Artist Profile: Allison Fomich

Metal artist Allison Fomich used apprenticeship and a grant to help her career along. She also had to be flexible and open to change to balance business and family life.


ABI: Tell us about your background and how you began working as a studio assistant.
AF: When I graduated with my sculpture degree from MICA in 1998, I found a part time job helping a sculptor doing metal finishing work. His studio was in a large old building that used to be a broom factory in Baltimore’s industrial heyday. The building had a nice community with many types of businesses. It actually facilitated connections and opportunities for me as a young artist. On the pegboard by the front office I found a “help wanted” note from a woman who needed someone in her upholstery shop. I ended up apprenticing with her for 2 years and learned the trade before I went off to get my MFA. I was glad to have met and worked with a few independent self employed artists in that building. It showed me that it was an option for my life as well.

ABI: When your daughter was born, you needed to make some changes in your business. How did you do this?
AF: After I achieved my MFA from Edinboro University of PA, I moved back to Baltimore. I set up my upholstery studio and was ready to grow that business. But when my daughter was born I had to rethink how I spent my time in the studio. From that point on, I created a textile button jewelry line. The skills that I acquired in the upholstery world informed a new path of production button jewelry.

ABI: What was your experience in getting a grant to help with your studio practice?
AF: I started tinkering around with metals, doing some fine art studio exploration. I was not doing metal jewelry at all. I had a line of sculpture that was ephemeral and informed by my garden. I needed a way to preserve the sculpture in a more permanent way. I was able to secure a local art grant from the city of Baltimore, a individual studio grant of $1000 which I used to outfit my workspace with electroforming equipment and some basic metalworking tools. Through self taught studio work, trial and error, and persistence, I ended up with a line of sellable metal botanical jewelry. The grant made it possible to get the equipment without hesitating. I had thought about investing in these tools but when that grant came through I jumped at the chance to expand my studio.

ABI: You mention that your business has “stabilized”. How are you selling now to assure year-round regular income?

AF: I have put a lot of work into growing the wholesale side of my jewelry business. I like being able to take orders and fill in my calendar with ship dates for those orders. I can then plan my local retail shows around those dates. I plan my production schedule through the year so I know what to expect each month. One month I may be shipping wholesale orders every week, another month I may focus more on doing upholstery. In a different month I may have to focus on my retail shows. I look at the year and see where I need to fill in with income and the wholesale business has really helped with that. And when I get reorders, that’s nice, too.

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  1. Diane Townsley says:

    Beautiful jewelry and great info! That adaptability to different mediums and selling venues is probably necessary these days. I was just talking to a ceramic artist last night who has exhibited at Buyer’s market and other wholesale shows, and he also mentioned that the ability to take orders and plan his schedule around those allowed him more free time and more stability in structuring his work life, predicting income, etc. He’s unfortunately lost most of his wholesale accounts due to gallery closures during this down economy, so he’s doing a lot of teaching, but hopefully the opportunities are still out there.

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