RAW: Natural Born Artists is an independent organization for artists that provides resources and exposure for up and coming creatives. Each year, they hold an awards competition where there is one winner voted in each category to receive a “best of” award. For 2012, Tamara Hoffbauer won the “best of” for Indianapolis Accessories Designer of the Year. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a Q&A session with her to learn more about her life, work and future goals.
First off, I would love to know how you ended up designing accessories – was it always your dream or did you fall into it by chance?
I really did fall into it, in a way. I spent a year or two developing my idea for a new business, and I knew I wanted to get back to doing something creative but I wasn’t sure what I would actually sell. I kind of hit on the idea of accessories as a great canvas for the type of art I love, and once I came up with one or two items the rest kind of blossomed organically.
When designing accessories, what is your number one goal?
My primary goal is always to create items that make people happy, thereby making me happy. It sounds a little cliché, but it’s true. I truly love making pieces that people want to own. I think if I can focus on that, all the other goals will follow.
You use a lot of patterning in your pieces, can you elaborate more on this and your style/materials?
I draw directly from authentic historic ornament and design elements to create accessories that feel elegant and timeless. It is about acknowledging these amazing periods in our past, such as Art Deco, and recognizing the talent of long-lost designers; restoring appreciation for the beauty of these snippets of pattern and color. I like to think of each scrap of design as a connection to the past. I draw from the past but make something accessible for the present-day audience. I am in love with metal. I work with a variety of media, from fabric to glass to ceramic to wood – but I love metal! They have this wonderful quality that allows them to be either sleek and modern or antique in feeling. I plan to work with a lot of aluminum and copper this year, hand forming one-of-a-kind pieces. I’ve been learning as much as I can about metal forming and am excited to be acquiring new skills!
What is the reaction you hope to get from people through this particular style of work?
I’m always saying, if something was beautiful 100 years ago, it’s still beautiful today! We live in a throwaway culture now, but I like the old ways of hand-decorating everything you own and passing it down to the next generation. Adapting and re-using these historical elements is a way of trying to re-capture some of that value. I also think it is wildly important that art not just live on walls, in museums, or in books. Why can’t I have something in my pocket that is beautiful, that I can take out and look at any time I want? That’s the beauty of something like my cell phone cases – they are everyday items that have the ability to be works of art!
Are your pieces mass-produced or one-of-a-kind? Also along with that business aspect, a lot of artists struggle with figuring out how to market, manufacture and finance their work – any tips for them?
I do a lot of production work, but I am also focusing on more one-of-a-kind pieces. Production pieces allow me to turn product out quickly, reach a wider audience, and keep revenue coming in. I do all the decorating myself, rather than farm it out to a manufacturer. Marketing for me is a mix of getting out to arts and crafts festivals, connecting with followers on Facebook and Pinterest, and constantly updating my Etsy shop. I also market to local and national gift shops, some who found me – others, I simply approached them. These days, it’s all about networking, and that is something that RAW can be very helpful with. Financing can be hard, depending on the type of work you do. I chose to invest in my business at the beginning using personal finances and credit cards, but being careful not to over-do it. I then put all my earnings back into supplies, building a website, applying to shows, making a display, etc. Two years later I am now able to pay back those personal loans and keep some money in the bank so I know I can always purchase the inventory and materials that I need for each season. I think if artists go slowly and don’t try to over-extend, they will find it easier to grow.
My biggest aspiration as an artist at this moment is to push myself to create more completely hand-built pieces. I think the best part about being an artist is being able to work for yourself. It requires discipline, but the rewards are worth it. My studio is now in my basement at home and I love it. I no longer have to commute through traffic to get to my workbench, and I can work as long as I like.
Where can our readers learn more about you – do you have a website or blog?
Have any last inspiring words or a message you would like to get out?
Following your passion really is key to finding success both in your personal life as well as your professional life. If you truly want to find success through your art, treat it like a business from the beginning, rather than a hobby or sideline. Behave as though you were already a professional and you will be surprised at the opportunities that will arise.