13 May 2011

Arts & Upstarts: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Hammerstroke & Fire

Wendy Edsall-Kersin

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
Jewelry artist and metalsmith

Hammerstroke & Fire
"Using a hammer and a torch, I create metal art and jewelry focusing on textures and connections."
Started: 2004

What type of business do you run and why did you decide to start it? 

Basically, my business is the selling of my art — jewelry and metalsmithing (though I’ve recently added peripheral projects). I went to art school and decided then that this is what I wanted to do for a living. It turned out to be much different than I thought it would be, based on my academic experience.

I originally took time off from my art after I finished college but came to realize that I’d never be happy unless I was working with metal. I’ve slowly been working up to my business being full time.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin: Eye of Kali
ARTIST: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Eye of Kali collar, sterling silver, flaming Lake Superior agate

How do you balance your business with your own art practice?

This is always a tough balance. I like to work in the studio at least two hours at a time, so I block off specific afternoons as “studio days.” That being said, I would say that about 80% of my time is spent outside the studio working on the business side to my art. I hope that this will change somewhat as I become more established and can hire people to do the more mundane tasks.

This doesn’t mean that I will forgo studio time just because I have computer work to do. If I have an idea that I’m itching to get done, I’ll leave the non-studio work until later. Of course that means it gets backed up and I’ll have to spend extra time working on it later. It’s like a see-saw — you’re never evenly balanced, but you spend the same amount of time up as you do down.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin: Scale pendant
ARTIST: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Scale pendant, sterling silver, peridot, nipomo marcasite agate

What has been the biggest challenge in running your business? And, what has been the greatest outcome?

The biggest challenge for me has been finding the right people and places. It’s hard when you’re starting out to know what shows or galleries would be a good fit and what sort of people will be attracted to your style of work. And when people offer you opportunities, it’s so hard to turn them down without an alternative, even if they seem wrong. Once you do begin to understand where you fit in, the challenge becomes actually getting into those kinds of venues.

The greatest outcome, so far, has been finding those people who do love my work. I’ve been running into people at shows who have made special trips to visit my booth. There have been people who seek me out at multiple shows (and bring friends!) and others who know me on-line that I get to meet in person. This is how I know that I’m doing the right things and that eventually all my hard work will pay off.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin: Memory and Shadow
ARTIST: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Memory & Shadow, Super Bowl III, bronze, nickel

What do you wish you knew before starting your business that you have learned now?

How much time I would have to spend not making my art in order to actually sell my art. Also, I should’ve thought about teaching sooner.

What key piece of advice would you give to other artists who want to follow in your footsteps?

Learn to move outside your comfort zone. This works for art, life and marketing. If you only do what is easy and comfortable for you, you’ll never grow. There are so many opportunities out there, but you have to actively look for them. If you are afraid of speaking, force yourself to do it anyway. Start small and local so that you can eventually talk in front of whole rooms of strangers. You don’t want to deny yourself ways to sell your work, meet connections or learn new things because you’re too scared. Just go work for someone else if that’s going to keep you from doing things.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin: Silver Triangle Ring
ARTIST: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Silver Triangle with Gold Disk ring

In what ways are your artistic vision and entrepreneurial spirit connected?

I’ve lately come to realize that my best marketing has been through the connections I’ve made on-line, through local networking groups and among the art community. My art has also become increasingly about connections (this time the literal kind) — about showcasing how the different elements come together to make a whole. For me I’ve finally realized how to look and see the strands of the web and just how strong they are.

ARTIST: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Wall Piece #2, nickel, copper, brass

What's new and upcoming from you and your business?

Lately I’ve come to realize that the greatest number of readers at my blog are other metalsmiths. I decided to use this info and market some non-jewelry things to them. I started a line of hammer-related merchandise at Zazzle.com, and I’ve been diligently working on my Better Know Your Hammer book based on my most popular blog posts. I’ve also begun teaching workshops over the past year.

Art wise, I’ve finally started working on some wall pieces. I’ve wanted to make some for a while now and I finally figured out some ideas to get me started. I’m excited about working on these and lately that’s mostly what I’ve been doing.

Learn more about Wendy:
Hammerstroke & Fire
Hammermarks Blog

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