I've been ask lately, to relay the story of how I came to be a metalsmith, making jewelry as I do. First, I need to begin by saying that with the recent creation of my new web site (www.kberlin.com) and my Etsy shop (http://kberlin.etsy.com), I have accomplished a long time goal. T he jobs I've held over the past 20 years have prepared me very well for all of this. I began as an administrative assistant in advertising and design. For ten years I worked for small graphic design firms where I learned the ins and outs of print production, media placement and project management. I jumped on the dot com bubble for a three year ride down the IT path that led from web design project manager through technical support team supervisor to Program Manager. As the bubble deflated, I found myself safely on the ground in December of 2003.
I've always enjoyed making things and I've always been attracted to jewelry. For many years I was a single mother, raising my only daughter alone. We enjoyed our time together, going to the park, hiking, watching movies, baking, or making crafts for fun. One rainy day in the fall of 1997, I sat with my daughter at the dining room table in our brand new home. She'd been given a beading kit and we spent the afternoon making bracelets and necklaces. It really sparked an interest for me, and I wound up spending more time playing with the beads than she did. Later that year, we made polymer clay beads and necklaces for every one of her classmates for Christmas. Soon after that, I met my husband-to-be, we got engaged a year later, we got married the year after that, I had a new job working downtown... it was a very different life for me and my daughter.
With my passion for beads and making jewelry still going strong, I heard about a local bead show and I just had to check it out. Let me tell you, if you have never been to a bead show, it's overwhelming for the first timer. Where do you start with so many vendors to choose from? I spent the day just taking it all in and didn't spend much money. The second day I went back with a purpose. There was a woman doing demonstrations at her booth and she was making her own enamel beads. I just had to try it, so I bought her enameling kit. For the next few years I made my own enamel beads in my basement with a propane torch and copper tubing. I even made enough jewelry that I had an open house show in December of 2003.
In January 2004, after leaving my stressful corporate job (POP goes the dot com bubble!), I enrolled in a beginner metalsmith class at a local community arts center. I was hooked, and over the next two and half years I enrolled in one or two classes each quarter. During that time I met a local gem stone dealer and rock hound. He needed someone to assist him for an upcoming rock and gem show, and I volunteered to get experience exhibiting at shows. I spent a lot of time helping him sort through his stones, pricing, labeling, and preparing his displays, and I made a great new friend. By this time it was spring of 2006 and I was looking for a part time job. While my friend the stone dealer paid me for helping him, I needed something more regular. He told me that I should go talk to a friend of his, because she was looking for help. Little did I know, this would be my dream job. In June of 2006 I was hired by Judie Raiford as her studio assistant, two days a week. Making another artists jewelry, with their equipment and supplies for 16 hours a week is a great education, and I get paid to do it. I am not only welcome to, but enthusiastically encouraged to work on my own designs in Judie’s well equipped studio. That studio just so happens to be in the basement of her well known art gallery in Roswell, Georgia. (www.RaifordGallery.com)
My personal studio!
When I'm not working for Judie, I'm working for myself. The encouragement that I receive from Judie and her staff ("the Gallery Girls") has been incredible. I am now one of the 400+ artists represented in the gallery and my work is displayed in one of the 26 jewelry cases. It has been three years since I began working for Judie and I am so grateful for the life and the career I have today. It's not easy, but I really enjoy what I get to do.