Recently on The Studio, I chatted with Eleanore Macnish about her inspiration, evolution as an artist, and approach to glasswork and silversmithing.
Today, Eleanore gives us a tour of her colorful studio and shares some stories about the growth and evolution of her business.
Molly Therese Bell: Your studio is legendary among people who’ve visited it, and I’m hoping to get a peek inside! Will you share a picture or two and tell us about which tools you love the most?
Eleanore Macnish: The best thing about my studio is that it’s more than a work space—it’s also a gathering place for friends! The big French doors open onto the patio and I love having friends over for wine and snacks. Everyone explores the studio, chooses hats, rhinestone sunglasses, and tiaras to wear and has a great time!
As for my tools, the beadmaking tools I always have within arm’s reach include large tweezers, mini mashers, a large wooden-handled marvering paddle, big mashers and thick “chopstick” mandrels. Also, I cannot be without my torch-mounted marver!
My silversmithing tools: You know how sometimes you run across something and you buy it because you think it might be useful? One day I was in Rio Grande’s will-call area and I found a drill press for the flex shaft among the clearance items. I bought it on a whim because I had just purchased a flex shaft and thought it might be useful—also because it was on SALE, so how could I resist?!
That drill press has changed my life. Seriously. I use it for EVERYTHING! It drills, cuts, grinds, buffs, and polishes. And it’s a little scary to think that I only bought it by chance! I am self-taught (with the exception of my two-day class with Kristin Deiner), and with my limited knowledge of silversmithing, I would have encountered so many problems with finishing work in general if I had not had this tool.
I also love my Super Mini Magnetic Finisher. I can just dump a bunch of little silver beads or findings in it and 40 minutes later they’re gleaming; something that would take hours in a tumbler. Worth every penny!
MTB: Tell me why your space works.
EM: I’ve attempted many times to clean up my torch bench area and it always looks like this again within a couple of weeks. But it works because my beads are never planned ahead of time. I start with a base color and then I look at all the glass in front of me and determine which color stripe or dot to add. After new beads have come out of the kiln, I look at them all and refine the designs with regard to color, but initially it is all off-the-cuff! My approach wouldn’t work if I didn’t have everything laid out in front of me!
MTB: How do you market your work?
EM: I only do one bead show per year and rarely sell my beads online because most of them are used in my jewelry pieces.
The things which have proven to be effective are these:
- I write magazine articles for publications like Jewelry Artist Magazine. When you write for publications, your work is included in the contributor’s images.
- I apply to “calls for entry” pages on sites like Lark Crafts (if you friend Lark Crafts on Facebook, they will automatically send you the “calls for entry”) and ISGB (International Society of Glass Beadmakers). Being in juried exhibitions and books is a great way to keep your name out there and is very affordable with the entry fee being the only cost to you.
- I have a list of customers to whom I send emails before my show in Tucson, or when I have new work for sale.
MTB: How do you balance the creation part of your jewelry-making venture with the business side? Do you have any experiences you can share about how you’ve grown to meet the needs of both your creative side and your business side?
EM: I went through a period in which my work was carried by museum shops, stores, and galleries all over the country, including Neiman Marcus, The American Craft Museum in NYC, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and others. With the first few “high end” accounts, I was flattered and excited that they wanted to carry my work. All this growth led me to hire a full-time studio manager and a full-time studio assistant. During the day we would assemble the orders for jewelry. We all had children and were quite happy to work from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. My daughter was about three at the time and she happily toddled around the studio and back yard with my studio assistant’s child—it was lovely! That is, until the evening hours arrived. Each and every night I sat down and made beads from 7:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.
I had unwittingly turned myself into a bead factory! I tried everything to slow things down—I commissioned other bead makers to create the simple beads for me, I raised my prices, but nothing worked. This went on for about a year before I was totally fried.
I finally made the decision that I just couldn’t do it anymore and after that I did not enter my studio for about six months. The stress from being so over-committed literally made my stomach clench every time I even thought about studio work.
My hiatus gave me time to think about what I really wanted to do and helped me know what I definitely DID NOT want to do!
What I learned was that I wanted to experience the joy of designing a different piece of jewelry every time. Production work was not for me.
It was not a scary decision, but a completely authentic one–I knew it was the only way I could continue to work. I was really excited to try it out and see if larger, more intricate (and more expensive) pieces would sell.
Now, five years later, I sell more than I ever did when I was killing myself making what everyone wanted–and I am back to being in love with making jewelry!
Eleanore is represented by Mariposa Gallery in Albuquerque and La Mesa Gallery on Canyon Rd in Santa Fe.