Education – Annette Piper

18 05 2009

Educating yourself and your clients should be a very important aspect of your creative business.

Naturally, you, as the creative talent behind your endeavour need to know the materials you work with, how they can be worked most effectively and how to look after them.

Experience will count for a lot, particularly in the skills knowledge area, however specific materials knowledge is very important and your customers will appreciate your expertise.

Don’t necessarily accept what a supplier of your materials says – particularly if they are a new supplier or not well known to you. They may be repeating something they have heard, were told, or, unfortunately in some cases, making it up to ‘sound good’.

By asking lots of questions of your suppliers, they will hopefully take on board your interest in the facts and bolster their own knowledge. You will benefit from their efforts of educating themselves and in the process learn more yourself.

Seek out information through courses, appropriate texts, information sites and forums. If someone not qualified offers you their opinion on materials, take it on board – but question everything if you’re unsure. Even professionals get second opinions!

As a gemmologist and jewellery designer, I am fortunate to have a good knowledge of gemstones from my years of study and work in the trade. However, even I get occasions when I’m not quite sure if a stone I am buying is represented correctly. It may be just a little niggle of not being sure, but I’ve found it’s a wise niggle to listen to!

It can be quite an adventure to educate myself further on a little known stone and ensure that I know exactly what it is I am working with. The end result of course, is that my clients know precisely what each stone in a piece is, including any treatments it may have had.

Be sure to share your expertise with your customer.  On the other hand, don’t overwhelm them. Offer your knowledge as part of the selling process. They will gain confidence that you know what you are talking about and in time you will become an expert in your field – at least to them.

Know your materials - can you name all the gemstones pictured here?

Know your materials - can you name all the gemstones pictured here?

 To read more from Annette, visit her blog at and view her jewellery at



21 11 2008

I’m often asked if I studied art in school.  I always laugh and say, “Oh no — jewelry was never the plan!”  If I’d kept going in the direction I was headed, I’d be some sort of doctor right now — not the “stick out your tongue and say aaaah” type, but the forensic scientist type.  The closest I came to art in college was drawing exceptionally difficult molecular structures for organic chemistry.

If I’d had the chance to do it again, would I have gone to art school? 

Probably not.

For one, I would have a gigantic ulcer right now from the stress of doing what the teacher wanted, and not what I wanted.  I never liked being told what to read in English class, even though I’m an avid reader, so being told what to draw/sculpt/forge would not have set well with me.  I never did well in classes in which I had no interest — I’d do what I needed in order to pass and be done, but if I’m not inspired by the subject, it’s nearly impossible for me to do anything really awesome.  That would have made it really difficult for me in art school, because I have zero interest in painting bowls of apples or making a ceramic pot.

I do have an artistic side — I just never knew it for years upon years.  Looking back, I can see it.  For senior prom, I tore apart my prom dress and redesigned it.  I’ve always loved interior decorating, whether it was my house or helping a friend.  And I’ve tried painting, drawing, chalks, collage, and all kinds of other crafty, artistic things — just never showed the results to anyone because at the time, it was just something to do in a spare moment.

If you want to be an artist, whether it’s a watercolorist or lampworker — go for it.  If you think a class would benefit you, take it, but never let a lack of formal education get in your way of creating.  Creating comes from the heart, and no one can teach that.


Lori Anderson writes from her studio in Easton, MD.  Her work can be seen at, and her writing can be followed at