Life of Art: Sharon Zimmerman

Interview two in the Life of Art series graciously provided by Sharon Zimmerman, jewelry designer.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? Please include what
do you do to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head.

I am Sharon Zimmerman, a jewelry designer. Here is San Francisco. What do I do to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly?  I make a ton of jewelry.  Up until 5 months ago, I was employed, but unfulfilled.  I hit a point where it was a scarier life choice to stay where I was at than it was to take a giant leap into the unknown.  And so I leapt, and it has been OK…so far.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

silver leafy ear-dangle-y goodness!

My creative practice is primarily in metalsmithing – i.e. making jewelry out of sterling silver, 14 karat and 18 karat gold. Though if you had asked me this question over the years, you would receive a different answer.  At age 8, I would have said acting, at age 16, I would have said writing, at age 21, I would have said music, at age 27, I would have said food.  More than any practice, metalsmithing has taught me patience and precision, though the design process encourages a certain looseness and messiness. I have also learned not to say no to an idea, though to some ideas I have had to say “not now”.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Though I am most drawn to architecture and architectural elements; any beautifully designed structure can make me cry.  I also love schematic drawings and working out geometric problems (using Pi to find circumference of a circle, figuring out the surface area of an isoceles triangle, forming a trilateral pyramid from a flat sheet of silver).  Funny for the girl who got a D in high school Geometry, but I do find it interesting that I was drawn to an artistic medium in which I use geometry on a daily basis. (ed. Woah. Math and Art? AWESOME.)

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I don’t view barriers as a mysterious force holding me back, but rather as a problem that is simply in need of a solution. If I come up against a design problem, I just try new things over and over until I find the solution that works and is artistically satisfying. One of the most challenging aspects is that my art will be worn, so there are some practical limitations of what I can do.  Clasps have to be both easy to use and secure, rough parts can catch on clothing, everyone’s wrists are different sizes, etc, but I also want the design to be thorough, creative, pleasing and lovely.  Though the process can at times be frustrating, I find the end results so rewarding that I find that it is worth it to push on through. I don’t know that I use a single method, though I will sketch a piece over and over until I like the results or I’ll try making it one way, but I am always willing to take it apart if I don’t like it.  I also try not to say no to any idea that I might have.  Ideas that have seemed a little out there to me have been some of my more popular pieces.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

Sleep, yoga, tea, socializing, though not necessarily in that order.  Also, changing up my routine can be a good way to shake out all of the cobwebs.  This week for instance, I got up at 5:30am to go out to Fort Funston to walk on the beach with a good friend and her Pit Bull/Marshmallow mix.  I came home totally rejuvenated and re-did my logo and banner on Etsy and I also worked on my display for an upcoming art fair.

What does success look like to you?

I’ll let you know when I find it.  I think that it probably involves having enough money to travel at whim, but not necessarily enough to buy property in San Francisco.

What do you want people to know about you and your work? 

I think that this is where I pull out the soapbox from underneath my seat, place it atop my high horse and stand gingerly upon it: (ed. Yay! I love me some soapboxin.)

The price is the price for a reason; I didn’t arrive at my prices arbitrarily. While I am happy to work out a payment schedule with you, please don’t assume that I can easily give you a discount.   We as consumers have demanded, and successfully gotten, lower prices on all kinds of products over the years-food is cheaper, lumber is cheaper, textiles are cheaper, etc. But this has all come at an incredibly awful human cost.  Yes, you got a great deal on that $12 t-shirt, but the Cambodian woman who assembled it for you made less that day than what you would spent on a cup of coffee.  Your gold ring from India? Cheaper than American jewelry, but the guy who made it works without eye protection or ventilation to protect him from the metal dust and chemicals associated with jewelry-making. Also, the drive for cheaper goods has meant the long-term loss of jobs in our own country. I am not saying that you always have to make the responsible choice when you buy, but I am asking you to think more deeply about it.  If you really love something that I have made, then I want you to have it.  But I also have rent to pay and food to eat.  You can pay me in installments.  I don’t mind.  But if price is your only factor in making your purchase decisions, then you might as well be buying cheap plastic jewelry from the mall.  Go do that, come back to me in ten years and tell me if you still love it and wear it everyday.

