In the Studio with Rebecca Fortier
When did you decide to try to earn a living making jewelry?
During the time I was working as a bench and repair jeweler at a retail jewelry store. I had a small jewelry setup at home and was making my own jewelry designs when I could find the time. At this same time I applied to be a member of the League of NH Craftsmen. When I was accepted as a juried member it encouraged me to try to earn a living making and selling my jewelry.
Did you jump right in or work part time at first?
I took the cautious approach and kept working at the jewelry store part time while I began to establish my own business.
Did you ever have your doubts about becoming a working artist?
Absolutely! There are so many talented jewelers out there – the competition is fierce! For a long time I lacked the confidence to go forward on my own. However once I had developed a “signature style” and customers began to follow me and my work I became more secure about my decision.
How long have you known
that you are creative?
Since I was a child I have loved crafting, and my mother encouraged it by always keeping art and craft supplies on hand. I preferred spending time being creative more than anything else – although my mom occasionally had to intervene and insist that I go outside and play or read a book instead!
What were some of the things you used to make before you began making jewelry?
I’ve been making jewelry since I was sixteen, but before that time I enjoyed drawing and painting, embroidery and sewing. As a young child I would collect natural materials and make (Christmas) ornaments out of pinecones, seeds and dried milkweed pods. Painting rocks was a favorite activity for a time.
Rebecca shops Etsy and Ebay for sea glass. She advises to always check that the dealer is reputable and that sea glass is labeled "genuine surf tumbled" before purchasing.
Do you have any favorite places to shop for supplies?
In the past I have really enjoyed shopping the Metalwerx Marketplace, which over the past few years has been held in Newton, MA. The marketplace is a two day event which brings together premier vendors in the jewelry field who offer a wide variety of gemstones, tools, supplies, books and jewelry demonstrations. There is also a lecture series throughout the two days featuring current jewelry topics and trends. Metalwerx is also a learning center for jewelers located in Waltham, MA and offers excellent jewelry workshops and instruction for beginner to advanced jewelers.
Rio Grande Jewelry Supply is another good source for equipment and tools.
What is it about making jewelry that you enjoy the most?
The process of taking a design from conceptualization through to successful completion. It is rarely a direct, straight line (unless it is something I have made often in the past). The opportunity for discovery or a learning a better way to approach a design is always there.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I find inspiration in many different places. I can be inspired by the colors and subject of a painting, or the details of a flower or foliage in my garden. Architectural details from an intricate wrought iron fence or an historical building can spark ideas. Although I rarely sew of late I love looking at fabrics - the designs and color combinations often suggest new possibilities for my jewelry.
If you weren’t making jewelry is there another type of art that you’d love to make?
Actually, no! There are so many other facets of jewelry design that I have yet to explore. I would love to try my hand at enameling at some point.
The most recent craft I’ve been tempted to try is Pysanky – the Ukrainian art of decorating Easter eggs with a wax resist (similar to batik). I don’t recall where I first saw a pysanka, but it was when I was a child and I was immediately captivated by its intricacy and beauty. I finally happened upon the opportunity to try this amazing craft almost 50 years later when I discovered a workshop being offered by our town’s Adult Continuing Education program! The workshop was a wonderful experience – offered by a lovely woman of Ukrainian heritage who had learned the tradition from her own mother. I enjoyed the workshop so much I invested in a beginner’s kit that would allow me to practice further and now follow a number of Pysansky artists on Instagram. I think what I especially love about it is that this time-honored traditional continues to be passed on from one generation to the next as it has for thousands of years.
How has the look of your jewelry changed over the years?
I feel my work has developed a more distinctive, recognizable style as well as a bolder sense of design over the years.
What do you like most about running your own business?
It is wonderful to set your own schedule and priorities and be able to choose to create the things that you personally find meaningful.
What do you dislike about running your own business?
I suppose I would have to say self-promotion. Being an introvert it is not in my nature to “toot my own horn”, so to speak – but it’s obviously an essential part of running any kind of successful business.
Describe your perfect studio.
Light, bright, airy, peaceful and serene - offering windows with a view to the outdoors of a garden or woods. It would have to be very well organized, too! My current set up isn’t too far off from my ideal, although some of my equipment resides in our basement due to space limitations. I’ve taken over a room in our home that was formally a study/office, so at some point I will be painting the dark wood paneling with a lighter color. I do have lots of natural light and views to our garden outside which I find is very important. I am recalling one of my earliest studio set-ups which was situated in a unfinished basement, facing a blank concrete wall with nothing but artificial lighting. I strongly do not recommend this! It only took a matter of weeks before I was more happily situated above ground again. : )