Artisan and Vintage Pieces from Mimi Dee ArtwearMimi Dee Artwear
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Q: Mimi I notice you are listing your original oils but not your metalwork. Have you stopped making your studio jewelry? Have you been painting long?
A: No and yes. When the metal prices soared a few years ago I, like many, left them alone and switched to copper, et al. Gifts for my clients are still hammered and commissions are met. As far as painting after youthful color pencil drawings and sketches, years later I painted acrylics on my signed wearable fiber art garments when I had my last store, which I closed in 1999. Later a few acrylic paintings and a handful of watercolors. In the mid late nineties I rediscovered the yummy feel of painting oils! There are over 100 of them... I am embarrassed to admit not counting the few hundred I destroyed in the past.

Q: Have you had formal oil painting instruction?
A: Sadly, no.

Q: Why?
A: I dare add that BFAs, MFAs and galleries do not look too kindly on those of us who dare paint without the benefit of their education. You can be a self taught painter, you just can't be a self taught registered nurse. After retiring from nursing at a young age, I taught myself to paint, yet ... But I digress... Initially because running my store / gallery alone 60 - 70 hours a week did not allow time for art instruction. Not many art instructors giving oil lessons at 10 o'clock at night! Then after closing my store there were other circumstances and balance issues that keep me in most days.

Q: Do you paint or work on your paintings on a regular basis?
A: Yes, daily, except during the 9 weeks this summer when I had casts on both feet. I read, sketch or paint, then practice, paint and sketch some more. That is the only teacher I have.

Q: Where do you get your ideas if you are not able to get out much?
A: Oh my goodness I have years, and years of sketches, photos and notes! From out West where I lived and now of this area. So many... Oh, don't laugh, but I have sketches of many of my dreams! I also dream of flying a lot, that could explain the unusual perspective of some of my paintings!

Q: Do you think artists should advertise when she or he gets a solo art show and or selected to exhibit in a juried art gallery?
A: Why yes, if they are able to swing it by all means. It shows that they are serious about promoting their paintings and the juried art gallery that believes in their work.

Q: Any gallery?
A: Well when we are talking about thousands of dollars, that expenditure should be reserved for select galleries...

Q: Mimi what is the difference between your antique button jewelry and that of others?
A: I do not destroy, mutilate, glue nor solder antique button gems, because when you see the work that went into making them 100 years ago, they are little gems!

Q: Never?
A: Only when buttons had broken loop shanks.

Q: How do you secure them?
A: With wire. I remember when I was a teenager, examining Miriam Haskell pieces and how she used wire to secure all those tiny beads and ornaments. I do not however compare my wiring process to hers. Who can?

Q: When did you start making button jewelry?
A: I remember giving up my button bracelet to an elementary schoolmate for her sterling bracelet. She really had to have my button bracelet! When her parents found out and asked for it back, she cried until they relented and okayed the trade.

Q: Did you make more?
A: When I was in college and later even I made and sold various headbands, and accessories that had vintage buttons sewn on them. None of them were of the Victorian picture variety I discovered so many years later!

A: How did you use them when you found them?
A: When I had my store, they were sewn on my art to wear tunic vests, coats, wraps and on pins, after promising the lady who sold me her multi decade collection that I would not destroy them. I began to wire some buttons onto surfaces that allowed me. This many years later I am at it again!

~2006 and back to the late 70s

Q: I see that you were true to your word. When your store went online your one of a kind signed jewelry work was at give away prices and now have gone up in price. Is it solely due to the increase in precious metal prices?
A: Because those were 2002 Introductory Prices to celebrate the introduction of www.mimideeartwear.com and Mimi Dee Artwear Online Catalog.

Q: Will these same prices hold in the future?
A: Probably not with metal prices going up. Just as the prices of my Wearable Art Apparel and Signed Jewelry went up slowly, by virtue of demand and my refusal to have anyone assist me in making these pieces, when I had my Studio/Store/Gallery, so will the prices of these Original Mimi Dee Signed Pieces likely go up.

Q: Why don't you make lots of chunky, gem necklaces and bracelets that you see in all the popular stores and magazines?
A: You just answered your question. I look around, if it is being done, I am not interested in following. I am an innovator, not a duplicator.

Q: Can you expound?
A: Yes, when one is given a little bit of talent in one area, many times one is creative in many other areas...therefore, there will never be enough days in our lives to create all the pieces we can think of. On the other hand, those who can not come up with their own original ideas, have to follow the crowd. That's not to say that there is something wrong with that, it's just not necessary for me to do what others are doing!

Q: Can you mention some instances?
A: Yes, in 1990, when I was still participating in craft shows, I was making jewelry with Hand Painted Watercolor Paper and real stamps. Well, at one show a visitor stopped at my booth and said, 'what a cool idea!'. Not 2 months later, she brought suitcases full of stamp jewelry to a craft show! I complimented her on her jewelry and said to her that there was no need for 2 of us showing the same and that I would pull mine off the show, since I had been showing same for months. She was very happy with that idea!

Q: But why, wasn't that a waste?
A: No, as I said before, when you are an artist/innovative designer, you would have to live a few life times to create everything that comes to mind!

