Shop Now: http://EclecticMetalsmith.etsy.com
1. Tell us a little about you and your background. Are you a full time designer or do you also have a “regular” job?
My name is Cheryl Bibeau and I took my first metalsmith class as a way to spend quality time with my college age daughter, Danielle. After two classes together, metals became irresistible and I have continued classes and working with metal ever since. Of all the metals, I find copper warm and ever changing. I can make it soft and malleable; I can make it strong and supportive. As a full-time coppersmith, copper and I are still learning all that we can do together.
My central Massachusetts studio is where I form the etched copper into a variety of jewelry and useful items. Especially enjoyable is creating new designs for cuff bracelets, and rings.
I call my current classes “banging on copper”. With hammers, metal can move into curves and a variety of shapes. Patterns and designs can be hammered onto the metal as well. It will be interesting to see where these new techniques lead me. The possibilities seem endless.
2. What led you to choose your company name, Eclectic Metalsmith? Is there any hidden significance?
When customers hear or see my company name, I want them to have an idea of what to expect from me. Metalsmith was easy. What needed thought was an adjective that is interesting and, as my skills continue to develop, would allow me to grow and create in ways I haven’t even thought of yet. I love creative problem solving. Eclectic explains how I work to solve a problem. In taking a taking a variety of what may seem unrelated ideas, I can create something extraordinary. My tag line then became “Metals in Extraordinary Designs”.
3. What led you to start designing jewelry? Did you attend school to learn your craft, or are you “self-taught”?
I have been crafting since I crocheted my doll, “Jiffy Ann” at the age of nine. From there I learned a number of fiber arts from knitting, to sewing, and a variety of needlecraft skills. I was generally taught the basics and then as I became more proficient, I began experimenting and learning on my own. In central Massachusetts, we have the Worcester Center for Crafts, where the public can develop themselves in several craft areas. Classes, workshops, and seminars cover all skill levels from beginner through professional. My first formal craft classes were in woodworking. When I wanted to spend time with my daughter, I thought that she would prefer to make some jewelry – so I signed us both up for the beginning jewelry class. Now after several years of metalsmithing, I am taking some of the advanced classes.
4. What inspires you to create? Describe your design process.
I feel excited by seeing or picking up something unusual and asking myself, “What can I do with this?” The possibilities start rolling around in my mind and a visual picture begins to form. As I begin to pull together the parts to make my vision real, I continually revise that image so that in the real world my jewelry is comfortable, beautiful, and durable.
5. What is your personal style and how is that reflected in your designs? What is your favorite material to work with? What is your favorite color?
I like simple, basic forms. Those forms become interesting and unique by adding an unusual twist in the design. For instance, my cuff bracelets begin as a simple sheet of metal. What is unusual is the technique of etching the metal and the wide variety of designs that I offer. In fact, if a customer has a black and white line design, I can etch that custom design onto copper, brass, bronze, and even silver.
I love copper because it is so versatile. In its softer annealed state, I can move the metal in many ways. As I hammer it, it becomes stronger and less flexible. By hammering it longer, I can make it hard enough that bending the metal could cause it to crack. Some techniques are less practical for use with silver or gold. For instance, chemicals used to etch copper (also brass and bronze) stain and can be irritating to the skin, but they are otherwise relatively safe to handle. Improperly handled, the strong nitric acid required for silver and the even stronger acid for gold can explode causing third degree burns.
Copper also has many faces. When it is clean, bright, and shiny, it is a lovely warm pink color. With natural oxidation, the warm pink begins to take on orange overtones. There are many color-shifts as the pink becomes a coral color then a salmon color followed by a darker orange and the metal’s surface settles into a warm brown patina. Silver polish or ketchup (or any salty acidic paste or fluid) easily removes the patina and the copper is bright, shiny, and pink again.
While I like a wide variety of bright and warm colors, not surprisingly, my favorite colors are coral, salmon, and warm pink. Lime green, bright yellow, and tomato red are great too.
6. Pop culture trends; do you love them and follow them, or do you loathe them and do your own thing? Do you follow the color forecasts?
My work is a little more traditional than something that goes in and out of style as quickly as pop culture trends. At times, I will add a variation of pop culture to a design to add that unexpected touch. Most of us are influenced to some degree by the world around us and pop culture is a fun part of that world.
I find that I am always looking for a color that I can’t find….until next year. Therefore, while I don’t follow color forecasts, I do find that I’m slightly ahead of the curve. I do my own thing in the sense that I work with metals and colors that I like. Therefore, I am far more likely to make something using warm colors like yellow and salmon rather than cool blues. That is also why I enjoy working in copper and rarely work in silver.
7. Describe your clientele.
My clientele comes from a wide variety of age groups and both sexes. They are generally looking for traditional designs with an interesting flair. What they all have in common is an appreciation for finely crafted metal.
8. Can one ever have too much jewelry?
One never has enough jewelry! Jewelry can complete the plainest outfit and it can show how you feel that day. A lovely piece of handcrafted art puts a smile on my face and in my heart each time I look at it. If I am wearing that handcrafted art, I’m smiling all day and/ or night. The more jewelry the more smiles…and I really like to smile.
9. What led you to join Etsy.com? What led you to join the Art Jewelry Collective? What are your goals for the Collective?
Last summer I was beginning my business and developing my selling strategy. I discovered Etsy.com accidentally through a totally unrelated Google search. I looked at different items and shops, read the forums, and learned more about Etsy. Several hours later, I opened my shop. Since I began selling on Etsy, I have met many wonderful artists online. I have even met a few in person!
