Meet the Mentor: Porcelain & Stone

This is part of an ongoing Maker Mentors guest blog series that features interviews with established makers.  Join the updates or recommend a maker for the blog.

What does your business do? I create fine porcelain jewelry in pairing with 22k gold or 14k gold-filled metals.

When did you start your business? Fall of 2012.

What kind of work were you doing before you started your business? Architecture as well as Environmental Consulting on building projects as a LEED AP.  Additionally, I used to work at an engineering company when I first graduated.  There I was a Multimedia Visualizations Developer, so I created VIA (Visual Impact Assessments) essentially, worst case scenarios for communities to see a project before it received approval from the town and zoning.  I used to work a lot in 3D graphics and animation.  Then, I eventually got into photography and started my own business on the side: Tiny Photo Studio.  I continued to shoot as a pro-photographer late into Fall of 2012 as I finished up the last few shoots and cleaned my plate of the photo service work!

What was the biggest challenge in getting started? Mentally, accepting that I could try and do it.  I had always been sculpting and loved doing it for myself.  I worried that I would start and nothing would come of it.  The biggest challenge was the worry of not knowing what I was doing, but once you let yourself get over that and realize there are no true rules…things settle into a nice rhythm.

What product are you most proud of? I’m very proud of the Harbor Chain Porcelain Necklace, along with the Crescent Yoke Statement Necklace.  Both items are rather substantial and large, but I found a way to pair them with a beautiful and safe 14k gf metal that doesn’t bother my super sensitive skin and adds a lovely and lasting gold shine.

How did you find your first few customers? Purely as a friendly accident.  My first customers after launching my re-branded business was from two wholesale customers.  I was taking my first week long vacation from work…(I learned about wholesale for a year with Taza Chocolate — which is another story that goes into a tech start-up business I founded with another partner.  We grew the product, did well and had venture interest, but eventually lost steam…blah blah blah!)…and was just wandering around to finely checkout some local boutiques and figure out how my jewelry would fit into the scene since it was just so unusual and many strangers would just out right tell me such things as they passed by me at a lunch deli or in a restaurant while waiting to grab some seating with friends.

Strangers would just come up to me and ask what I was wearing around my neck (men and women) simply because it looked so different.  My typical penchant for wanting to look different and having something less mainstream and trendy in style seemed to be having its own moment as I learned more about my skin allergies and pH and became more comfortable with working with larger pieces.


NECKLACES AND PENDANTS ON ARTFIRE


What marketing tactics have been most successful for you? Instagram was one of my first self-assigned daily rituals.  I didn’t see it as marketing at first, but simply as a way to share one image a day that made me proud and reminded me of what I had accomplished for the day.  But, it has morphed into this wonderful shared outlet now, to communicate what happens in the studio daily as well as interact with awesome folks out in the world living their curated lives.

Who are three creatives that inspire you? Three creatives that inspire me…gosh!  I can look at a programmer and simply be inspired by their drive and motivation to create.  I’m easily inspired by a sauce or mud splatter, so this is tricky!  From a business standpoint, I am certainly inspired by Megan Auman with her namesake business of jewelry and other beautiful goodies.  I adore Tortus Copenhagen with his graceful creations of thrown vessels and visual storytelling.  Finally, I’m inspired by those few and far between folks that have the courage to start something new and never visually achieved in the world as of yet.  They are making something they are willing to test and scrap.  Because even designing something beautiful is not enough.  Maybe it isn’t perfectly suited for the final intended use.

I come from a design background, so in Architecture there is a lot of research involved in parallel to how you design for the human-scale.  It is not enough to fall in love with your design work, but you have to be a strong enough artist and designer to toss it out of the scope.  Just because you can execute something, doesn’t make it right to do or particularly right for any one project.  I love and admire those designers that think smart and stick to reaching for the highest quality of work and sourcing materials responsibly.

What does a typical day look like for you? Mornings are spent catching up on emails, shooting photos and getting shipping done before 1pm.  After that, I’ll hit the studio and fulfill upcoming orders and prep and sculpt for line items getting low in stock.  Mid-afternoon if my mind needs a break from production I’ll play around with experiments I had in the back of my head.  Check and respond to emails, shoot photos if I love the lighting (I always love the lighting)…and try to stay on top of being organized in a ceramic/jewelry studio.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your business? I wish I had known how much fun I would be having even as scary as it seemed.  I never intended to start my collection of small businesses when I was growing up.  While I had always enjoyed making and ahem, trying to sell things when I was little: i.e. Crayola markers scribbled over scrap dot-matrix paper from my Dad’s store that I then dunked in water, thus, “inventing” my own water-dyed look.

Then “laminating” with huge clear tape and selling at 25 – 50 cents for our school field trips.  Since fully launching Porcelain and Stone, I have never felt more at ease with myself.  It’s the perfect environment for me to meet other like-minded friendly folks and take control of growing a product based design business.  Pulling in the reigns can be an issue, but things are going to get done if you set out to reach those goals.

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