Paula Jerome has a successful business as a jeweler, and a fascinating story to tell about how she created a huge opportunity for herself this year.
ABI: How did you get started in this business?
PJ: I graduated college with a BSN, and worked in nursing about ten years but always felt something was missing. I changed careers and opened a travel agency. It was exciting, but I still didn’t feel a real passion for it.
In 2000, at age 51, I took a class at a local bead store on how to make earrings. I made one pair of earrings and I was hooked! I had found my passion! I got catalogues from Fire Mountain Gems and Rio Grande and studied them every night for about a year, until I learned all the terms and how-tos of beading jewelry.
In 2002 I moved to Ashville, North Carolina. Asheville has a strong artist community and I knew I would be able to thrive there.
While in Asheville, I did well with selling one-of-a-kind beaded pieces in galleries, but soon realized there was a finite amount of hours that would cap how much I earned. It was when I found out about production work I knew that was the way I wanted to go.
In 2007 I took a year of metalsmithing classes and found the fluidity of silver was able to convey my need for movement in my designs.
My signature “S” curve speaks to this movement signifying “change as a constant” and can be found on most of my pieces. For me, this symbol pays tribute to the energy of life and to who we really are.
During my time in Asheville, I took three Arts Business Institute sessions, twice in Philly and once in Florida. They prepared me very well for what was ahead. I debuted my work during the summer of 2009 at the Buyer’s Market in Philly, moved back to New Jersey in 2010, and haven’t stopped since.
ABI: Tell us about your recent publicity at the Emmy Awards, and how this has affected your business.
PJ: The publicity from the Emmys red carpet has given me a lot of exposure, and has generated a lot of interest, along with increasing future sales. However, I do realize this is only a stepping-stone.
The red carpet was one of my dream goals, and to receive Terence Winter’s (Creator and Executive Producer of “Boardwalk Empire”) awe-inspiring testimonial is something I will always treasure.
My relationship with Mr. Winter began after I gifted him with a pair of the Atlantic City Postcard Cufflinks, (which I designed and debuted before “Boardwalk Empire”), and being the very kind gentleman that he is, he called to thank me.
For me, this business can only be successful by first building a strong foundation, which includes a cohesive body of work, a strong business plan, and excellent branding.
I have found that once this foundation is in place, every brick will be connected to the next brick. Whether it’s clients, galleries, accomplishments, etc., as these bricks build on top of one another, their interconnectedness is the mortar that holds it all together.
ABI: Has this encouraged you to pursue more custom work?
PJ: At Niche the Show, I was approached by a world-famous golf resort. They wanted me to do custom work for them. The experience has been wonderful, so yes, I am encouraged to pursue more wholesale custom work!
ABI: How are you dealing with the fluctuating price of precious metals?
PJ: Ahhhhhhh you had to go there!
Don’t get me started on the volatility of the metals market! I work mostly in silver but I do some work in gold.
I have found that the retail and wholesale prices of gold are impossible to keep up with, so instead of a price on any of my work in gold, my website and wholesale line sheets read “call for prices.” I will calculate my prices on that day’s gold spot when someone calls about any of my work in gold.
As for silver, my caster bills me that day’s silver spot when they ship my castings to me. I have found that silver trends at one price about three to four weeks at a time before a profound change occurs, so I have made spread sheets in 5 dollar silver spot increments for my wholesale and retail prices.
We can make changes to my website and/or wholesale line sheets overnight if need be, and that gives me peace of mind. I also make sure to include a disclaimer about prices being subject to change without notice due to the volatility of the metals market.