Local jewelry artists have formed a networking, educational and support group for jewelers and metal workers in the McHenry County area. TheIllinois Metal and Jewelry Arts Guild provides an avenue for education, networking, collaboration and more.
The guild was formed last year primarily from students who met through jewelry classes taught by Kim Vorel at McHenry County College. Some joined after learning of it from business connections or friends. Today there are 14 members from McHenry and Lake Counties.
The guild schedules informal meetings every other month for an hour at McHenry County College and occasionally more often than that, Vorel, a Lake Geneva, Wis., jeweler and instructor, said. Topics for discussion typically include what everyone has been doing since the last meeting as far as finding venues for sales, gallery opportunities and planning for group trunk shows.
“The networking is invaluable because somebody would have information about something that’s available and that gets shared,” Vorel said. “We’ve also tried to train each other on different things—like how to get a website up and how to have exposure.”
The guild also offers artists an avenue for working with other professionals in metal works and creating a professional image.
“Each one of us is concerned about producing a quality piece of work so we’re trying to present ourselves as professionals,” said member Nancy Graham of Crystal Lake. “Creative artistic people, yes, but also professionals.”
Most members have their own studios and find the collaboration between artists at the guild invaluable.
“There is no way I would be where I’m at if it were not for this group of people,” said member Marie Morrison of Crystal Lake. “It’s the personal connection that has been so important to me that keeps me going and translates into the work.”
While members each run their own businesses, the guild offers opportunities to work together in group shows and exhibitions that offer greater exposure for everyone.
The group collaborated for two trunk shows last year; one during Ladies Night Out in Woodstock and the other at McHenry County College over the holiday season. Another trunk show is planned for June; this time in a member’s garden.
In addition to the benefits of camaraderie, education and promotional information; guild members have the opportunity to buy supplies together to save money on shipping costs and share information on successful business practices.
Recently, members met to discuss business strategies with the rising costs of precious metals and the economy, Vorel said.
“One of the strengths of this organization is that we can sit down and go through a list of things we can do to deal with the changing marketplace and the fact that we are one-of-a-kind and unique,” she said.
There is a nominal fee to become a member in IMAJA which primarily is used for the expense of maintaining its website.