Monday, August 2, 2010

VitualLori: Community-Minded Etsy Artist

By Lori Paximadis

Uncovered Artistry's fourth wonderful "Community-Minded Etsy Artist" is VirtualLori. VirtualLori was nominated for this feature by her loyal teammates of Cleveland Handmade. Their response was so overwhelming and convincing, we just had to feature Lori and her community-minded shop on the blog!

What do you make?

My main things are etched copper and brass jewelry as well as sterling silver jewelry. I also work with beads, resin, wire, photography, ceramics... never was able to focus on only one thing.

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?

Nature is a huge inspiration for me. I get my best ideas when I'm taking a walk in the park, and my studio overlooks the woods in back of my house. I love how each leaf on a tree is the same, but different -- perfection in imperfection.

How did you become involved in your work?

As a kid, I learned to crochet from my grandmother, and took up photography, too. I added ceramics to my repertoire after college, and did that pretty seriously until I moved back to Ohio in 2002. I had been living in Honolulu and had a great studio situation there, and just couldn't find the right setup at the right cost. I was desperate for something creative to do, so I ended up in a beading class followed almost immediately by one of Susan Lenart Kazmer's mixed media jewelry classes, and that was that. Necklaces are a whole lot more portable than ceramic platters.

Aquamarine and Garnet Coin Stack Pendant

What are you doing to help your community through your work?

I am one of the cofounders of Cleveland Handmade. We started out as a small, social Etsy team, but we've grown into an organization that also promotes the idea of shopping local and buying handmade. We put on our own shows (headed up by the extraordinary Kathy Patton [smashing on Etsy]), we run advertisements in local publications, maintain a website that lists upcoming shows our members are in, we do featured artist profiles and occasional giveaways, we hold local workshops and social gatherings, we've made TV appearances (that was fun!), and we support each other with advice, mentorship, making connections, sharing resources, and just plain friendship. I'm very proud of what this community has become.

In addition to the time and resources I dedicate to making the team run smoothly, I donate 10% of the profits from my jewelry business to local charities, and I will occasionally donate pieces to raffles or auctions for charities that mean something special to me. I don't advertise this, really -- I just think it's important to support the causes you believe in, and when you've been as fortunate as I have, you have to give back, to spread the love and the wealth and the good karma around.

Why did you decide to make a difference through your Etsy shop?

I don't think it was a conscious decision, really. I'm a Connector by nature. I like to help people and play (nonromantic) matchmaker with people and places and opportunities. Grabbing the reins and turning Cleveland Handmade into a place where all those forces can come together and artists can connect with each other and with our customers was a no-brainer.

What is your favorite item that you make?

Oh, it's so hard to choose -- like chosing your favorite child, you know? I'd have to say right now, it's sterling silver charm necklaces. I'm working on a new line -- nothing is listed yet -- that circles back to the charm necklaces I was making when I first started selling my work. Back then, I was using lots of beads and base metals and simple wire wrapping; this time I'm using sterling silver, being more selective about the beads I choose, and using more complicated techniques. I'm gearing up for a big show the last weekend in July, and have been immersing myself in those pieces.

Other ways to connect with VirualLori:
Twitter: virtuallori

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