Jewelry artist Christine Keller of Chrizart Creations is a passionate entrepreneur. She talks about launching a full-time craft business.
ABI: What inspired you to go full-time recently as an artist?
CK: Despite working a high-stress, 40 plus hour per week job, I had great success building my side business, acquiring eighteen in-state galleries and shops to carry my work. Inspired by this early success, I was determined to expand beyond West Virginia’s borders. As I was past fifty, I knew that now was the time to take a chance on myself. I walked away from a secure job in the middle of a bad economy to pursue jewelry making full-time. It was scary but failure was not an option.
If something didn’t work, I did not look on it as having failed but rather as a learning experience. I celebrate the things that do work and try to build upon them. So much of having a successful business depends on a great attitude and judicious time management.
ABI: Tell us about the different collections you are creating.
CK: I have four collections that I am currently working on. My Light as a Feather anodized aluminum wire line is fun, colorful, and very affordable for all types of retailers. Each ring, earring, bangle, brooch, and pendant is different from the next. The second line is Funky-Chunky Copper, consisting of hand-cut, textured, patinaed, sanded and polished jewelry of mixed metals – primarily copper, transformed into affordable works of art.
We offer pendants, earrings, and wrist cuffs. This line has really started to explode! Each piece is again, one-of-a-kind. The third line is Solidly Silver– smithed pieces, chiefly of sterling silver, sometimes incorporating wire wrapping techniques as well.
These may have gorgeous, hand-selected gemstones, or handmade glass/pottery ‘geodes’ set into rings, pendants, and earrings, again one-of-a-kind. The fourth line is Storied Pieces, each collectible piece recorded/numbered and accompanied by a short story and bio.
ABI: How do you balance your production work and one-of-a-kind jewelry?
CK: Even my production work is one-of-a-kind. Take for example the hand wrapped anodized rings. Though they are my lowest price point ($5 wholesale), all are unique. Lower end does not mean lower quality; it just means more affordable materials and less time per piece.
Because volume is key, I am building the lower-end aluminum line into a cottage industry. I utilize my talented daughter and daughter-in-law to aid in its production. Doing this frees me to concentrate on my more substantial lines and to continue to evolve as a silver and copper smith.
ABI: What’s been your experience with trunk shows?
CK: I love doing trunk shows for my galleries! It gives me a chance to meet the people who appreciate my work. It keeps my perspective fresh and I often gather new ideas from talking to customers. The other big advantage is that for the limited time I’m set up, I can show a bigger part of the collections than any one gallery usually has in stock.
It gives the owners a chance to see it all first hand and to hear customers’ feedback. It removes the stress from the owner of wondering how something will be received, giving them the confidence to try something new. Not everything I offer is a fit for every shop, but there is something for everyone in what I do.