Friday Feature: Heather Wang Jewelry September 24, 2010 12:13

Happy Friday, everyone! This week's artist interview is with the talented Heather Wang, who creates beautiful handmade jewelry in an old mill turned artists studios in Lowell, Massachusetts.(The same old mill as one of our previous interviews.) Heather's got some great advice for aspiring artists and crafters, read on! Thanks so much to Heather! Have a great weekend, everyone.

When did you start your handmade business?
I started in January of 2007, after I quit my day job making flutes, of all things! I'd had my studio space for about a year at that point, and had saved up a (very) small start-up bundle. It was scary to take the leap from the land of steady paychecks into the entrepreneurial unknown, but in my gut the timing felt right. 

Describe your studio for us.
My studio is about 300 square feet of light blue airiness, I love it. I rent in a huge old mill building in Lowell, MA, called Western Avenue Studios. I've got 2 eight foot windows, and a sloping wood floor. That slope keeps things interesting, as a lot of jewelry tools are round. I have more shims under my tables than I can count, but I still find myself chasing after runaway tools!

How does working in a space with a lot of other artist studios influence your work?
It's definitely inspiring. I love having my own space, but what I'd missed most about college and grad school was the "art bubble" we'd lived in--being surrounded by fellow creative people all the time. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw the ad for Western Avenue--making things in my spare bedroom at home just wasn't the same! There are quite a few jewelers here now, and it's amazing how much knowledge we can pool together from our various backgrounds. Someone's always got a tip or a trick that someone else has never tried, so we learn a lot from each other (and save each other a lot of aggravation sometimes, too!)

Flowers seem to be a big inspiration for you. Describe for us the process of going from inspired to beautiful necklace.
I've always been drawn to flowers and trees--Mother Nature's a pretty fantastic designer. I didn't really have a particular flower in mind when I drew the shape for my "Bloom" pendants, but definitely had dogwoods and cherry blossoms in mind when I was sketching ideas for my "Cherry Blossom" pieces. Proportion and shape, as well as connections and movement, all come from studying the real things and trying to interpret them in metal. I do a lot of loose sketches first, but if I get another idea while working it out in metal, I go with it--that's how some of my favorite pieces came to be! 

What's your favorite thing to do when you need some inspiration?
I'll often take my camera along when my husband and I walk our dog, Champ. We take him to a nearby trail in the woods, and I always find something different--branches to cast, pretty mushrooms to photograph, and flowers and weeds galore. I think other dog walkers must think I'm weird, since I'm usually leaving with a bouquet of branches or handfuls of acorns! I also love books--the bookshelf in my studio is completely stuffed. Not just with jewelry books either, but lots of art, nature, and photography books as well.

What advice would you offer someone hoping to take their craft from hobby to business?
Save that start-up bundle! As important as your dreams are, you'll feel a whole lot better chasing them if your reality is taken care of too. It's a tough balance to find, especially at first when things are at their scariest and most uncertain. Definitely map out your strategy with a business plan, but don't worry if you don't end up following it to the letter--you'll learn a lot along the way that there's no way of knowing beforehand. 

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I met Devienna at DesignHive in Cambridge, MA. We'd been vendors together at several shows, and she suggested that I apply. (Thanks, Devienna!) I was really impressed by the other artists and the shop itself, so I'm very happy to be a part of it. Plus, I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Providence--I loved living there as a RISD student.

Guilty Pleasure?
Does True Blood count? How about vegan cupcakes? :)