Tammy Powley is a prolific author, blogger extraordinaire and did I mention amazing jewelry designer. In this interview Tammy and I chat about her latest book Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry, Bead Bloggers, her position as editor at About.com’s Jewelry Making, social networking and more!
NAME: Tammy Powley
COMPANY NAME: Tammy Powley
WEBSITE: Tammy Powley and About.com Jewelry Making
BLOG: Tammy Powley and About.com Jewelry Making
CRAFT TOOL YOU CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT: Chain-nosed pliers
FINISH THE SENTENCE: When I am not writing about jewelry, I am teaching college English and grading lots of essays!
Your craft of choice appears to be jewelry making. How and when did you get you started making jewelry? At what point did you jump from jewelry maker to expert, don’t be bashful we are going to be talking about your About.com and Dummies guides in a minute so I know you are a guru in the jewelry field.
I do a lot of different crafts, always have, but yes, jewelry making is my primary focus. It is where I seem to have done the best too as far as writing and designing. I started making jewelry back in the days of macramé. There was a little craft shop in our local mall that also sold jewelry findings and components, so my sisters and I used to make a lot of our own jewelry back then. I became serious about it in the late 80s when I attended a rock show. I was looking for ideas to make holiday gifts for family and friends and I saw all this jewelry everywhere, and thought, “Hey, I’ll make them jewelry.” I showed my finished gift items to a few people at work, and then they started asking me to buy them. I ended up selling all my gifts and having to scramble around for more stone beads and supplies to remake them all! I knew then I had found a wonderfully creative outlet and soon after I signed up for an 18 week long jewelry making course at my local adult education center. My husband and I both took the class twice, back to back, so that was about 9 months of pretty intense training. It’s were I learned a lot of the basics.
You are such a prolific author! You and I know each other from when you asked me to make some pieces for your fabulous Making Designer Mixed-Media and Memory Jewelry, but your list of titles goes on and on from Jewelry Making for Dummies to your latest venture Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry. Tell me about your latest book and what we can expect to find inside.
Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry focuses on low-fire clay as well as basic jewelry construction techniques. My goal was to make a book that was geared for the total “newbie,” not just a book about metal clay that assumes you already know something about making jewelry. With the low-fire clays our there these days, anyone can make a surprising number of jewelry components with very limited resources and skills. So, my projects really take you through the entire process from making a charm or pendant using metal clay and then putting this together with other jewelry components so that you have a completed jewelry piece when you are done.
Along with “how-to” information, I also have one of my favorite chapters in the book which is about setting up a work area. I asked metal clay artists to let us see inside their studios and homes and show us how they arranged their work space. Space is always an issue for me, and with clay it was even more so because you need to have a place for the clay to dry, to fire, and of course, you need a clean area to form it. So, I was curious about how other artists handled this and decided it was worth its own chapter.
Finally, there’s an awesome gallery chapter with some amazing metal clay jewelry. Though, I had such a wonderful outpouring of support from metal clay artists in the community that I had enough pictures to sprinkle throughout the book, not just include in this chapter. So, the eye candy is plentiful.
If someone had never played with metal clay before could they pick up your Picture Yourself and get started? I have played with metal clay a time or two on episodes of Craft Lab, but must admit I am still a little afraid. Is the book a hand holder for the newbie or something for old pros?
It is so not for “old pros.” In fact, I was a little concerned that with all the quality artists out there now who work with this medium that this might be a turn off for some who are more advanced. But, they are not my audience. This book assumes the reader knows really nothing about metal clay or even jewelry making for that matter.
Because of the advances in low-fire clays today, you no longer need a kiln as long as you keep the pieces you make on the small side. You can either fire them with a simple butane torch (about $20 at your local hardware store) or Precious Metal Clay (PMC) has developed a ceramic “hot pot” where you can fire pieces without the use of a torch. The hot pot costs about $40 (available about PMCSupply.com), and it is a good alternative for anyone who is not comfortable working with a torch.
So, there is really no reason to “fear” this medium.
I think it is really important to bring in other points of view whenever I can in a book, and I have some wonderful artists in this one: Alice Alper-Rein, Shahasp Valentine, Cyndi Lavin, Carol A. Babineau, Robin Walter-Bonnell, Lora Hart, Elaine Luther, and Sarah Peacock are just a few names that are probably pretty recognizable.
What is your favorite jewelry medium? Is it metal clay? I myself am a fan of the found object style, but others peyote stitch seed beads, some dabble in polymer clay and others could solder noon till’ night. What kind of jewelry gal are you?
I am really all over the road when it comes to media; I like it all. I also tend to go into cycles. Right now, I’m on a fiber and metal kick. I am working on designs that combine some of my metal clay components with fibers like waxed linen and hemp. Beads and wire are also staple items that I tend to mix into just about everything I do no matter what I’m working on.
Not only are you a prolific author, you are also a prolific blogger. You have your own blog The Crafty Princess Diaries and are also the jewelry making editor at About.com. I’m a big fan of blogging myself and think it is a wonderful tool to help a craft business. How do you think blogging helps Tammy Powley and your brand?
