Meet the Artist, Donelle Clarke, is about getting to know more than just the fact that I create hand-fabricated fine jewelry using both traditional silversmithing and metal clay techniques and ethically sourced materials.
If you could give your past self some advice, what would you tell you?
If I could do that, I would want to firmly say – “It will all work out!” Things happen, but by keeping your head in a positive space, and with clear thinking, you can turn anything into something positive, and learn from it.
Then I’d say, follow your heart, and remember to take time for self-care. It’s paying attention to your values and to what your body needs, that makes the doing possible.
Donelle, when you first started your career, how did you know you were ready and what made you start?
I was nearing retirement, and what I saw so clearly in my work as a Director of Care for Home Care, was so many people retiring to sit in front of the TV. These people were inadvertently great teachers to me because they showed me what I didn’t want to do. Maybe there’ll come a time for TV watching, but I knew I wanted more from my retirement.
First, I began taking classes that interested me. Eventually, I took a class in silversmithing, and “Wham!!”, I knew I had found my next passion! Taking classes has never stopped for me. I continue to learn and grow and expand my voice in the realm of handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry.
What makes an opportunity exciting to you – in business or in life?
I love being able to work at something to the point of mastering a new task or skill. And then, adding those skills to my repertoire so I can design my own creations. If a lot of people are making something, I want to try something different. This keeps my mind active, even if it means that what I do takes me longer to accomplish.
The bottom line for me is to make something with love because then love and beauty are being shared with the world. It is so satisfying seeing somebody find a piece of my jewelry that just makes her (or him) happy.
What has been the greatest shift in your career or life, and how did you navigate through it?
The greatest shift I’ve had to navigate in my jewelry career has been the end of community markets with COVID-19. I needed to come up with a Plan B that made sense. My website wasn’t working and at the same time, the jewelry store that sold my jewelry went out of business.
Mentors are key to my success in business
They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This is exactly what happened. I took a free Challenge week on building my own website with Vicki Jakes at WayOutFar.com. Definitely, this was the best thing I did! I’m still studying with her because it has helped me build my Plan B.
So here I am, more than a year into the Pandemic, and I have a beautiful website that I’m so proud of because I made it! I am learning marketing and so much more. And it’s all due to taking a chance on that Challenge Week.
I also wrote a blog post on Mentorship you may be interested in reading.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business?
This is a hard question only because there have been so many people who have influenced me. The first person that comes up immediately is my grandmother, who was the strongest woman I knew growing up. She was a great example of dignity and making a living in the arts. My grandma was an award-winning couturier designer in women’s clothing.
My original mentors
I am originally from California where I learned jewelry making with seed beads and leather, making roses, and peyote earrings from Indigenous teachers. That was over 35 years ago that I first began to explore jewelry making.
My Silversmithing Mentors
Moving up to the present, I took my first silversmithing class from Kathy Brandon at WorkingSilver.com. I took many classes from Kelly Allanson a goldsmith who does outstanding work and is an amazing teacher.
My Metal Clay Mentors
I was introduced to Precious Metal Clay by Sandra Elizabeth-York. And then I found Tracey Spurgin who helped take my work to a higher level to make things that no one else in my area was making. I’ve just begun classes with Rodi Frunze. Again, I’ve found a brilliant teacher helping me go deeper in my work, as well as, refine the skills I do have. The learning never stops!
What is your first business goal to accomplish this year?
The business goal I’m working on right now is writing 30 blogs in 30 days. I made it to 11 last month, but I’m continuing on! I have so much to tell my customers about the metals and gemstones I use, and how to care for their jewelry so that it always looks as good as the day it was purchased.
What do you have going on – or your favorite experience – that you’re like to share?
I just designed a new pendant for a contest in Wales. It was so much fun – having the idea – changing the idea, and then bringing it to reality – a wonderfully whimsical and coy little owl! This sweetie is all about texture, so she has six textures featured here.