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At Land of Odds / Be Dazzled Beads – Beads, Jewelry Findings, and More

DESIGNER CONNECT: Tony Perrin of Lock & Key

Posted by learntobead on July 5, 2018

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DESIGNER CONNECT

Following The Bead

Be Dazzled Beads is a community of Creatives. Some people use our beads to make jewelry. Some to do mosaics. Some to adorn and embellish costumes. Some to enhance things like wine classes or drapes or mirrors or sweaters or cross stitch patterns. Some to embellish paintings or sculptures. Some actually use our beads in science experiments.
To us, all Creatives are Designers. That is, they make artistic and functional choices about how to incorporate the types of supplies we sell into personal visions. Some design for themselves. Some design for friends and family. Some design as a business.
It is not as much fun to work alone or isolated when you realize you are part of the larger Be Dazzled, Land of Odds and Nashville communities. We can learn a lot of insights from each other. We can support each other. It’s all about Connection!

DESIGNER CONNECT PROFILE

Tony Perrin, Jewelry Designer

Founder and Designer, Lock & Key (www.lockandkeydesign.com)

tony perrin Tony: “I feel lucky. Blessed. Is the world easy? No. I have multiple jobs. I am part of the gig economy. I am trying to succeed in a world that favors large businesses. But I am working creatively. Finding my groove. There are a lot of sleepless nights. It’s not easy to be a Professional-Creative. But I would not change things for the world.”

STARTING OUT

Tony: “I have memories of always being surrounded by the arts.”

Tony comes from a family that was very arts-oriented, and very supportive of him pursuing the arts and crafts — wherever it took him. His mom was a watercolorwatercolorist and oil painter. His father was a small business owner as well as a photographer. His dad’s dad sculpted for Lockheed, and even was a street dancer. He had a great uncle in New York who had a jewelry business, and Tony remembers, even at age 5 or 6, his uncle was always making jewelry for everyone in the family.

Starting out with gymnastics, Tony graduated to dancing (because his older sister danced). As a dancer, he had to teach himself to sew for costumes as his Mom was much better with a glue gun then a needle. He remembers his family always making things — food, pastry, lapidary, painting. He has fond memories of always being surrounded by art and creativity.

A family friend — Frank — taught him how to bead weave the summer he was ten. That Summer Frank and his wife exposed Tony to the artisan craft as well lapidary, jewelry festivals and much more.

As many designers are, Tony is self taught. tony2.jpg

Warren: “Do you think now, with all the creative things you are doing, that you, in some respects are re-creating your childhood?”

Tony: “Oh, for sure! I would say that’s part of a goal I have. I swore I would never be a teacher, but kids gravitate towards me like a moth to a flame. I realized it is because I am ‘5’. Kids get me, which should be the other way around. I am young at heart. I think trying to retain that naivete, that sort of blissful ignorance, especially as a Creative, just allows you to be a little more free with your aspirations. All of a sudden you grow up. It’s like Peter Pan. You lose that sense of innocence and exploration.”

Tony grew up in Los Angeles, spent some time pursuing a career in fashion in New York City. He moved back to Los Angeles for a few years. And then he came to Nashville with his wife who is a singer-songwriter. Today Tony wears several hats: Jewelry Designer, Dance Educator, Choreographer, Costume Designer, Jewelry Design Educator.

Tony: “Growing Up, I always thought I had to do one of these things, or the other. Before I moved to Nashville, jewelry making was just a hobby. When I moved here, one of my goals was how do I interweave all of the creative aspects that make me whole. I think a lot of creatives are creative in more than one discipline, as well. So I’m just trying to figure out how to make it one — one happy world.”

KEEPING GOING

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Tony: “It’s been a curvy road.”

Warren:“Today, how would you describe what your jewelry making is like today?”

Tony:“I describe Lock & Key as a modern interpretation honoring an artisan craft. I am doing something that is ancient in terms of its art, as a form of communication and expression. The loom that I use is about 80 years old at this point, so it’s touched many different hands and many different stories. It’s definitely art jewelry. I describe what I do as boho eclecticism. Tribal influences, so I say it is international in feel. One of the main feedbacks I get is that it is fashion, but not trendy.”

Tony continues by describing his core consumer.

Tony:“My core consumer is 40+. Is a woman who appreciates artisan product, as well as pieces which make them feel modern with a sense of timeless appeal.”

Warren:“So, that first day you decided to become a business. What was that like?”

Tony’s first piece, done around 1998, was a custom piece. He was asked to design a piece for the head designer at Betsey Johnson, a New York fashion designer of clothes and accessories. It was a loomed piece, 1 1/2″ wide choker with multi-colored skulls in it and dangling feathers. He was excited, to say the least. He shared the story about making this one piece, which inspired other people to ask him to design a piece. People responded to his authenticity, and then it became all about the product.