Blogging is really a great tool for self-promotion, which is what first attracted me to it. While I have a great deal of freedom at my About.com Jewelry Making site/blog, ultimately, my job there is to provide information on how to make jewelry, not talk about “me, me, me.” With my Crafty Princess blog, I write about my latest book, new projects I’m working on, whatever I want. In fact, though I do write about jewelry making, I also cover other topics related to the craft world, so this outlet allows me to continue to underline my already established place as a “jewelry expert” while I show that I have other craft skills and interests.
You and I belong to a group called Bead Bloggers, you have recently started another branch called Crafty Bloggers Unite. Tell the readers about the groups and how they work. Who are some members? What gave you the idea to start the group in the first place?
Both groups sort of work like on-going blog carnivals where we post entries each week which have links to each others’ weblogs, but unlike a carnival, there usually isn’t any specific theme. Each member selects a particular blog entry she’d like to promote. We have a yahoo group set up to house the links and members stop by each week to put their link in a designated folder for that week. Then sometime that weekend (either Friday/Saturday/Sunday) members of the group pick up the links and post them in one entry. For example, I post my jewelry blog entry on Sundays on my About.com Jewelry Making site, and I post my craft blog entry on the Crafty Princess Diaries on Fridays.
For the bead group, which really covers all kinds of jewelry makers not just beaders, we have, of course, you (Naughty Secretary Club), Cyndi Lavin, Jean Yates, Candy Cooper, and Jennifer Heynen to name a few. There are about 15 in the group. The craft blog group has a variety of craft bloggers, about 8 members so far, such as Connie Thomas, Margot Potter, Aileen Roberts, Stefanie Girard, and Kathy Cano-Murillo. For both groups, I purposely wanted to keep them small and limited to professionals in the field who also had strong blogs.
I have to admit that I totally “borrowed” this idea from a group of fashion bloggers, known as the Web Snobs, who I used to do the same thing with when I wrote a fashion jewelry blog awhile back for a blogging network. I had to give up the blog due to my work load, but I thought the idea they had was brilliant. It has been a great way to network with fellow professional crafters/designers as well as bring in readers to our various blogs.
I get your Twitter updates so I know you are active on the social networking circuit. What is your favorite of all the social networking sites and which one do you think is most beneficial to you as far as helping promote your books, bringing in readers to your blogs, ect?
I dearly love Twitter because it is so easy and quick. So, I don’t have to worry about it sucking up a lot of my time. Also, it has a way to automatically feed in blog updates and also to feed into Facebook, so it’s a win/win.
I’m also partial to My Craftivity.com because it is more intuitive to me than some of the other social networks I’ve dealt with, and I do see some traffic from it when I take the time to promote myself over there.
I honestly haven’t been able to determine which is best. A lot of that depends on the time you spend on them, and since the above two that I mentioned I’ve spent the most time on, the result has been more traffic from these than, say Facebook, which I just don’t seem to understand that well.
Do you still sell your jewelry? I find within the Bead Bloggers group lots of the ladies make jewelry for a living, but not necessarily by selling it. Some have endorsement deals with companies, write how-to articles for magazines, author books, but don’t actually have a physical or online place where they sell the jewelry they make. I find it interesting that the traditional method of I make something and then I sell that something is not always the case for people making a living in the craft industry.
I rarely sell any jewelry these days, and if I do, it’s normally some kind of commission work, something specific for a specific person I know who has requested it. I find that, at least for me, I a make more money from writing about a necklace than actually selling the necklace. Plus, I’d much rather write than sell.
You are right. There are a lot of ways to earn an income other than selling finished jewelry pieces. I spent a good many years doing that, and I learned a lot from it. If I had the time, I would do more of it, but I find my time is spent better on the designing/writing end of things these days. This is something I’ve talked a lot about at my About.com Jewelry Making site. Not that people, like yourself for example, don’t make a living from selling their finished work, but there are a lot of other possibilities out there that many designers don’t necessarily consider IMHO.
I’m finishing up the edits on my next book, Jewelry and Beading Designs for Dummies, due out in September 2008 (up on Amazon for early ordering now). After that, I’m not sure what is out there for me as far as books. I’m talking with an editor now about a possible book idea I have, but it’s just talk at this point. I have a few book proposals in the works that I need to finalize before I start shopping them around.
I just started setting up an Etsy.com shop (tammypowley.etsy.com) where I hope to sell jewelry making supplies and project pdf files. Over the next few months, I want to get the shop set up and have a few items to sell.
I also will keep at the web writing at About.com (I’ve got a number of new projects lined up for there as well as some book reviews), and I will expand on my Crafty Princess Diaries weblog, putting up a customized template that will include some advertising to help subsidize the cost of maintenance for it. In fact, I write a lot about what I’m doing as far as craft work over there, so if anyone is ever curious, that’s where to find updates about anything new coming out.