.
Are there any ceramic techniques you’ve yet to try or want to try?
I’d love to take some sculpting and carving classes. There are several places near me that offer workshops but finding the time has been difficult. I just know I can take my work to a whole new level once I get the chance to learn some sculpting and carving techniques.
Could you share a little with our readers about your work setting/studio set up?
The house my husband and I purchased a few years ago has a finished basement and no garage. Because of this, I do all my bead-making at my in-laws house. I have a set-up in their basement and the kilns are all in the garage. The office in my house is filled to the brim with all my supplies for jewelry making, bead storage, mixed-media, etc… We recently cleaned up the small workshop that is attached to our family room so that Colin (my husband) and I can do metalsmithing and lampworking (he dabbles) at home.
What interests do you have outside of creating, how do you like to wind down or chill out?
I enjoy road cycling, cosplay, antiquing, soccer (Go Red Bulls!) and trying as many jewelry techniques as possible. I’ve recently taken to chain maille and am teaching myself several weaves. I’m enjoying it so much that I think I may began to sell finished jewelry again. There’s something about connecting all those tiny rings together that I absolutely love.
Where can we purchase and find out more about your work?
Regular Contributor to Art Jewelry Elements blog: www.artjewelryelements.blogspot.com
Staci Louise Smith is the designer / artist behind Staci Louise Originals and Artisan Accents. She creates all her jewelry and components by hand in her home in South Eastern PA.
Describe your work setting for our readers?
My studio is a small room that I finally converted into a studio about a year ago. I love it, though it is still too small! I had a great time finally calling dibs on a space in the house, so that I could make it totally mine. I put art up that I love, and painted the subfloor so that everytime I go into my studio, I just smile! (unless it has piles of things to put away- which is more often then not). You can read about the room renovation here.
Your work has a distinctive style and creative flair, what or who inspires you?
I find inspiration almost anywhere. It could be a mosaic I saw, a butterfly, an outfit, shoes, a song lyric….who knows. I am most drawn to earth and ancient looks. Most times, I just let the beads design the jewelry. I feel like they just come together as I play. I love hippie and boho fashion though, and often design with some sort of outfit in mind that it would go great with. When I made beads, I just have fun. I get to make whatever comes to mind. I like to play and try new things. Some of them really take off and I adore them, others, not so much. But I just try to go where ever the medium allows me to.
Running a business is hard work, how do you balance work and home life?
I get asked this question all the time. The honest answer, I don’t. Something is always not done. I am always a week behind. I work every minute I can, including weekends and evenings, though I really try to make time for the family. Family and the business are first (cause I enjoy them) and housework comes last. We never have clean socks.
If you had the opportunity to learn a new creative skill, what would you choose?
I would love to make sculptures. Large, welded sculptures in metal and found objects. I’d also love to learn to paint better. I am self taught at painting, and not that good. I want to be able to paint what I see, like I can draw it.
What interests do you have outside of creating?
I enjoy family time, movies, picnics and snuggling. I also love a good art show or museum. I could spend all my time in museums if I had more people to enjoy it with.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
You can find most everything you need at my website
If you like the interactive nature of blogger, you can read my blog here – www.stacilouise.blogspot.com
You can keep up to date daily on facebook
I also write for www.lovemyartjewerly.blogspot.com which is a group of artists who take turns sharing what they know. The goal of our group is to spread the love of handmade.
Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in creating jewellery?
I’m a mother to 2 beautiful daughter’s Fern and Heather and I live in the lovely county of Worcestershire. I’m never more than 5 minutes drive from a lovely bit of countryside. When I have time am a keen walker and gardener. I became interested in jewellery making as a way of calming myself following a difficult and challenging year in my life. I felt the need to embark on a creative outlet and learn a new skill. I started with steampunk and gothic creations and quickly found my love of all things tribal.
Your work has a distinctive, primitive style, what or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by nature and I collect pine cones, leaves and stones. When I go on holiday I bring back loads of shells and drift wood. Currently I’m getting some serious inspiration from the work of English designer Lucienne Day, her textiles have so much detail in them and gorgeous palettes. I’m also a huge fan of Tracy DiPiazza www.etsy.com/uk/shop/pipnmolly. I love how she uses solder, not just as a means of holding metal together, but as a designer element in itself, giving her work such a distinctive edge. I love the wonderous creations of Fanciful Devices and her willingness to share techniques.
Describe your work setting for our readers? [pullquote-left]I became interested in jewellery making as a way of calming myself following a difficult and challenging year in my life.[/pullquote-left]
I work from my little spare room and I have a metal table for my making area. I use clear plastic tubs that I’ve secured to the walls to hold my small tools, wires and patinas. I have an old Ikea wall shelving unit that holds more tubs and bowls with all my beading goodies.
If you had the opportunity to learn a new creative skill, what would you choose?
I would really love to learn wax carving and how to metal cast. I’m currently developing my skills in using a jewellery’s saw and I love how it opens up more design possibilites.
Who are your favourite artists, designers and makers?
I could write a book on all the wonderful artists and artisans I love. I’ve been very fortunate to have become great friends with Lucie of LucieTales and I love the elegant lines in her work and the layering of textured metals. I’m also a big fan girl of Petra of ScorchedEarthonEtsy who I also got to meet this summer, she’s so friendly. She is the queen of primitive style, rich glazes and boundless imagination. Jana of HappyFishThings has such a great flair with colour and design. Kim of Numinosity and her crusty creations are stunning. I do wax lyrical about other artists because I strongly believe in supporting other artisans and using hand crafted beads and components. I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted when I say how much it adds to my designs to be able to use beads created by the like of Ragged Robyn and Grubbi.
What interests do you have outside of creating?
I’m a keen sewer. For my daughter’s recent wedding I made a flower girl dress and my dress and hat. In truth I chose to make my own outfit rather than having to wear the hideous mother of the bride dresses in the shops!
Finally, where can we learn more about you and your work?
You can find out more about me and my work following the links below.