I've already posted the drawings I'm learning to do so this is something different I did years ago. I was a jewelry designer for my dad's import and wholesale company for 6 years. Because we carried a diverse selection and were direct importers, we sold to many types of retail establishments across the country. I also went on buying trips to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. (You have no idea how much fun it is to buy that much jewelry and objects d'art... think about it.) I could have spent days in the antique silver jewelry rooms if we'd had time.
Spectacular things from many countries and eras have passed through my hands. Those which were damaged or single pieces could often be transformed when incorporated into new jewelry. That was the part of my job that I liked best.
We also were members of the MSA, Museum Store Association. Membership is very limited with a long waiting list, it meant we had to meet their high level of service and quality, and we could exhibit at their private buying shows. Museum stores and catalogs are an important source of income for museums. The designs I did for museum stores were very different than what boutiques and department stores wanted. They sold items that complimented or reflected the pieces in their exhibits. When you're visiting a museum visit their shop, their buyers select the best items they can find and it helps to support the museum.
I don't have pictures of any of my old designs, it never occurred to anyone to photograph them. When my dad sold the business my mom saved some tags with Designed by Doris Ann on them, a few business cards with my name as Jewelry Designer, and two catalogs for me. This is the first necklace accepted for the catalog of the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum in Winterthur Delaware. The blue and white porcelain beads were hand painted in China with flowers and the characters spell out "Spring is coming and the mountains are covered in flowers."
My mom also had saved this lovely thank you letter from the Marketing Director regarding some antique necklaces I'd offered to restring for her. They'd been broken so long she no longer remembered what they originally looked like and sent them in two plastic bags. It was nothing but fun to have the freedom to design them as I thought they should be using all the components she managed to save. She could have given them to any number of designers to repair and I was honored that she trusted me. The museum store buyers were always very kind and gracious even when returning defective merchandise. It was always a pleasure to do favors for them. We all have fond memories of the buyers for Winterthur and quite a few museums.
This is the only other catalog/photograph I have. I'm proud of it but I don't like to brag about it or I might get a big head, then get so busy yapping about what incredible things I've done and how fabulous I am, and not put energy into doing things well in the present. Or worse, I would feel nothing else I would do would compare.
It was exciting that I brought them in as a new account. The buyers wandered into our booth at the L.A. Gift Show and I was working with an old customer. When I finished they asked if I was the designer, then we chatted a while and they said they'd like to see some designs. My father spied them and being excited to finally be visited by the buyers from the Smithsonian tried to take over but the gentleman politely told him they were very happy discussing it with me. I took a lot of notes as they explained their needs, we exchanged cards and they told me they'd send a letter explaining the process. Later my father expressed his displeasure that I'd let them go so soon but they were busy as that's one of the largest wholesale shows in the US. A few weeks later a letter arrived explaining that I would be allowed to submit 4 designs with costs for their consideration. It also explained the contract terms including how many we had to guarantee to keep in stock for the catalog run.
Out of the 4 I submitted, the necklace they selected was the one I would be least likely to wear myself, but the one I was positive would sell best. It would appeal to the largest group of customers, be easy to wear with many styles of dress, the balance and bead size was exactly right for a wide age group and any size woman. It was a timeless, classic, feminine piece. Sometimes you have to create what is not right for you, but it is still your creation and I wouldn't want to do less than my best. I was incredibly honored when the catalog came to see my design placed on the same page with their cover selection!
I'm happy to say my design was the number two jewelry seller in the Summer run and they ran it again in their Fall catalog. Unfortunately it created a bit of havoc as the butterfly beads were also painted in China and I didn't have enough stock to meet the contract commitment. We scrambled with Hong Kong suppliers and China to get our hands on enough of them so we could sign the contract in time. Thank goodness, it all worked out. If you want to know what the buyers were like at The Smithsonian, not only did they have a sharp eye for what their customers wanted, they were two of the most courteous, down to earth people I ever worked with. They did not have big heads and were a joy to work with.
Sometimes being creative means you're limited by reality, from the beginning the process was challenging. I didn't have a huge stock of any one focal bead since our last buying trip and putting too many different focal beads in each piece would make the piece less classic. I had to find a design that didn't use too many, yet wasn't mostly colored stones. In the 80's I could re-order those beads from China for delivery in a month and in 6 months recieve a shipment of beads with green grasshoppers. That would be bad. I made necklace after necklace and took them apart in frustration. That necklace took 9 butterfly beads and the earring two, I pulled everything that had that bead in it out of inventory and counted all of them twice. I could guarantee well over their required contract amounts if the item was a hit.
Once in production, I picked through endless hanks (groups of strands) of rose quartz rejecting those that were very cloudy or pale instead of clear and rosy, not easy with quartz. I tried to string as many of the necklaces as possible whenever I had time but many were made by one of our stringers. One of the things I am most proud of was that for the museum catalogs I personally checked each necklace and pair of earrings. I didn't want to have a customer excited about opening their order only to find flawed beads, or have it be strung too tight, too loose or have the knot show. I wanted the customer to put it on and feel good, or be happy to give it as a gift, the same way I would.
I had no idea I could design or that my designs would sell so well, an uncle taught me to make jewelry and I just started doing it to sell more merchandise. It kind of took off on it's own. I don't know if it's art because it was my job but the jewelry I designed were my creations. From one of a kind with unique antique pieces, or a template for many. Every one, from wild things I would wear, to classics that were not my style, were important to me that way. One of the saddest things about my father selling the business the following year was giving up the hard earned membership in the MSA, especially after just gaining The Smithsonian as an account. If you're wondering why he sold it, it's because my father was tiring, wanted to travel more for leisure, and had no son to take over his business. It was a sad surprise when he told me it was sold but such is life.
Do I miss it? No, it was a long time ago and it was just a job. I got other jobs and life went on. Now I'm happy drawing, making ice cream and I don't have to be around department store or la-dee-dah-boutique buyers with big heads. (Linda Seccaspina knows what I mean, some buyers are a huge pain!) Creating things is fun, what I secretly always wanted to try is sculpting, maybe some day.
Now you've seen yet another side of me. Most people don't know this about me, even my friends or extended family. People assume whatever you're doing now is what you've always done. It's not like people ask so I don't let them know about it. I did my best and it was good, it's enough that I know it.