Making a Cohesive Collection: The Nuts, Bolts and $$$ of a Signature Jewelry Style

Lorraine Kolasa has the most cohesive, signature jewelry style I have ever seen–and it sells. When I participated with her last summer in the Michigan Silversmiths Guild booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, we all did well. But her work outsold the other seven of us, eight to one. Or so it seemed.

Signature Jewelry Style: The Story

Lorraine’s mom taught her how to crochet. Later, Lorraine taught herself tatting, an old-fashioned lace-making skill that is almost a lost art. Lorraine now casts these small pieces of cotton lace in sterling silver and finishes them as jewelry. When you explain her unique craft to potential buyers, they not only get the beauty of her detailed signature jewelry style, but love the story.

signature jewelry style:: Square Bracelet by Lorraine Kolasa.

Square Bracelet by Lorraine Kolasa.

Signature Jewelry Style: The Big Reveal

To find out how she developed this cohesive look, I asked her a bunch of questions:

Q: How did you start?

A: I’ve formally been making jewelry since my first undergraduate jewelry class in 2005. But it’s something I’ve dabbled in as a hobby ever since I was a kid. In 2004, in particular, I got really into wire working, which inspired me to change my BFA concentration at Eastern Michigan University from graphic design to jewelry/metalsmithing.

signature jewelry style:: Ring by Lorraine Kolasa

Ring by Lorraine Kolasa

Q: How long did it take you to develop this signature jewelry style?

A: From start to finish, maybe a year? I started experimenting with lace casting in 2013 (with store-bought stuff from the local craft store), mostly just to see what would happen. The results were successful enough that I wanted to keep exploring the idea. But within a few months, I found store-bought lace pretty limiting–most of it is made to be sewn onto clothes, not turned into jewelry, after all. Making my own seemed the logical way to go, but that had its own time-consuming learning curve.

Q: Why is a signature jewelry style important?

A: It helps to give your work a distinct voice. Not only does this make your work as a whole look more professional (and therefore more likely to get you into better shows), but it also makes your work more memorable to customers. My style certainly isn’t for everyone, but those who do like it tend to remember it. And a number of them have consequently become repeat buyers.

signature jewelry style:: Small Hoops by Lorraine Kolasa.

Small Hoops by Lorraine Kolasa.

Q: How about financially?

A: I’m definitely selling more work than before. Part of that simply has to do with having a cohesive, visually-appealing collection. But another part of it is that when my work coalesced into its current style, I found a lot of other business-related things fell into place. For instance, it suddenly became a lot easier to write a statement about my work, because my style was no longer all over the place. How I wanted to present my work online became clearer, so I was finally motivated to set up a website. Things like that. So there were direct benefits, but also a surprising number of indirect benefits.

Q: Do you have a website?

A: I do! It’s

Photos courtesy of Kolasa.

Read on for part two of Betsy’s thoughts on making a cohesive collection–and why you shouldn’t.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. Her story on Colorado diamonds appears in the September-October issue and she will be writing about her experience in Kate Wolf’s class in 2018, along with her grant-writing adventures as a silversmith. You can reach her at [email protected].

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