When Tony moved to Nashville, he decided to focus on jewelry. It was part, what was he going to do to make a living? Part, honoring his childhood mentor who had made the Indian jewelry. Part passion about his loom, and gradually adding precious metal clay to the mix of media he relied on for his jewelry designs.

Tony:“And I still love it. Exhausted. Up until 3am getting production ready. Fingers chewed up by my drill bits. But I absolutely still love it!

CREATIVE PROCESS

In describing a typical piece, Tony begins with multi-media. This includes some loom bead weaving. He incorporates ball and chain. He likes to use a lot of color and texture, and mix matte and glossy. People respond well to his color sensibility. He uses many square shaped beads with round beads. With the beadwork, he includes a piece of metal, like a sculpted metal clay piece, either an integral part of the piece, or as a pendant. He often includes semi-precious stones. He likes to mix metal finishes. “Silver and Gold is the same conversation as Navy and Black. If it is well-balanced, it makes it very versatile.”

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Tony mentions that, to understand his creative process, you have to go back to his goal of trying to meld together all his creative worlds. His creative process is not a linear process.

He cites as an example a very successful pair of earrings he designed which are precious metal clay based. But they were flowers, which is very specific seasonal iconography. When he started thinking about what he wanted to do the next season, he thought about how he could adapt these earrings. He mentioned that a lot of his pieces and his bead weaving have an almost art deco or art nouveau feeling to them. At the time, there was an Egyptian revival style that was prominent because of a world wide tour of Egyptian antiquities.

He reflected on his artistic style and the current revival trend, and asked himself: This was a successful piece. I’m thinking business here. How do I creatively then come up with the next version of it? So for the Fall holiday he explored hieroglyphics and lotus flower motifs. And for the following Spring, he thought about incorporating the scarab and other Egyptian touches.

Tony: “Things started to trend in High Fashion — snakes, beetles, insects, and bees. I have a scarab beetle tattooed on my back that is about 14″ long, the whole width of my back. It’s an icon that is important to me. It symbolizes the sun god Ra. It represents newness and renewal, and I have chronic back pain, so it was interconnected. It started from something that was authentic and meaningful for me, and which started to become a trend years after I had gotten my tattoo. I introduced this sculpt and coupled it with beadwork. People responded to it. Then I started thinking how to tie this all up from a business perspective. If we’re just creating ‘pretty’, who cares? You have to be able to speak to an audience.”

Tony discussed that jewelry artists have to be able to synergize the Business-Creative Mind. Both worlds need to be respected. It’s a hard business, he agrees. Artists have to monetize their creative output and still remain authentic to themselves.

Frequently, he asks himself: Do I need to break up with my design? It is OK, he indicated, to say Yes! His scarab beetle was a good idea, but some reality testing was in order. Was it too early before the trend? Would it be marketable?

On a second business level, Tony poses the question: Can I stand behind my product? Can the store that sells his pieces be able to stand behind his products?

A third major consideration is whether he has successfully differentiated his products from the mass market. That is one reason he incorporates glass seed beads and Czech beads within his work. Glass beads allow him to inject colors, where more mass market pieces are mostly metal and look very machine made.

MOVING ALONG

Tony reflects daily how art jewelry, as opposed to jewelry mass produced overseas, will be accepted by the general public.

Tony: “Art Jewelry is a term I use a lot in my marketing. At an apparel show, where people are used to mass produced jewelry, it’s starting to change in perception and openness to my product.”

Warren:“Is the world helping you change people’s perceptions, or do you feel you are out there alone doing this?”

Tony:“It will be four years in September since I started pursuing jewelry as a business. In my microworld, there has always been acceptance. My wife is very accepting, but at first was hesitant. I said, Let’s look at this year by year and see what happens. She gets it now.”

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Warren:“And in the broader world?”

Tony:“In the macro level, I think it’s interesting. I think if you look at the culture today, with technology and oversaturation and what is happening in mass market production, and fast fashion, which is down-trending, I think you’re having baby boomers that are looking for nostalgia in terms of smaller, handmade jewelry.”

He sees that consumer demand for artisan jewelry is on the rise, but there are still nagging questions whether you can make a viable business out of it. Can you make enough product? Can you do it efficiently? Can you transition from a one person designer business to having staff make the pieces, as well? Meeting business goals gets more complicated if you are not going to produce your jewelry overseas.

One of his biggest challenges coming up is to create sufficient infrastructure — studio space, supplies and personnel — to be able to easily kick out 30 pieces of 20 styles on demand.

MARKETING

Tony is natural marketer, so I asked him what kinds of things he does to reach his target audience. The extent of things he does can provide a lot of ideas and insights for all of us.

Tony:“I always try to make marketing creative so I still enjoy it.”