Q: What did you do with all that jewelry?
A: Not a waste! I donated it, as I did dozens of painted clothing, etc. per year for many years, to various churches, women's shelters, synagogues, health organizations, schools, senior citizens centers and any group who walked in to my store to ask for a donation.

Q: Do you still show at craft fairs?
A: Oh no, I left that behind me years ago.

Q: Why not?
A: When I, like many other serious Artists and Artisans, began to see the craft show business deteriorate as I was still painting every garment myself and the booth next to me had hundreds of screen printed gaments with the person's 'original' ideas, I knew it was time to move on.

Q: Is that the only reason?
A: No, it took a little longer doing it the hard way. The last nail on the coffin came when at a supposed juried show, I saw a man set up with a table covered with hundreds of mass produced jewelry that he hadn't even bothered to take off the 'Made in... you fill in the blank' overseas country's, plastic card!

Q: What is wrong with importing this kind of jewelry from some of these third world countries and reselling it here?
A: Oh it is not about reselling it, there is a market for that sort of thing, but it does not belong in a venue where Artists who are trying to make a living with their craft, in the true meaning of craft, creating every piece by hand themselves, emphasis on the 'by themselves'. Don't forget that this imported jewelry is often made by forced child labor, getting pennies a day for their unfortunate circumstance, while we, Artists and Artisans alike are still creating each one of a kind piece ourselves, not mass-producing it as it is done overseas, even if they call it 'handmade'. Would you work for pennies a day?

Q: Absolutely not! Is it then a matter of competition?
A: That is an amusing and often heard declaration by those peddling the mass produced things! In order for it to be true competition it has to be apples to apples and oranges to oranges. If you were an afficionado of good horse flesh, would you enjoy betting on a race that was touted to be exciting, worth your time and money spent to veiw, only to see a bunch of nags were running in the same race with the quarter horses? No! Of course you wouldn't! Or would you enjoy paying to see Leon Spinks fight Lenox Lewis? Or Go to an NFL game to see high school kids playing against the big boys? Of course not! There is no competition there!

Q: why should you care?
A: Because the public deserves to be told the truth. Seasoned Collectors have no problem differenciating between the worthy pieces and the others, but a new, would be collector needs gentle guidance and the truth whether the jewelry they are buying and collecting is just mass produced 'hand made' overseas or created by Artists and Artisan with a Studio whose Signed Work is sold in Galleries, Collected or Commissioned by Museums and has a good chance of becoming a Signed Collectible.

Q: How have you changed your craft in the last few years?
A: Well, actually I began making wearable art when I was 15 years old, don't care to tell you how long ago that was, making a lined vest made with and embellished with upholstery fabric no less! Back in the 70's I joined a Co-op of women who hand made one of a kind pieces that we called "Wearable Art"...

Q: I noticed you don't use that word to describe your work, why?
A: Puleeez! As long as it continues to be misused and abused by those once hip designers hawking their mass produced stuff, made overseas no less, shown on TV shopping clubs. You have heard the words, 'Original one of a kind wearable art. We have already sold 1000! Still 2000 left to go!' It doesn't always mean what it did 30+ years ago!

Q: Then what happened? When did you start making jewelry and why?
A: I opened my first little shop in 1978 where I sold my Apparel & jewelry. Also other women's hand crafted items on consignment. Fast Forward to late 80s when I couldn't find any accessories that could tie in chartreuse and royal blue. So I bought $80 worth of supplies to make a pin and earrings to tie it all in. I asked my friend Beth, 'now what do I do with the rest of the supplies?' She said, 'make more painted watercolor jewelry!'. Where will I sell it? I had never even attended a craft fair until the first one I participated in! By the 3rd one 3 months later, I had made a couple of vests that I had handpainted, sold them all and was being asked 'where is your store?'. Five months after the first craft show that I participated in I opened my second small studio shop to see my clients. Within 3 months I outgrew that and had to wait for my lease to come up at year's end to more than double my space...

Q: Now that you don't have your store nor show at craft shows, is this Online Venture your only Venue?
A: Yes, in addition to limited Gallery Wholesale Accounts and the hundreds of Clients I have have had the pleasure of meeting and creating for, in almost 30 years of being in business.

Q: Do you now, or did you ever have clearance sales?
A: Not at all! Don't believe in them!

Q: Why?
A: Because when a collector acquires a Signed Collectible Piece, that is special in itself. Besides why should one collector purchase at one price and another at a lesser price? It's like saying that it was not worth the original price to began with!

Q: No Sales or discounts? What did you do with what didn't sell?
A: Well, although I did not have sales, nor did ever a Friend Collector ever insult me by asking for a discount on my own pieces, once a year my clients were treated to a yearly "Client Appreciation Day" when they came in by mailed Invitation Only for a Mystery % off on their purchases in addition to gift drawings and once a year on their Birthday Month another % off and another free gift.

Q: Yes, but what of the unsold inventory?
A: Well, when one makes one piece at a time it is much easier to control inventory. When I had the Store Studio Gallery, some of what did not sell, I gift wrapped and donated at year's end as holiday gifts to various groups...Of course when a client purchased or ordered a sizeable amount, I enjoyed, without being asked, giving them a little extra something. But remember...none of my good, friend, client collectors ever ask for a discount on my Own Signed Pieces!

 
 


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