Collective brings local artists together to work and sell
Artists tend to be right-brain thinkers, and jewelers are no exception to this assumption. They’re inventive, visual and imaginative.
There’s at least one area, however, where the jewelry artists of the Methow Valley Jewelers Collective (MVJC) lean toward left-brain analytical, mathematical and strategic thinking: their understanding of the creative, pragmatic and financial benefits of a united effort.
“There’s power in numbers,” says collective member Sarah Jo Lightner, who has been silversmithing in her Glitter & Grit Silversmith studio for nearly 10 years. “We can accomplish more together than we could by working separately.”
Formed in late fall 2019, the MVJC is a creative collaboration involving eight jewelry artists and one lapidary (a person who specializes in stones). The collective is housed in TwispWorks’ North Warehouse and consists of working studios for three artists, as well as a retail store where all nine members of the collective can sell jewelry and gems.
The studio is a “beautiful and bright space in a historic building,” says collective member and silversmith Kelleigh McMillan.
The collective’s genesis is rooted in practicality, but the result has been decidedly creative. Says Lightner, “For many local jewelers, finding available and affordable studio space is tricky. For others, generating enough inventory to support a retail shop is difficult, if not impossible, particularly for those who hold other jobs. The collective allows us to share studio and retail space.”
For jewelry artist Joanne Marracci, who works out of her home studio located off the beaten path, the collective is “a convenient place in town to meet clients in a professional retail space surrounded by beautiful jewelry and art.”
A richer benefit of the collective, says Lightner, has been the creative collaboration the collective fosters. “We feed off each other’s creativity and ideas,” she says. “We’re constantly giving each other information, sharing ideas, passing stones around. It creates a very cool creative space.”
Marracci adds that clients are drawn into this creative collaboration as well: “They get to experience working and talking with the artists, discussing custom pieces, and being involved in the entire creative process.”
McMillan agrees that the collective advances art through building relationships. “Working collaboratively and not competitively with other jewelers in the valley feels like it feeds the momentum of Twisp as a center for the arts,” she says. “We inspire each other in our creativity, as well as share in the costs and time of running a retail space.”
Traditional jewelers can be competitive, says Lightner, often with closely guarded techniques. Part of Lightner’s motivation to form the collective was to nurture collaboration and to make space for everyone.
“Through my studio at TwispWorks and teaching classes, I’ve gotten to know so many jewelers, creating such varied work,” she says. “The more we work together to create special pieces, the more and different types of people will come to watch us work and support our business.”
The members of the MVJC were chosen for their mutual need for studio and/or retail spaces, but also for the diversity of their work. The jewelers have in common the creation of wearable art, but their styles and techniques differ. Referring to some of the nine jewelers — who in addition to herself are Michelle Brouwer (Wild at Heart Fine Silver), Cassandra Head (Early Winters Design), Joanne Marracci (Marracci Designs), Kelleigh McMillan, Kevin Nielsen (The Lumen Naturae), Martin Novak (Empyrean Gemstones), Phoebe Rudd (Bitterroot & Brass), Jenni Tissell (Weathered Soul Jewelry), and Sandra Woodbury (Wolf and Flame) — Lightner says “The collective represents something for everybody. Kelleigh makes simple and easy to wear jewelry, Jenni does cowgirl chic, Kevin finds his own stones out in the desert and also works with natural glass and antique silver coins. We have some very unique niches.”
From a business perspective, the MVJC runs collaboratively as well. All members pay rent for studio space, retail space, or both, and all pay a 10% commission on sales to cover the overhead, including promotion, furnishings, supplies for openings, and other expenses related to the studio and shop.
Meet the artists
Additionally, each jeweler staffs the retail space at least one shift per month, which means that visitors to the collective can not only watch jewelers at work on one of the three finishing benches, but also meet working artists, talk to them about their work, and order custom pieces.
“This is one-of-a-kind artisan work,” says Lightner. “Whether you like silver, or mixed metals, or cut stones, or gems, you can talk to us about your aesthetic and your ideas, and we have a jeweler who can make it for you.”
Although some of the jewelers are full-time working artists and others balance their art with other jobs in the valley (for example, Lightner is the executive director of Confluence Gallery and McMillan teaches at the Independent Learning Center), all are united by their creativity and cooperative natures. The MVJC embodies the Methow spirit of collaboration and partnership, says Lightner, and “there’s no other way I’d be in that space.”
After a successful “soft opening” last December, the MVJC is hosting a grand opening event on Saturday (Feb. 1), from 3-6 p.m. The public is encouraged to visit the new lounge and studio space and to meet the jewelry artists, as well as to peruse the collection of unique jewelry, cut stones and specimens. “Come on in,” says Lightner. “We’re always interested in talking to people.”
The Methow Valley Jewelers Collective is open at their North Warehouse studio on the TwispWorks campus from Friday through Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., year-round. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pages/category/Artist/Methow-Valley-Jewelers-Collective-104906681028613.