Things Tony Does…
– trunk shows at boutiques

– pop-up shows

– collaborates with fashion designers and creates evening events with them

– collaborates with sculptors, painters, and ceramic artists to do a joint show, say in a donated gallery space

– always thinking about marketing ideas which merge his interests in dance, photography, jewelry and sculpture

– for people who have bought, or even collect, his jewelry, he sends snail-mail postcards, hand-written notes, email blasts, and personal emails

– posts images with captions on instagram

– follows other people’s instagram sites with whom he feels some kind of fit or opportunity

– sometimes buys ads, but has not seen a risk/reward balance from purchased ads

– puts himself in situations where he can meet people, shake their hands, and talk with them

– develops relationships and works at maintaining them

– plays the “6-degrees of separation” game, identifying among his network of friends and relationships, who they know, who those people know, who those people of those people know, and so forth, to search for opportunities

– develops different strategies for returning customers as opposed to new customers

– visibly creates understanding that he sticks behind his products, and will immediately fix something if it breaks

– works with “influencers” — people who, usually in return for some free jewelry, will promote your products and show images of people wearing your products in social media sites

– looks for examples of “market-disrupters” — people who disrupt the market to be noticed — that he can be inspired by

– always carries samples with him

FUTURE PLANNING

Tony is a planner. He’s developed a clear vision for the future. Some of the things he wants to accomplish over the next 3 years include,

– maintaining a 60% year-over-year rate of growth

– grow from a more regional line to a national one

– focus on his infrastructure — studio space, materials and personnel — to keep production, shipping/receiving, website and marketing all on track

The big questions before him: How does he meet demand that he has created for his jewelry? How does he enhance his brand? How does he grow his ability to distribute his products?

He wants to contine to be flexible, given the instability of our economy. He wants to maintain his constant rate of sales so his business can sustain itself. He sees, perhaps, his line represented in a showroom. Perhaps he can gain more presence in museum shops.

Tony:“I have a lot of jobs right now and it would be great to have one focus. Or add a couple hours to the day.”

FINAL WORDS

Tony: “The true test of a good designer is an ability to sell it.”

Tony: “If I don’t get that gut feeling that my piece is going to be successful, it’s time to move on.”

Tony has had to create the opportunities himself. This has involved a lot of reflection, reality testing and planning. He has created a business plan framework with year over year goals for design, production, and distribution.

Tony:“In today’s world, you always have to be creating your own rules to stay on your feet. There is wide competition. Email inundation. I like the challenge but it’s exhausting.”

Tony: “Whether or not these jewelry artists work professionally, they need patrons, and that sometimes is even more important than being an artist.”

Tony wishes there was more of a connected jewelry designer/artist community in Nashville. It is still very fragmented. He finds that politics gets in the way of creative collaboration.

Tony:“There’s room at the table for everyone.”

He wants to call artists attention to the Arts and Business Council of Nashville, as well as their Periscope program. There are opportunities for networking, expanded contacts, a support system of creatives and their ideas, developing business skills and confidence.

Jewelry designers in Nashville still need a more functional, consistent support system, particularly to thread the business-needle better. Help to find studio space. Getting a small business loan. Finding an angel investor. Connecting to mentors. This is all important, and we need more organized systems to make these kinds of things easier, smoother and more reliable.

WHERE TO FIND TONY’S JEWELRY

Tony has taken a shot-gun approach to getting his jewelry out there. He does a little direct retail through an e-commerce site. He finds that this is a great billboard for him, but not a great selling outlet. He does art and craft festivals. He likes to focus on juried or well-curated shows in particular.

He wholesales his products to stores. Sometimes this involves cold-calling on stores, with product in hand. But he also does wholesale markets, like the Atlanta Gift and Apparel Market. In 2017, he did 2 shows there; in 2018, he plans on doing 4 shows. His pieces currently are in 28 stores in the United States and the Virgin Islands. He is looking at other wholesale markets. He is exploring options to lock in with a jewelry rep or a jewelry show room.

You may find Tony’s jewelry locally at:

Two Old Hippies (the Gulch)

401 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203

Stacey Rhodes Boutique (Brentwood)

144 Franklin Rd Suite A, Brentwood, TN 37027

T. Nesbitt & Co. (Franklin)

2nd Ave N, Franklin, TN 37064

Kitty (East Nashville)

521 Gallatin Ave #2, Nashville, TN 37206

Tony has an eye out to find his ideal studio-showroom. He pictures it full of natural light. Small and intimate. A low wall separating the front from the studio. Inspirational and calming. A sancturary.

Find Tony online at www.lockandkeydesign.com









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Visit BE DAZZLED BEADS online to view our classes, jewelry clinics, mini-lessons, and jewelry design discussion seminars!

Shop with us online at Land of Odds

Talk with us about Custom Jewelry Design
and Jewelry Repairs

Visit us in Nashville

718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123

Nashville, TN 37204

615-292-0610
(across from 100 Oaks Mall where the Applebees Restaurant is)

 

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