Collaboration Mentoring and Paying It Forward

Throughout my career I have had a series of mentors who advised, encouraged and taught me countless things that helped guide me through my myriad of creative businesses. Their knowledge, constructive feedback and moral support cheered me on to keep going when I felt lost. Mary Bloom a merchant and curator for museum stores, Jamin Whitaker, my jewelry partner and Lori Yamashita all were there at the beginning of the artisan jewelry movement in the 80's and have graciously taken me under their wings.

One of the greatest satisfactions I have as an artist and designer is to be a mentor to young artists trying to find a way to use their arts education to make a living. My business has been an incubator for collaboration, production problem solving and real world business experience for many students.

Art schools provide critical thinking, tangible skills and the ability to see art in a larger context but it is not a GPS for how to survive financially with that particular set of skills. Because making art is often a solitary endeavor artists don't see the greater possibilities in collaborating with each other. My goal is to encourage my employees to connect the dots and create their own road map informed by their education. 

When we showed the new collection at Handmade it was overwhelming for my staff to see the body of work they produced. It was a group effort and they are all rock stars. 

Be generous and pay it forward. 

Valerie Vasquez    Nana Johnson    Benjii Aguirre    Kenya Diaz




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