*Leaps from high horse and neatly tucks soapbox away*



Thanks a million for your answers, Sharon, and for shining some light on bigger issues that first world consumers don’t often consider.

If you’d like to see more of Sharon’s work, she’d love it if you checked out her Etsy site and gave her a LIKE on Facebook.

Are you creative? Curious about what the Voix blog is up to? Would you like to answer a few questions about your Life of Art? Visit this post and leave a comment, I’ll send you some questions.

Life of Art: Brian Beatty

And here we go! My first Life of Art interview is with writer, comedian, and storyteller Brian Beatty. Enjoy!

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? Please include what do you do to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head.

As you can see, the beard really is impressive.

My business card says, “Writer. Comedian. Dude with a beard.” Which is as accurate a description as any I’ve been able to come up with. I dabble in Moth-ish storytelling, too. Banjo and guitar noodling have figured into my recent gigs as well.

Maybe I need new business cards.

To feed my literary addiction and buy my hound’s kibble, I write print and digital copy for clients of all shapes and sizes. Which isn’t like Mad Men. Not the way I do it, anyway.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I write every day. I get up on stage as often as I can fool people into inviting me up on stage. This summer that’s meant “acting” in Ferrari McSpeedy’s “Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs” at the 2011 Minnesota Fringe. Reviews confirmed my suspicion going into the show that I’m not anybody’s idea of an actor.

Where do you find inspiration?

I read a lot. I listen to and play a lot of music. There is a handful of artists (writers, comedians, visual artists, musicians) I return to as barometers of the honesty and artfulness of my own work.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I heave my shoulder into the boulder and keep pushing whichever direction looks like the top of the hill.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

I hang out with my hound. I go for hikes. I pick up a banjo or a guitar. Last spring, I took a pottery class.

What does success look like to you?

Having a story or poem or stand-up bit turn out as close to my intent as possible — without sacrificing my integrity to appease an audience — is my idea of success.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I’m not for everybody. It’s possible I’m not for you. But even if that’s the case, I hope you’ll see that what I’m sharing with you is an honest effort to entertain. Honesty is as important to me as artistry. I also like as little artifice as possible between the audience and me. And I’m not the least bit interested in shock value — believe it or not.


If you want to see more of Brian’s work, check out his blog: Brian Beatty.

And here are some links to his stories: Private Properties and Can’t Get There From Here

and some poetry: Flap (Position) and Astronomy for Dummies

I hope you enjoy Brian’s work. He’s great, articulate, bristly, humorous, tenderhearted, and honest beyond belief.

Are you creative? Curious about what the Voix blog is up to? Would you like to answer a few questions about your Life of Art? Visit this post and leave a comment, I’ll send you some questions.

Life of Art: an interview series

You know what’s annoying? Nobody gets a gold star for living a normal, sane, even-keel middle class life. No matter how much I may resist paying bills on time, remember to wash body and clothes, stay fed and sheltered and somewhat fit – it’s expected that I figure this stuff out. It’s the responsible thing to do – a standard to maintain if I don’t want all my friends and family to think I’m trashy, crazy, or just plain irresponsible.

And the mechanics of daily life (which includes holding down the job that I’ve got to have to pay for the shelter, food, maintenance, and entertainment) take up lots of time. Most of every day, I’d say.

And then there’s this creative impulse living inside me. It wants me to stay busy, write books, make collages, travel, photograph, learn to draw, write movies, do improv, and audition for plays. It wants me to tell stories at microphones, create new video and podcast content for my students to practice their language skills, learn to scuba dive and take pictures of coral reefs, and make friends with every single creative person who crosses my path. It’s busy in my head, friends. Very busy. And I try so many things that I’m not particularly good at. Then I get frustrated and give up.

Sometimes my creative impulse makes me tired, other times I just dive head first into a new project without considering the impact said project will have on the state of my yard, kitchen counter, and food supply.

So I’ve become very curious about how other artists in various stages of their careers are managing their life of art and what Ira Glass calls getting past the gap between being a beginner and doing art that matches your taste. SO – over the next indeterminate while, I’m going to interview* other writers, actors, visual artists, musicians, etc. and ask them how they juggle it all.

I hope you’ll join me. This should be fun!

*If you’re interested in being interviewed, shoot me an email or post a comment here.