As a business owner, I realize that to be successful, I have to manage my business. As wonderful as Etsy.com is, I can’t list things on my site and expect Etsy to find my customers for me. Nor can they make customers buy my jewelry. As anyone who shops at Etsy.com knows, there are hundreds of thousands of wonderful handcrafted items available. By joining the Art Jewelry Collective, I work with other like-minded artisans in trying to reach out to customers who are looking for the unusual where design and handcrafting bring jewelry to the level of art.
10. What are your personal/business goals? Any New Years resolutions? Where do you see yourself in 1 month, 1 year, 10 years?
I’m a big believer in “there is no time like the present” and waiting for New Year’s resolutions doesn’t work for me. I have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of months developing the inventory, displays, and sales tools to give my daughter the ability to represent my jewelry as she travels the west coast for the next year or so. Shops and boutiques in Arizona, Nevada, and California may contact her at Danielle@eclecticmetalsmith.com if they are interested in carrying my designs in their shops.
In the next few months, I will be building the wholesale side of my business. In a year or so, I hope to have enough income to afford to start paying myself a small salary, which is tough for most start-up businesses. Within in 5 years I’d like to bring Danielle into the Eclectic Metalsmith full time and hope to grow the business large enough to support both of us.
11. Do you have any tips for independent business owners or designers just starting out? How much time does it take to run a successful business? Any tips for selling jewelry online and in person? Do you have any regrets or recommendations?
Joining Etsy.com and participating in the Etsy community are wonderful ways to start out. A shop at Etsy is a low risk, low cost investment. The community is a wonderful place to learn. Advice is to be had on all aspects of selling on and off line, pricing, advertising strategies and, well, just about any information that a business of one needs. Within the Etsy forum, all kinds of questions are asked and answered by Etsians from all over the world. The forum is where I met the Art Jewelry Collective artisans.
How much time it takes to run a successful business really depends upon your business goals. The hobbyist who only has a shop on Etsy may only spend an hour or two a week photographing, listing, and shipping sold items. For those of us who work full time to start building our businesses, there aren’t enough hours in the day or week! If you read the following question, you will know why!
12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Do you have any other talents? What else do you do besides designing jewelry?
In my past life, I was a product manager for a couple of large companies selling lab products to life science researchers. Product managers run businesses within large companies by being responsible for a group of the company’s products. As the owner, designer, and artisan of the Eclectic Metalsmith, I am now all of the company areas that I worked with as a Product Manager. As a person who loves variety and wearing many hats, “Me, Myself and I” find being Purchasing, Research and Development, IT, Manufacturing, Quality Control, Technical Support, Sales, Marketing, Accounting, Advertising, Administration, and in charge of the Mail Room interesting and challenging. In addition, while “I” has a difficult reach to pat “Myself” on the back for a job well done, the short commute is great and the only meetings to attend are in my mind.
13. Lastly, where can one purchase your designs? What are the price ranges? What are your three favorite pieces in your Etsy.com shop, and why are they your favorites?
The easiest place to purchase my designs is http://ElcecticMetalsmith.etsy.com. I also attend craft shows in the Massachusetts area. My website (www.EclecticMetalsmith.com) is currently under construction. When completed, it will provide customers with information about my jewelry, techniques, newest designs, copper, and me. Before they buy, most people like to see, touch, and try on jewelry, so my site will list the online as well as and brick-and-mortar boutiques where my items are sold. People in central Massachusetts can also see my designs at the Worcester Center for Crafts Gallery Gift Shop.
My designs are available in a wide range of prices. Etched cuff rings start at ten dollars (USD) and my most expensive one-of-a-kind designs (OOAK in artisan lingo) with cabochons that I have cut from rough stone can be over one hundred dollars. Due to their affordable price, my most popular items are the etched cuff bracelets and earrings. These jewelry items generally run between twenty and thirty dollars.
I purposely chose and modified the etching design for my Celtic Dragon Cuff Bracelet to emphasize the dragon’s interesting shape. With my jeweler’s saw (similar to a coping saw and is used the same way), I hand cut around the entire outside edge of the design. I then hand file the edges so that the metal is smooth and won’t catch fabric or the wearer’s skin as they enjoy wearing it. The shape is so interesting and eye catching.
Pop culture influenced my Blacklight Bar Earrings. Over the web, I researched durable finishes for copper. I came across a finish that fluoresces under black lights. My “What can I do with it?” immediately kicked in and the ideas began to flow. The two earring styles on Etsy are just the beginning of a whole line of fun jewelry that wearers can wear all day and dazzle all night. I just wish R&D had a few more hours in a day. Photographing the earrings is a difficult hurdle. As my daughter says, the photographs do not do the jewelry justice. She beams (no pun intended) when she wears a pair of the earrings to a party.
I love free form cabochons. The art in hand cutting a cabochon is to cut it in a size and shape that make the natural designs and colors in the rough stone come alive. I purchased this jasper already cut in this simple and interesting shape. The way the lapidary artist cut the stone to emphasize the brown color flowing into the grey green area is just beautiful. This stone “asked” to be set in a clean bezel setting. The bail needed to be minimal as well and the simple coil of a patterned half-round wire adds the right amount of interest. If you wore this pendant, you would see many smiles around you. That would include your smile as you put it on and looked at yourself in the mirror.
I hope you have enjoyed the story of the Eclectic Metalsmith.
the Eclectic Metalsmith
Editing and Graphic Design: Kelli DeNise Coaxum