Tamara Kelly creates her eponymous sculptural jewelry line from the state of Washington. Her pieces are hand-fabricated from sheet or wire, one-of-a-kind jewelry accented with gold, copper, bronze, and stones.
How did you get into making? And how did you start your business?
I was in my 20’s when I decided to go to art school in Toronto Ontario, it was the best thing I have ever done. I graduated after 5 years as I worked and went to school. After that, I followed my brother to British Columbia and continued to work on my art and contemplate how to make a living at it. Later, I remarried and moved to WA state where I started doing retail shows and a bit of wholesale. I had small children at the time so it seemed obvious to just do the wholesale as I was traveling way too much (with the retail shows).
What do you consider your greatest achievement (in life or your business)?
I think my greatest achievement was just shifting to wholesale… taking the chance and it worked out for the better for my family and myself.
How did you come up with your products? Describe your process.
I design and create sculptural jewelry influenced by nature’s lines and textures using sterling silver, copper, bronze, gold, and semi-precious stones, and uses techniques like reticulation forming and granulation. I hone and tweak my ideas and sketches to develop a workable process and then jump right in. Some of the tools I use to help me include a rolling mill, pliers, hammers, forming stump, a saw, a file, and a torch to which cut, form, and solder each piece individually. With each piece, even those in a series, I try to expand on the concept, push it further, explore the shape, and its relationship to others my work is never static, evolving.
When did you get started with wholesale and how did you know you were ready?
I started wholesale 5 years ago. I couldn’t do retails shows —they were not dependable (for example bad weather, bad promoter etc.) The wholesale route seemed like the only viable option for my business moving forward.
How do you promote your wholesale line?
I go to one show every year in Philly American Made. I also do advertisements in magazines and on wholesale websites.
How did you decide your minimum order requirements?
I am very easy to work with. I figure you probably need about $500-1000 of product to have a good variety and showing of the work in the store, so that’s what I recommend. I also offer free sizing and shipping to my galleries.
When you receive a new wholesale order, what steps do you take to get to know your buyer?
I usually contact them just before shipping and discuss the free sizing and shipping offer. I also trade goods at the end of the season for new pieces to help retailers freshen up their display because that helps build good relationships.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to someone else just starting out with wholesale?
I have seen many other makers at shows that do not take orders but they have very nice work, just something doesn’t click with the buyers. They just need to try wholesale and not over analyze everything.