Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Karin Bremer of Windfall Designs in Oneonta.
How long have you lived in the area?
My family moved to Otego in 1980, when I was three years old and I left for college at 18. I returned, quite unexpectedly, at the age of 25, for what I expected to be one summer but that was nine years ago now! This area is home.
Tell me about your business:
Windfall Designs is a creative business focusing on jewelry design. I am a metalsmith, predominantly using sterling silver, but also incorporating copper, brass, stones, found objects, and colorful patinas & enamels into my work. I sell throughout the year at Arts and Craft festivals, at several stores in the area including Brewery Ommegang, and in my online shop as well.
Describe a typical day in your business:
Anyone who knows me would agree, my days are far from typical! I've always been a bit of a night owl, so I usually head to the studio late afternoon, creating and working until close to midnight. The days are spent either doing the computer side of business like editing photos, researching shows or ordering supplies. But, if I am lucky I head outdoors to find a beautiful new spot to soak up inspiration and fresh air instead.
How did you get started in this line of work?
I grew up in a family of artists and so creativity seems to be in the bloodline. It wasn't until I decided to rent an apartment in Portland, Maine for one summer in 2006 and attend classes in metalsmithing at the Maine College of Art did I discover my passion for fine metals. Since then, I've been primarily self-taught.
Where do you see this business in five years?
I hope to see my business grow and expand, perhaps to have a part-time assistant who can help with the more repetitive details of smithing. I hope to have a Windfall Designs Paper line in production, as I am an illustrator as well and have long wished to have my 2-D work more available.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
Summer of 2007 marked my jump into Windfall Designs, and I began by attending my first outdoor arts and crafts festival. Not knowing quite what to expect or how my work would be received, or even fully how to prepare, I created as much as I could in the weeks prior. The day proved beyond successful. I sold almost my entire collection, and even won "Best in Craft" at the show. I knew I'd found my medium.
What have you learned from your work?
So many things! For example, I've learned that I can't possibly create and manifest all the designs that fly through my imagination, but I can certainly try to trap them with a pen! And also, when it comes to preparing for a show, I've learned to put down the tools and go to bed by 3 a.m.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
The most challenging part is running the logistical, detail-oriented side of the business, such as taxes and promotion. It's been a struggle at times to balance the creativity and inspiration with increased productivity and demand, all by myself, all the while keeping the creative fires burning.
The most enjoyable?
It's a tie between the feeling of satisfaction and contentment that comes from successfully making a living by the craft of my own hands and seeing the joy and happiness in others who find and wear my jewelry as expressions of their own style.
How do you define success for your business?
Success is creating a beautiful piece of jewelry and then seeing it disappear on the ears, fingers, or neck of another.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
I actually find I do better at shows in this area, as well as other rural locations, than I do in more populated urban areas. My theory is that people have less shopping options and less proximity to beautiful, affordable items, and thus support and purchase a unique piece when they see it. Drawbacks could be that there are no suppliers nearby for my line of work and so I must travel if I want to actually see, touch and feel supplies before I purchase them. However, I suppose that just gives me an excuse to head to NYC more often.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
I think with most artists and craftspeople, a distinct voice and style begins to form over time when physically creating in their medium of choice. It's unique to the individual designer and happens organically. I don't often follow trends but instead try to experiment with shape, color and design in the form of adornment. So my work has a very playful nature to it, and can be both everyday type of jewelry or very elegant & event specific.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
Don't give up if it's your passion. It may take trial & error to figure out what success means specifically to you, and it might not look like the next person's. Make sure you are flexible and open to finding the right venue for your work. It might not be where you think!
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email email@example.com.