Artist Name: Lena Mechieva
Location: Krasnoyarsk, Russia
1. Let’s start by telling us a little about yourself.
My name is Lena. I was born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia some….well…20 something years ago J I work as a customer service manager and clay-clay-clay when I don’t have to work as a customer service manager. I always enjoyed making things since I was a kid. With me being quite a naughty kid that would usually result in a little home disaster. As I grew up my projects became more “environment friendly” and I finally ended up making jewelry – first from ready beads and then from polymer clay.
Now I am making jewelry for sale, and hold master-classes for those who want to start making jewelry from polymer clay.
2. Besides working with clay, what other things do you like to do?
I enjoy live music concerts, reading, swimming, travelling, seeing new places and meeting new people. Do some knitting now and then if I am bored during long winter evenings. But for many years now it’s been mostly making things from polymer clay that takes most of my spare time.
3. How long have you been working with polymer clay? How did you get started?
I’ve been working with polymer clay for about 6 years now. When I started doing it, it was not well known and popular in my city so you couldn’t just see this material in a store. I remember seeing a photo of a very beautiful necklace on the Internet and wondering what it was made of. I contacted the artist who made it and that was when I first heard of the polymer clay and the things you can do with it. So I ordered some clay at an online store, received the parcel and decided to give it a try.
4. Do you have any formal training or are you self taught?
I am completely self-taught. As soon as I found out the polymer clay existed I started searching the web for online video lessons, websites for artists working with the material, master classes. I found a polymer clay artists’ community at Live Journal, joined it and… started claying.
5. How do you best describe your designs and your brand?
I would describe my designs and the entire “Kat’s Handmade” brand as “something Lena would wear”. Sounds selfish but what I mean is I am into classic style in almost everything except hair style. So I think the jewelry I make is for women with similar tastes to mine – women who prefer classic look, but still always have that little item in their outfit that stands out – haircut, a bracelet or a necklace, a scarf, shoes… can be anything.
6. How do you get ideas to create a piece? What inspires you?
My most important inspiration is people around me. Their faces, personalities, outfits, hair styles are where I find my ideas for jewelry. Basically, I make jewelry for people with similar tastes to mine and who I see everywhere around me – in a store, on a street, at work… To me it is always exciting and challenging to try and make a piece of jewelry that I think would suit a complete stranger I just passed by on a street.
7. What is your favorite piece(s) to make?
I love making earrings. Mostly because being close to face and eyes they can better emphasize one’s personality. But most of the time my process is making beads. It usually starts with colors combinations. I combine colors of clay that I think would look good together, decide on the beads shape, make beads and…put them in a box. Some of them can then wait for months and months until I suddenly decide they will look perfect in a necklace or something else.
8. What challenges have you faced in your work?
One of the major challenges I’ve had so far and I think always will is custom made items. It is always a terrible internal struggle for me – battling with doubts of whether the piece of jewelry I am making is exactly what my customer wants it to be. It is so hard to not get carried away and make something totally different! I always doubt and feel very excited and nervous from the moment the ordered piece is ready and till the time the customer first sees it.
9. Have you ever had a clay project “disaster” happen while making an order for a customer? If so, what happened?
Not that I remember… However my very first clay project was a real disaster. I started with the wrong bake out temperature because I didn’t realize my oven thermometer was broken and ended up with my apartment being filled with black smoke and the beads I spent hours and hours making were just little black pieces in the oven.
10. How has the internet impacted your art?
To me it was and still is a great tool for what I am doing. It is a way to follow the latest trends in jewelry fashion, exchange experience with other artists, buy different supplies for jewelry making, and sell the items I make. As for the impacts, I can’t say it impacts my art a lot as I get the ideas from people I see around me.
11. What things do you do to market your business?
Since I have a full time job, jewelry making is a hobby for me. However at some point people just started buying the jewelry I make! My best marketing tool is still “word of mouth” advertising. Internet is helping here with crossing the distance, time, and language barriers. I do have a Facebook page, and Etsy store for my jewelry, and also market it at a couple of Russian websites similar to Etsy. Whenever I can I try to take part in art fairs, sales of handmade jewelry organized by local artists, and other events.
12. How do you decide upon what products you are going to sell?
There are 3 major categories of the jewelry I make – for myself, for customer orders and “free for sale” jewelry which I make inspired by something or someone. So the decision is easy to make – anything which is not a customer order or made for myself is for sale. However, an item will never make it to any of the three categories if there are any quality issues– either with the material, design, or the process itself. That’s my rule.
13. Where do you create?
I create at home, in my room. Basically, my studio is just a big table with shelves and drawers next to it.
14. Is there a favorite polymer clay supply you can’t live without?
I wouldn’t be able to live without my pasta machine for clay I think. That is such a useful and handy tool for lazy girls like me J
15. What are your upcoming collections that we should look out for?
I would like to keep it a secret for now, but spring is usually “new collection time” for me. So there will definitely be a new collection in March-April 2011.