Indie business owner Donna Kishbaugh of The Art of Donna breathes new life into ordinary objects by reimagining them into mixed media jewelry pieces. Her one-of-a-kind creations are inspired by everything from theater to the Victorian era to her love for travel. She recently spoke with IndieMade about her love of creating and why artists should never give up on their dreams.
What attracted you to the mixed media jewelry and art business? How did you get your start?
I have been interested in art since I was a very young child— everything from drawing, painting and sculpture, to creative writing, dance and theatre/performance art. I love creating mixed media and assemblage art as it allows me the freedom to mix things up— the freedom to incorporate many different mediums and looks into one work.
When creating assemblages, I love the hunt— trying to find perfect pieces that work together. The idea of bringing new life into those otherwise discarded bits that work to create a whole is nothing short of thrilling to me. Creating mixed media jewelry is something I just kinda fell into. It has been successful so I keep working at new designs and ideas.
I got my start many years ago when I left my job in advertising. I worked very hard at that job. I decided that if I worked that hard for myself doing what I really love, I could be successful on my own.
What piece of advice would you give an indie business owner who's just starting out?
My advice is simple: Don't give up...ever. Don't let anyone tell you that a particular market is saturated and that you cannot be successful. Do your homework and pursue your dream.
I attended an actors/directors brunch here in my hometown of Indy one Sunday. A very popular TV actress (I will not mention names) was also in attendance. When young hopefuls asked her advice on how to get started in the business her answer was "Don't do it, do something else". Needless to say, there were many disappointed people at that brunch. All I could think was how awful that was, and who was she to discourage these kids?
How did you start selling your mixed media jewelry online?
Like many artists and jewelry designers, I needed a simple start that would target many markets so I began selling on eBay and Etsy.
Besides on your website, where do you sell your mixed media jewelry?
Currently, I work with Whole Foods (just the southern region stores for now) and sell jewelry in their Whole Body departments.
I also create a dog tag necklace design for the House of Blues which is sold in their venues across the country. I am the custom jewelry designer for the rock band Southern Culture On The Skids, and I attend comic book conventions where I sell much of my steampunk-inspired works and jewelry. I did sell some of my work in Chicago and Indy-based stores but have since decided to spend my time creating for larger companies as well as my own website.
How are you promoting your indie business online? How are you using social media?
I have a Facebook business page. I just started Twitter and will soon be on Pinterest. I think social media is an absolute must for all artists and creatives today.
Do you blog? How does that work for you?
I did blog and plan to start again very soon. It does help promote your business as long as you have a steady blog schedule. Occasional blogging does not work for anyone who wants to promote or be heard.
How do you stay in touch with your customers?
Facebook and personal e-mails. I also engage in the lost art of handwritten notes and letters.
Why did you decide to try IndieMade?
I met (IndieMade founder) Jennifer Peterson at a party in Chicago a couple of years ago. She told me about IndieMade. I loved the concept behind it so I wanted to give it a try. IndieMade is very easy to use, yet looks professional. I like the idea that I have my own stand-alone website and can constantly add to it with ease. IndieMade also easily connects to my Facebook page, blog, etc.
What's on the horizon for you and your indie business?
I want to continue to grow my business through comic book conventions, creating for larger companies and, of course, building my own website. I think that will keep me busy enough for awhile.
Do you have any tips for new users of IndieMade?
Experiment with your website design until you get what you want. It's easy to do and you will be much happier with your outcome if you take the time to experiment.