We visited Metalsmith Jamie Feinstein's well laid out studio, filled with unique trade-specific machines, and ask him a few questions.
This feature is part of our Artifact@Work series, where we spotlight individuals who superbly demonstrate their craft. We look at the environments they work in, the tools they use, and they wonderful things they create. Photography by Dan Brouillette.
Chris: How and when did you have your calling to become a Metalsmith?
Jamie: Near the end of my college education I began working on commissioned pieces. When I saw peoples responses towards the finished designs and how much satisfaction I felt during that experience I knew this was my calling.
Chris: What do you like to do when you are not making jewelry?
Jamie: Even when I'm not working on jewelry for sale I'm working on honing my skills in different processes and techniques. Outside the studio I really enjoy staying active in the outdoors. Generally, I use biking as a way to stay fit for larger adventures traveling to either the mountains or ocean.
Chris: What is favorite piece of jewelry?
Jamie: For me? Anything that gets worn. Lately, I've been wearing a sterling silver embossed wave pattern bracelet. The pattern is an age old motif that stems from Japan and symbolize strength and power. I can honestly say I feel exactly those things when I'm wearing the cuff.
Chris: What is your favorite technique or process?
Jamie: Anything that relies on working metal to emphasize the design. Rather than "fine jewelry," which is clearly about showcasing a gemstone / jewel, I prefer to focus on the metal in a design. Combining different metals and fabrication methods to produce clean, durable, and timeless designs is always my intention.
Chris: Do you do commission work?
Jamie: Yes! Most of the jewelry I make is commissioned and when I find myself lacking work or slow: I also have some limited production pieces and personal one of a kinds that I'll make and sell with the help of a few retailers.
Chris: Please describe a workday for you?
Jamie: Coffee..... Once I wake up a bit I'll have some more coffee. Then I'll open up the studio and prep my workspaces for the day. My studio is set up with different workstations so that I can get up and move around a bit. I'll usually take some brakes through out the day to work on administrative things like answer emails, fill orders, and check my books. Sketching and design work usually happens after hours or the weekends.
Chris: How did you school yourself in entrepreneurship? Any mentors?
Jamie: That's an ongoing process just like all the other aspects of what makes up a small business. In todays world entrepreneurship is as individualized as the products we aim to sell and unfortunately I view it as one of my biggest weaknesses.
Chris: Do you have any books that have been helpful to you in work and/or life?
Jamie: I have a plethora of technical trade books that I constantly read and re-read. Jewelry, has been around far longer than books and historically most of the information about such techniques was passed down through apprenticeships. Most of the time those apprentices stayed underneath a master until they passed away and the cycle would continue. One book "Mokume Gane, A Comprehensive Study," by Steve Midgett changed my trajectory immensely and without it I may have not become the metalsmith I am today.
Chris: What advice would you give your 20-, 25-, or 30 year-old self? And please place where you were at the time, and what you were doing.
Jamie: That's a very busy decade for anyone let alone myself. During that time I completed my undergraduate education, moved to a new state, began my career path and started a family! I'd probably tell my self to slow down and gain more experience while being more open to working hard doing the things I disliked in order to open up more opportunities. Especially when I had very little responsibilities in terms of caring for others, and financially,
Chris: What is something you are grateful for?
Jamie: Our community! Pretty much everything I make and sell is made possible by the support Omaha is known for.
Chris: Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
Jamie: Not really.
Chris: What does being “successful” mean to you?
Jamie: To me it means continuing to do what I love to do without any detriment to others while being able to grow and provide professionally and personally.
Follow Jamie on Instagram at: @jamiefeinstein
Visit Jamie's site at: www.jamiefeinsteindesign.com
Jamie's studio is located in Bench, a maker collective located in North Downtown Omaha, Nebraska.