From a welder to jewelry designer, Dawn Middleton started creating her unique pieces as a hobby but it quickly turned into a career. Middleton first started making jewelry nearly 10 years ago and today, she travels the country selling her creations at over 20 shows a year. PATTERN talked with the artist about her creations and what inspires her work.
Tell me a little bit about your background? What drew you to jewelry and how long have you been doing it?
My first career was at Ford Motor Company; part of that time as a welder. I took a buyout package and returned to design school. I pursued a career in interior design but fell in love with jewelry design. I ended up taking the skills I had from being a welder and my design education and combined them both together to create the path I’m on now.
I started making jewelry after my spinal fusion just as a hobby 2009. I started taking metalsmithing classes in 2012, and my career started from there as a metalsmith. The next year I started participating in fine art shows and now tour the country doing 24 to 26 shows a year.
Do you have a showroom?
I do not have a showroom. I have two studios one in my home and one at Mount Saint Francis sanctuary. I sell my work at fine art shows, my online store, and galleries.
Is it just you or do you have employees that help you?
I do all the design and creations and metalsmithing. I’ve trained my mother to be my assistant and my boyfriend does all of my photography, website design, e-commerce stores and he travels with me to the art shows.
How have you seen your designs evolve and mature since you started?
My designs have evolved and matured with more experience and lots of practice. Getting in the studio every day creating and learning new techniques helps me to put my design ideas together into the creation they’re supposed to be.
What influences and inspires your designs?
I find inspiration from my natural surroundings. I’m an avid gardener and treasure every living being that comes from this beautiful planet. Each piece that I create is influence from my time in nature and my connection to all beings everywhere.
Describe the process you go through when creating a new piece.
My pieces contain semi-precious and precious stones and found objects. I start the process by taking the stone or found objects and drawing out a sketch on grid paper. The design that is waiting to come forth through the object is channeled through me. Most of the time the ideas are flowing so fluidly that it’s impossible for me to sketch out all the designs.
I then start the process of sawing out the back plate and applying the textures that are necessary to complete the design to the metal. After that, I continue the process of building the piece using the torch to solder each piece together.
What is the biggest struggle you face with your business?
The biggest struggle that I face is the uncertainty from an unpredictable art show schedule. We never know what shows we will be accepted to or rejected from. I plan my life 4-5 months out, depending on my show schedule. It is also difficult to be on the road most of the time. I have also learned that a lot of tasks need to be assigned to other people so that I can keep creating and not spend all my time doing things that I don’t love to do, a great example is my taxes, LOL!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
I love what I do, I create my own schedule, my entire day is full of creating new ideas and trying to figure out how I’m going to bring them to fruition. I also have an opportunity to meet so many amazing people. My life is filled with other artists and their stories and all the fabulous customers that I meet and get to create beautiful wearable objects for them.
What advice do you have for those that want to be doing what you’re doing?
If you do what you love, you will be successful at it. Every mistake is a lesson learned and a step toward improving. I also believe that perseverance can be one’s greatest asset.
Photography by Reagan Allen.