Sometimes it feels like every career-move you make has led to one thing. For Anne Holman and Jen Townsend, that culminating event is opening the doors to The Smithery this Saturday, October 18th in Grandview.
“I had an epiphany last fall, realizing that all these experiences have led me to The Smithery,” says Holman. “It never felt so right.”
It was so right, that writing a 30-page business plan with Townsend was a breeze.
The two met during a Studio Professions class Holman was teaching at Columbus Collage of Art and Design. Townsend, a college senior at the time, recalls asking a million questions of Holman.
“She [Holman] was living proof that I could make jewelry for a living,” says Townsend. “That class changed me, it made me realize this was possible.”
Townsend’s goal was having a self-sustaining jewelry business five years after her graduation from CCAD in 2010.
“The dream of running my own gallery and workshop space has always been in the back of my mind when someone asked me what I planned to do with my art education,” says Townsend.
Holman went full-time with Anne Holman Jewelry Designs in 2007. She was half-way through art school when she decided she wanted to make a go of it as a business, letting her business grow naturally and taking teaching opportunities as they arose.
“I really enjoyed the mentorship that came along with the undergraduate art students,” she says.
Each of them brings their own set of skills to the business. They both have the passionate and determined work ethic that drives entrepreneurs.
“I had a lot of retail and management experience which translates directly into day to day operations of running a store in areas such as inventory control, merchandising, and employee management,” says Townsend.
“I have done merchandising, designed and built retail store fixtures and signage, did freelance graphic design and web design, and taught undergraduate and continuing professional studies classes in jewelry and small metals at CCAD,” says Holman.
Holman was also one of the founders of Tiny Canary, an indie design market, and she also assisted with bringing the large-scale art event known as Agora to fruition.
“I found the logistics of running events to be a welcome challenge,” she says. “I love to see the vision come together into something that is so supportive of other artists. All these things have been so valuable in visualizing and creating The Smithery.”
The Smithery will not only be a shop for people to purchase handmade items, it will also showcase the educational aspect of metalsmithing and jewelry making. A long counter separates the workspace from the store floor in the 1500 square-foot space.
“I have always wanted to educate in a workshop setting and had the opportunity to do so last year at the Worthington Community Center,” says Townsend. “I found that I needed the flexibility of a setting like The Smithery to offer more classes and workshops.”
In the spring, they were selected as a part of the Co.Starters class at ArtWorks in Cincinnati, a nine-week class for creative entrepreneurs.
“It was valuable to talk to other classmates who were also at different career stages and were looking to expand or start something new,” says Holman. “I gave a pitch at the end that really helped me to focus our many-faceted idea into a concise presentation.”
Using their own cash, and a modest loan from a family member allowed them to put their business plan in motion.
They are also saving on costs by reusing many of the display items they already own from selling their goods at festivals.
Grandview was really the only place they looked for space. Holman really appreciates the independent nature of the businesses along Grandview Avenue and has always wanted to be a part of that vibrancy.
“We were putting out feelers [for a storefront] and heard that Thread was looking to sublet the last 4 months of their lease,” says Holman. “It really was our ideal location, and we are still a little stunned that it became available. It was very competitive to get our foot in the door, but we are fortunate that the owners of the building decided to take a risk on us. We were so passionate about our vision and came to the table with our best foot forward. We came prepared and have the intention to make this last for a career.”
Holman and Townsend are moving their studios from the Millworks Art Studios to The Smithery, into a workshop space clearly visible in the store.
“We want people to gain an appreciation for the work that goes into metalsmithing and give them the opportunity to learn about it,” says Townsend. “We are creating a workshop space, a fully functional studio, and a store.”
They are currently running all aspects of the store themselves, but plan to hire an accountant. For their point of sale system, they are using VendHQ, and for accounting software, Xero.
They both credit having a strong personal support system as an important part of achieving their goals.
“Through the years, I have doubted myself from time to time,” says Townsend. “You need to have people around you that can see what you can’t see in yourself and aren’t afraid to tell you.”
“My friends and family are a big help,” says Holman. “Mentors from CCAD and business contacts have helped in reflecting my vision back to me and seeing the potential.”
Holman has also relied on the support of other artists she has met from teaching and traveling to shows.
“Only they know what struggles we encounter and the sense of humor that we need to keep to handle it all,” she says.
They each give a special shout-out to Kelly Malec-Kosak, a CCAD jewelry professor/Chair of Fine Arts.
“She’s a HUGE influence in where we are today!”
Holman plans to continue mentoring other artists through some of the more difficult parts of a professional art career, and share the work of artists she’s encountered that inspire her. Other artists will be invited to use The Smithery space to teach special workshops.
“We want people to come to a workshop and leave with new skills, knowledge, and a finished project,” says Holman.
The Smithery will celebrate its Grand Opening, Saturday, October 18, 2014 from 2pm to 9pm at 1306 Grandview Avenue, Grandview Heights, Ohio 43212. For more information, visit ShopTheSmithery.com.
See more shop details and photos at Columbus Underground.
Do you know of, have, or work in, a creative workspace and would like to be featured in this series? If so, please contact Anne Evans.
Portrait photo by www.afsphotos.com.