Today we have a peek into the busy, busy world of Tracy Owens Chasteen, jewelry designer & owner of Polished Two. Tracy makes lovely jewelry from a variety of materials including ancient and replica Ming Dynasty pottery shards, Czech glass beads, wood, brass, semiprecious stone, copper and shell. She's an Etsy superstar with over 2300 sales in her shop - I just know that Etsy is going to pick her to be a Featured Seller any day now! Tracy also sells in local boutiques & craft shows, and is always helpful and willing to share her small biz knowledge with the rest of us on the EtsyAustin team.
Beth: First, please give us a little background on your studio.
Tracy: My studio is a room in my condo that started out as a guest bedroom and office for both me and my husband, but my huge bead and jewelry supply collection sort of forced the hubs out. We furnished the room with a Murphy bed, two desks (one for each of us), and a whole wall of Elfa shelving for my beads. But once I started selling my creations online, I took over his desk as my packing and shipping station, slowly taking over the entire room. And within the next few weeks I plan to add in several more rows of shelving for my growing supply needs. The guest bedroom/office has gradually turned into a bead warehouse and one woman jewelry-making studio.
I don't make my creations full-time in the traditional sense. I have a day job in marketing and business development that I love too, so I juggle them both. I go to work Monday through Friday and do my regular, full-time job in an office building, then come home in the evenings and on weekends and work on my crafty stuff--making new jewelry in my studio, packing orders, and working on promotions and networking activities related to my Etsy shop. If I actually sat down and figured out how much time I spend keeping up with my Etsy shop and stocking it with new goodies each day, it may turn out that I spend the equivalent of full time hours--but I'm doing what I love, so it works out well.
I've been selling crafts ever since I can remember. Even back in high school I was making and selling hair accessories and shirts decorated in puffy paints. Then I moved in to rubber stamping. After collecting thousands of decorative rubber stamps, I started a little catalog business. I had to give up my mail order business when I moved into the college dorms, but as soon as I settled in Austin after college, I got into jewelry-making. I started out just selling my stuff to friends and co-workers and doing an occasional craft bazaar or trunk show, but after I while I had my eye on starting a website. I found Etsy a few years ago and loved that I wouldn't have to design and maintain my own website...and the rest is history. Now I sell almost exclusively via Etsy, but my jewelry can also be found in several boutiques that have found me through my online shop.
Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work? Tracy: My inspiration comes from everything around me--especially my super huge bead collection. Having a lot of beads in front of me--even when they're in a messy pile--is an inspirational source of ideas because I'm always noticing new and different color combinations, often combining colors in unexpected or fresh ways based on where the beads lay all over my desk. I'm also inspired by vintage designs. I love going to estate sales and checking out the vintage jewelry collections. Sometimes I buy inexpensive pieces to recycle, but most times I turn into a regular looky-loo who just admires the wares that have been carefully collected over the years. I find other inspiration in fashion and design magazines, boutique shopping, and in custom requests. I have some regular customers who've given me some [of] the best ideas!
Beth: Describe how a really productive day of making art goes for you.
Tracy: My most productive days are often Sundays. Since I work all week, my evenings are mostly spent packing orders and working on promotional or marketing activities, but I make a few pieces here and there. On the weekends, I usually go out of town--often to the Texas Hill Country--to get away and relax. When I get home on Sunday afternoons, I'm ready to create, inspired to try new things, and have the dedicated time to put everything else aside and design new jewelry. The ideal, productive Sunday for me involves sleeping in late and spending the rest of my day and evening in my studio.
Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?
Tracy: My goal as an artist is merely to keep developing my craft. I would love to learn some new jewelry-making techniques to integrate into my designs. As a business, I love that I can have an Etsy shop and sell something that I love to make while having the total flexibility to keep my professional job as well. I feel confident in the diversity of my skills that I can always make a living no matter what the economic situation is and one way to really enhance my skill-set is to keep learning and growing in my craft. There is always something new to learn.