Monday, December 28, 2009

Today's interview is a real family affair ! Husband and wife team, Ralph & Karen, are blessed to have their children Leah and Byron all involved in the family business.

Karen took time out of their busy schedule to answer our questions, so lets get started !

DM: What is your artistic medium?
KH: My family makes colorful handmade jewelry and jewelry supplies.

DM: Where can your art be seen?

KH: Well....a lot of places! We have shops both on Etsy called UnkamenGifts and ArtFire called UnkamenGifts. We primarily sell colorful chainmaille and modern jewelry.

Our daughter Leah's shop showcases her very colorful chainmaille, mixed media and fun creations on Etsy called Favmoongirl

We even have a supply shop on Etsy called UnkamenSupplies that provides an excellent supply of chainmaille and jewelry supplies.

We also have 2 shops that carry our creations in Savoir Flair in Drummer, NH and Modern Mouse in Alameda, CA

We also post all sorts of interesting photos that range from sneak peaks of new creations to bad pictures~just for fun, to pics of family life and travel in the USA in our Motorhome ( we have 46 states down!) on: Flickr.

You can also follow us on FaceBook and Twitter.

DM: When and how did everyone in your family first become interested in your art ?

KH: Leah, now 16, first began making jewelry in 2005 after a fellow RV'ing friend showed her a few of the basics. She took right to it and loves making jewelry for herself and her friends. Shortly after she started selling it locally. She is pretty busy with her studies but still loves to keep her shop, stocked with fun and colorful creations!

About the same time, Byron, now age 12, started collecting interesting rocks and polishing them with his dad's help. He found that he enjoyed selling them as gratitude rocks, because the root of true happiness is being grateful for everything that you have. He has recently started making pin back buttons, magnets and keychains.

About 4 years ago, Ralph made a necklace for me and he got such a charge out of seeing me wear it that he decided to learn more and make more! He specializes in chainmaille and Leah is starting to work with it too!

DM: Tell us a bit about yourself.

KH: I enjoy it all! In previous lives I was a RN, Registered Yoga Instructor and Certified Personal Trainer. I also do most of the photography, “test drives” the jewelry and helps with ideas for the marvelous family creations and handles most of the Internet "stuff".

Ralph is a semi-retied engineer who occasionally enjoys consulting and troubleshooting aerosol manufacturers.

Our family call both Livingston, Texas and Rolla, Missouri home. One of our homes is solar on 11 acres over looking a river valley. We also enjoy traveling throughout the United States in our motor home, we have been through 46 states, so far!

The kids have always been home schooled and love their home life and travels.

We travel along with 2 goldfish ( Jake and Goldie Hawn), 2 dogs ( Ivy, a from birth blind and deaf Doxie and Hookah, a goofy Basset) and 1 nutty cat (Triangle).

We are proud members of Schooling At Home Etsyians, Etsy Texas Crafters, Etsy's Chainmaillers' Team and Full Time Etsy Crafters' Team.

Last summer we went full time and really love being able to devote our time and energies to this!

DM: Once you decided to pursue your art, how did you start off, trial and error, books, classes, videos, formal schooling?

KH: Some of this is answered above...but we have bought a lot of books, taken some formal classes, viewed videos...uh..ok...all of the above!

DM: Out of what you tried, was there any particular thing that you would recommend to someone just starting out?
KH: Have patience! It is a journey to be enjoyed, not a goal to check off! There is a lot to learn, which I think is best learned through experience. Support from other artisans, friends and family also makes a huge difference.

DM: What do you enjoy most about working with your medium?
KH: There is a lot of camaraderie amongst chainmaillers as well as other artists who work from home.

DM: What do you find the most frustrating?
KH: Maintaining sources of high quality raw materials and supplies.

DM: Where do you find your inspirations for what you create?
KH: We do a lot of brainstorming as a family. One of us will say....gee we need to make something in this color and another will have a suggestion and another a specific way to make that work. We make what WE like, but we do a lot of custom work and many of our best ideas come from our customers.

DM: Tell us a little about one of your favorite creations.
KH: We made a chainmaille memento (a Celtic star) especially for a SIDS support group. The theme of this particular SIDS workshop was "woven" and the workshop director found us on Etsy though one of our tags, as in "woven jump rings". We made each memento similar with large silver rings and then each one unique with small colored rings scattered throughout. The silver rings represented the parents, and the color rings the lost child. The woven pattern represented the child's effect on the parents lives. We were all very touched by this experience and reminded to be grateful every day for all that we have, and even the losses, because they all become part of your life and who you are.

DM: Have you ever experienced artist block and how did you overcome it?
KH: Sometimes Ralph or Leah will be found staring at a pile of beads, jump rings or a beautiful focal piece, and are just lost as to what direction to go in. It doesn't last long as someone always has a suggestion...usually me....and will keep making suggestions until I see a smile on their face and then they tell me to go away so they can create!

DM: What is the biggest mistake you have ever made as an artist? What did you learn from it?
KH: Well, a couple of times we have made something or promised to make something that we THOUGHT was within our capabilities and they just weren't. HOWEVER, most of the time we find that the challenge stimulates us to learn and expand our boundaries so we will continue to make this mistake occasionally.

DM: Would you please tell about your studio set-up?
KH: Since we travel, we try to keep very compact! My husband has a formal metal working shop at our home in Rolla, MO complete with BIG lathes and such that stay put. We also have a room set aside in the house for making jumprings and creations. When we travel we have tow a cargo trailer that serves as a crafting space.

DM: When is your favorite time to create?
KH: I don't think that we have a favorite long as it's before midnight!

DM: What advise would you give someone starting out in this medium?
KH: Don't be afraid to make a lot of mistakes, do what you love and the rest will come more easily.

DM: Are there any artist that inspire you or that you admire?
KH: Scott David Plumlee is a fab chainmailler who has written several excellent books. I have a friend that I met on Etsy, Ms Kay makes gorgeous jewelry and has helped us and inspired us.

We want to thank Karen and her family for taking the time to show us how crafting and traveling can work as one, it is nice to see the whole family involved !

Till tomorrow, keep creating !
Tina aka Daily Muse


Anonymous said...

Amy Taylor replied...It wouldn't let me post anything today...what a fabulously inspiring family! No more excuses for me not to work while traveling...!! FABulous article!

Marie Young (Young Creative) said...

Amazing work and the fact that the family works on it together makes it even more beautiful!

Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

Great interview and fantastic jewelry designs! Rreally beautiful!

I love seeing other families working together in a craft based industry like my husband and I do. (Maybe one day when our kids get older they will get more involved like Leah and Byron are.) It is great to see, when so many families seem to be too busy to spend much time with one another!

EyeDesire said...

Awesome story! Wow, beautiful pieces of art!

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