Secrets to Being Successful: Advice from Jewelry Artist Brenda Meintz Schweder

Jewelry Artist Brenda Meintz Schweder is not only a jewelry designer but also the inventor of Now That’s a Jig! and Now That’s a Pliers. As Artist of the Year for Step-by-Step Wire in 2015, Brenda has continued to inspire jewelry artists around the world, frequently appearing on Beads, Baubles, and Jewels and in other creative outlets. Here she shares with us the secret of how she continues to succeed in the jewelry world.

Jill: Can you please describe yourself and your work?

Brenda: I’m part artist and part inventor; part found-object lover and part wire wrangler. I am always chasing my heart and my heart is always chasing the making of meaning in my life. I yearn for self-discovery through my work, and my work is inspired by its pieces. I am director and engineer. I follow the inherent thinginess of the piece’s pieces and aspire to giggles, hmmmm’s and pitter-pat’s. I love my life, my art, and the people around me, especially my three men: my husband, Jim, and my sons, James and Liam.

J: Why do you do what you do?

B: Because I’ve never fit the corporate mold. Because I bore easily with routine, and working 8 to 5 would do me in (again). Because color, form, texture, pattern, and finish make my heart burst (in a good way). Because I strive for rust. Because when I make something, I always do it in a way unique to me. Because the status quo makes me crazy. Because I never wanted to be or do anything like anyone else.

J: Can you please describe a real life experience that inspired you?

B: I find myself inspired by everything around me. I can go into underdrive at most any time—but mostly when I’m alone and in public—where I feel like I’m super-attuned to the visual. It’s an uber-spiritual state where I can be revived by the juxtaposition of a beat-up piece of plastic against the road’s shoulder, or just as intrigued by a blackened and dried pod plucked from a deadened fall field.

Jet Plane to Emerald City (a Collaboration with Annie Pennington) was inspired by Annie’s mosaic polymer clay cabochon.

Jet Plane to Emerald City (a Collaboration with Annie Pennington) was inspired by Annie’s mosaic polymer clay cabochon.

J: What is your favorite part of your work and why?

B: I’d like to say that I’m a maker who just can’t wait to get into my studio. I love mining for inspiration and I love the process of roughing-in, and having completed, a finished piece. But the rest of the process I have to plow my way through. It’s an ongoing fight. That’s not to say that I don’t love my studio time, but I have to discipline myself to go there, and to start the work and continue ‘til I’m done only to start this love/angst process over again with the next work.

J: What part of your job as a jewelry artist is your least favorite and why?

B: Bookkeeping. Numbers, figures, profit and loss. So. Not. Me. Yuk! Loathe.

J: Can you please describe what failure means to you?

B: Not beginning. Period.

J: What does success mean to you?

B: I believe we are here to make the most of God’s gifts to us, and those same gifts are exactly how we receive joy. All you need for success is to move consistently toward that glimmer of you that makes your heart happy, and you will be rewarded with more opportunity than you ever imagined. No excuses, no blaming, no self-blocks! Just start. Then keep continuing.

J: What is something we may not know about you?

B: Since I sucked at waitressing big-time, my summer job before my high school senior year was as an electrician’s apprentice. My boss was a tall, long-legged, gangly character who everyone in our tiny little Upper Peninsula town knew and loved. His name was Swede Johnson. He was probably 70-something then, gentle and protective, with an incredible sense of self. He drove the dustiest, old station wagon, which served as his toolbox, warehouse and office on wheels. We were quite the pair, and I’ll always think of him fondly.

Face Forward by jewelry artist Brenda Schweder. SideshowAttraction: The Kissing Couple & Jingo Flamingo was inspired by found metal and cork components.

J: What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you? This does not have to be work related.

B: My mother taught me never to lie; and a Sister once taught me that the truth isn’t always necessary.

J: What career project do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?

B: I am obviously proud of having invented a product that lives in the world because of me and my doing; but most recently, two of my found-object art jewelry pieces juried into an international wearable arts exhibition, and that’s pretty delicious!

J: What is one key thing you do every workday that helps you be successful?

B: I don’t do anything every day—that would be diametrically opposed to who I am. But when I can (and, believe me, when I can is filled with fits and starts), I work at my bench for an hour a day—each day—making jewelry only for me. Not for my market, not for articles or live broadcasts, just for me.

Trinfiniti necklace by jewelry artist Brenda Schweder. Trinfiniti is made with steel wire and leather and was inspired by the repetition of the Trinfinity element.

Trinfiniti is made with steel wire and leather and was inspired by the repetition of the Trinfinity element.

J: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your career as a jewelry artist?

B: The ones I put in place myself. The things I avoid, dance around, sidle up to, then retreat from, and procrastinate around. Ugh!

J: What were some of the unexpected benefits in your career as jewelry artist?

B: I cannot believe how loving and giving, and sweet and compassionate, our friends and fans are. I love my handufacturers!

J: What valuable piece of advice can you give to our readers that are aspiring to make a living off their jewelry making?

B: Read two books: Brainstorm by Eric Maisel, PhD and Ann Maisel and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. You’ve picked one of the hardest, yet most fulfilling ways to make a living, but make no mistake: this work is not for wimps! (And know that in many cases, it is not a consistent means of support, but it is what supports our souls and lifts our lives.)

J: Is there anything you would like to add?

B: Don’t wait to start (or don’t wait to continue on again). Don’t tell yourself you need someone’s acceptance or permission, or an event, or a certain month of the year, or phase of the moon, or an amount of money, friends, teachers, or education to start to live the life you want , or to begin something that you want. Do it now. For you. I’m not sure why, but I have always had this tiny, pulsing, directional force inside leading me forward—sometimes dull, sometimes strong—but always steady and determined.

To contact Brenda, please visit her at:

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