#32 Making a Living As A Jeweler with Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith of SNAG

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A big step for most jewelry makers today is going from making jewelry as a form of expression to making jewelry for a living. It can be especially difficult in today’s modern world, with social media and ecommerce. (Not to mention the cost of precious metals has risen steadily since the recession of 2008.)


Some struggle with capitalizing on their creative side, while others don’t see themselves as a person capable of marketing their own work effectively. Enter Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith, the Executive Director for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG). Gwynne’s organization is dedicated to the support and advancement of contemporary jewelry and metal artists, and I am thrilled to have her on the podcast today to pick her brain about the stuff we ALL really want to know: How to make a living as a jewelry designer.


Click ‘play’ below to hear Gwynne's invaluable advice, or scroll down to to catch a few of my biggest takeaways from our conversation!


Click here to download the show notes


Experiment with Creativity


Since 2008 artists have used the rising cost of precious metals to their advantage. With so many jewelers opting to incorporate alternative materials (glass, silver, resin, wood, oh my!) and technology into their pieces, jewelry designers are popping up at not just trade shows, but craft, art, and entertainment fairs.


On top of the advent of the internet, the jewelry industry has never been through such an exciting revolution.


Take a look at your business and ask yourself if you have any creative or innovative design ideas to bring down your costs or boost your sales — you might be surprised by what five minutes of brainstorming will do.


Understand Your Strengths


For Gwynne, the business side of the jewelry industry comes a lot more naturally to her than creating original and artistic pieces. For most of you reading this, it’s probably the opposite.


Gwynne’s advice? Step one, get to know your strengths. Most designers clearly have a passion for jewelry making, but what else do you bring to your business? Do you have great work ethic and time management? Do you have a keen eye and a clear view of your brand? Once you understand your strengths, you can move onto step two, which is finding others (whether they be other businesses, contractors, or full-on employees) with complimenting skillsets.


Hire Out


“If there’s some aspect of that business side that you absolutely hate,” Gwynne advises, “what I always say is see if you can find someone and hire somebody to do that for you.”


In this day and age, it’s never been easier to hire out. If you are a designer who is struggling with bookkeeping, accounting, and making sure your business is a well-run ship, it might be worth considering hiring on even a part-time employee or contractor.


At the end of the day, it all comes down to running your business like your business. This means that you must learn to recognize everyone’s skills and improvement areas, including your own, and to make decisions based on your observations that benefit your brand the most. Think about it this way: Even if you just get overwhelmed with updating your website and social media, you will eventually want to grow your brand to the point where you, as the Chief Visionary Officer, can focus on making jewelry and making sales.




I am so excited to share with all of you an amazing discount SNAG is offering to all Flourish & Thrive Academy members: If you join SNAG today, using the discount code: FTA2016, you will receive $15 OFF of your membership fee. Click here to check out all the surprisingly useful member benefits, which include access to their range of member pages, publications, forums, publications, weekly e-newsletters, and so much more.


Finally, I am pleased to announce that Robin & I will be speaking at the SNAGneXt conference in May, so don’t forget to click here to register and meet us! We’ll be travelling to the emerging city of Asheville, North Carolina to speak with fellow designers, business owners, jewelry makers, and visionaries to about the 2016 SNAGneXt theme: “an interchange and exchange of the many facets of making a living” in the jewelry industry. Current SNAG members will receive a discount, but registration is open to all. We can’t wait to see you there!


Links mentioned in today's podcast:

Society of North American Goldsmiths
SNAGneXt Conference: Asheville 2016


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