Balance, Form, Transform

Nature's Palette necklaces are individually handmade and colored over finely embossed delicate patterns. Shown here is the Ocean's Deep palette. The statement piece necklace is supported on an 18'' sterling silver snake chain.

by Stephanie Hintz

Courtesy of Handmade Business

While on maternity leave from her full-time job, artist Kim Paige was looking for something to do at home while also caring for her two young daughters.

Having always felt that she had some sort of artistic inclination, she became intrigued with the idea of jewelry making and began to follow some online tutorials that focused on creating wire jewelry.

Paige, a second-generation American whose grandparents were from China, also wanted to instill some of her Chinese heritage into her new craft, so she started shaping Chinese knots.

Growing up in upstate New York, Paige attended Girl Scout camp and really enjoyed her time outdoors surrounded by nature's beauty. ''That's where my appreciation of the outdoors stems from,'' she recalled.

Ironically, before she began making jewelry at home, her career consisted of working in a windowless basement office, disconnected from the outside, natural world that she loves so much.

Paige still works a full-time engineering job (though now mostly from her home), but making jewelry gives her solace and keeps her connected to nature.

''I'm still in a basement,'' Paige laughed. ''But at least I have a window now! And it's a lot easier to get outside instead of badging out of three or four doors.''

Although she still works full-time, Paige dedicates a lot of her time to building her jewelry-making business, hoping to someday transition it into a full-time, long-term career.

''It's a tactical process, and I use a lot of the same analytical and technical thinking that I use in my full-time job to run my jewelry business,'' she said.

Ready, Set, Goal!

While working out the logistics of crafting her jewelry, Paige acknowledged that if she wanted to be able to have time for herself, she really needed to be able to dedicate herself to it.

To maintain her focus she knew she needed to treat her craft like the business she wanted it to blossom into. ''That forced me to say to myself: You need to do this because this isn't just a hobby; it's something important, and it has to have deadlines and goals.''

In 2010, Paige started a bead society at a local bead store, where she and her group met monthly and worked on various projects. During one such meeting, a fellow member suggested that Paige attend some metal clay classes that this individual was teaching. At the time, Paige had never even heard of metal clay!
Leaf Bracelet

This delicate bracelet is a beautiful reminder of a walk through the woods.

''I signed up for a class with her and we did a project using a photo of my kids,'' said Paige. ''That really got me into using metal clay.''

Ripples Offset Circle Earrings

These classic accents, the Ripples Offset Circle earrings, are reminiscent of sand or water ripples and measure approximately 1-1/4 inch in diameter.

Paige began creating jewelry with base metals and silvers and soon found that the start-up costs for metal clay jewelry were quite reasonable and the tools needed to begin weren't elaborate or too expensive.

Paige attributes much of the success of her business, Red Tree Studio by Kim Paige (, to the support she receives from her husband and daughters.

''My husband is really supportive. If I didn't have his support, a lot of this wouldn't be possible,'' she said. ''We have a really good dynamic, and that's how I'm able to fit in a full-time job with my art and my kids. Having that partnership has really enabled me to grow my business.''

Her support for her craft goes beyond the assistance from her husband, as the couple's young daughters have also shown interest in the business, particularly when it comes to their own design ideas.

Developing the Total Package

Paige is completely engrossed in the day-to-day aspects of her handmade business. From handcrafting her line of metal clay jewelry and photographing her work to designing her website and managing all sales and marketing, she represents the total entrepreneurial package. For other artists to do the same, Paige recommends that they carefully examine where they are in life and work, what they really want to do, and what they feel comfortable doing. ''It's about defining yourself and your goals.''

By doing much of the behind-the-scenes work herself, Paige feels that she is better able to control output and develop her vision. The process has also helped her to discover her own limitations and to identify areas in which she could use some help. For example, if/when her business grows beyond her own practical reach, she is now better prepared to communicate her needs should she have to outsource certain things (i.e. photography or sales).

''As I grow, I know at some point I will need to build a team. Being able to recognize and prioritize my own strengths and weaknesses will only help,'' said Paige. ''My background has helped me prepare myself,'' she added.

Paige says the biggest struggle she faces is time management and structuring her time to do all the things she would like to do in both her personal and professional life.
Metal Leaf Ring

''There is a certain amount of guilt you need to have to help push yourself some days. You need to be able to constantly evaluate yourself, your needs, and everyone else's needs,'' she said. ''Balance is no one single point. It's a constantly moving target.''

Paige says achieving balance is really about how you respond to things. ''Either you can accept, move on and improve, or you can freak out.''

For the Love of Cabochons

Red Tree Studio

Red Tree Studio's Raindrop Triangle post-style earrings are detailed with swirls and colorful drops dangle from tiny chains.

Paige started going to the Southern Tier Geological Society Club where she became hooked on cabochons. Her all-time favorite piece was actually a pendant she created while attending one of their cabin sessions. ''There were these coffee cans full of rocks we could just take and use,'' she explained. ''I dug it out of the can, cut it on the wheels, and sat with it for a bit. I thought what a cool piece it was and then began thinking about how to set it.''

The stone she selected is reminiscent of a crescent shape with one polished side and one unfinished, ''bubbly'' part of rock. At that point in her jewelry-making, Paige had never set a cabochon stone, but had seen some ways of setting them in a half-bezel, half-prong type setting. That was exactly the setting she set out to create--with a few adjustments and some help along the way.

''I really like the piece because of how it came together,'' commented Paige. ''I learned a lot of different techniques while working with it. It was a truly organic design process and was also very meditative to me,'' she continued. In the future, she sees herself incorporating some more traditional techniques into her work, including more heat and soldering and then fusing that with metal clay.

Future Plans

Sticking closer to home, Paige typically exhibits at retail shows in New York and Pennsylvania and attends monthly shows during the show season. However, for 2016 she plans to branch out and establish more wholesale accounts. In fact, this February she will be exhibiting at ACRE in Philadelphia and hopes to make some good wholesale connections while there.

A large number of Paige's retail pieces fall into the $50-$100 price range. Paige feels this is a good price point for gift buying, as well as the occasional self-splurge that many of her buyers enjoy treating themselves to. ''They appreciate the quality, and they are not looking for something to just throw away. They want their jewelry to resonate with them and to have some meaning.''

With the next collection Paige is planning to expand into some higher price-point pieces for those customers who are looking for that type of craftwork. ''I don't find it limiting to ask myself how I can design this line to be appropriate and workable for wholesale,'' she stated.

The element of design and the eventual realization of that design is what Paige loves the most about jewelry-making. She enjoys problem solving and evaluating what works and what doesn't, in addition to finding how she can make each piece ''speak'' to the wearer in different ways.

''It's all about asking questions and creating answers as your art.''
Kim Paige

Kim Paige at work in her studio. All photos courtesy of Kim Paige.