An Interview with Author and Etsy Artisan, Victoria Tillotson

Victoria Tillotson is a noted Author of a 5 star rated book titled, "Chic Metal: Modern Metal Jewelry to Make at Home', and I was lucky enough to get an interview with her. She's an exceptional metal and gemstone artist as you will find out if you're not familiar with her work already.

How Long Have you been creating your Jewelry?

I started making jewelry about 10 years ago. I started teaching shortly thereafter, and launched my commercial line in 2005.

How long have you been selling online at Etsy?

A couple of years as a sideline to my other revenue streams. I love the creativity and friendship there!

What is the best advice you were given regarding your jewelry business?

Do not over-promise. Never. Ever! You end up looking like an idiot plus people are disappointed. MUCH better to under-promise and over-deliver.

What are you working on right now?

I'm actually making a marked departure from jewelry and am partnering with a breast cancer survivor to create a book and website to assist women with aesthetic issues while undergoing treatment. The jewelry industry is very tough. VERY. You here "no" a lot from jewelry buyers, boutiques, editors, etc. It's so nice to take a break from that cutthroat world and be involved in a project where everyone you ask to help says "yes"! Plus I'm doing a lot of writing, so it's nice to get back to my "real" area of training, research.

How did you learn your craft?

I took classes at School of Visual Arts, where I now teach. For the most part, I am self-taught, for better or worse!

What advice would you give to people starting out selling their crafts online?

Take the time to take online courses or tutorials before launching. SEO is the key to success.Your jewelry may be fantastic, but if it can't be get the picture. Speaking of pictures, another key is good photography. Bad photography can make even the most gorgeous jewelry look horrendous.

What is the most memorable thing someone has said to you at a craft fair or show or anywhere jewelry related?

There's always some idiot who says 'I can make that.' My answer is: "OK, maybe, but so what? You didn't!' People can be so odd.

What piece that you've ever made are you most proud of?

My Speedloader - sterling silver with hematite "bullets" - series made when I was starting out. Looking back I realize how little I knew but still pulled off something pretty stunning.

What are your favorite mediums to use when creating your jewelry?

Metal, particularly sterling and fine silver; colored gemstones and crazy big cabochons. I don't deviate a lot from that. I'm boring!

What keeps you inspired as an artist?

That's always so hard to answer because my life is so busy it's hard to be attuned to inspiration as much as I would like. Honestly, my students inspire me a lot because they are so excited and inspired. Their energy really helps when I feel dragging, creatively speaking.

Do you have a favorite artist?

My favorite artists are what you might call an eclectic bunch. My favorite sculpture is "The Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" by Umberto Boccioni (I know I know!), favorite painter is Hans Hoffman with Balthus, Hundertwasser and Paul Klee coming in closely thereafter; I love ID and furniture design by Noguchi, Pierre Paulin, Gastone Rinaldi, Arne Jacobson and the other modernists. For jewelers, it's got to be Rachel Gera.

What's something you've haven't gotten to yet, but have wanted to try?

If you mean jewelry, I would love to really master wax carving. My mind does not work in a reductive manner, and it's hard for me to "see" a form inside a block to liberate. I find it frustrating but am attracted to it because of the way it really helps production. It always makes me think of Walter Benjamin's seminal essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." [GEEK]!

What are some of the mistakes you've made with your business and what you learned from them?

Getting too big too fast: you have to be able to keep up with supply if you have big demand. You have to have your ducks in a row, procurement, production and delivery-wise. Sometimes big opportunities can yield fantastic results, and they have with me...but it can come at a real emotional cost, too, and I've seen both sides.

What was an unexpected surprise (good or bad) your business brought you?

That I could publish a book (Chic Metal). Somehow I never put two and two together until I met my agent and it was like "oh, duh. I teach jewelry and can therefore write about it!"

What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
I have a secret love for bad 1980s hair metal.

Do you have any pets?

No, but my son is clamoring for a cat. Meanwhile, I want a tortoise. Somehow I don't see these two things as compatible!

In what ways do you promote your business?

I'm sort of all over the place online and that's where people mostly find out about me. I love twitter so I do a lot of that; obviously SVA is a great help to me in getting my name out there, too, and my friends in the jewelry supply business spread the word about my courses, etc.

What piece of yours would you like to feature right now?

Visit Victoria Tillotson's Etsy Store, ChicMetal.


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