Christine Schmidt is a jewelry artist, printmaker, designer, illustrator, author, and fraternal twin. She says that maybe that last one influenced her decision to veer from convention and create her clever, quirky mismatched earrings: “I am myself different but a part of a unit. I’ll spare you the therapy–but I like to change it up.”
Here at UncommonGoods, we like to change it up too, and that’s why when we saw some of Christine’s mismatched designs, we couldn’t wait to work with her to create more canny combos.
We thought about a few of the interests our customers (and even many of the folks that work here) share, and worked with the artist on a new line celebrating books, space, and pets. Christine captured each of these concepts through her charming illustrations, turned them into brand new mismatched earrings, and even designed adorable cat and dog necklaces exclusively for UncommonGoods.
She took some time out from being a multi-talented super artist to tell us about her road to a creative career, her process, and working with our team.
In your bio you mentioned that your career began when you won a coloring contest as a kid. Was that the moment you knew you wanted to be an artist? How did you know you wanted to make it a career?
The local grocery store coloring contest did provide me with a red ten-speed bike I was unable to use for 4 years because of my size. Pro tip kids: try tiny dots á la pointillism! I also was lucky enough to have the best art teacher, my MOM! She always invents cool projects for my sisters and me to do for ourselves and [give as] gifts. She later started formally teaching art at my grade school and was the only teacher to ever send me to the principal. (Sorry, Mom!) Making things for me is more compulsion than choice. I am very lucky to actually get to follow through with it.
How long have you been working as a professional artist?
If by professional you mean actually paying bills with my work, that would be 9 years now. After art school I had a lot of random jobs from mural painter to cake decorator, but I made art when I could. Nothing makes you more resourceful than being broke.
How did you make the transition from printmaking to jewelry design?
I have always worked in several different art disciplines, because I start with a concept rather than the medium. I first learned sculpture and metalsmithing in high school at the same time I was taking night classes at the Kansas City Art Institute for printmaking and drawing. In no certain order, hot art boys, scholarships, teachers, and facilities drove me to the Corcoran School in D.C.
How is your work with jewelry similar to the work you’ve done as an illustrator and printmaker?
Just like relationships or, yunno, pants, sometimes they complement you and sometimes they don’t. For everything we produce there are probably two works that didn’t make the cut.
You’ve also published a couple of books. How does writing tie into your other creative work?
Half of my work involves problem solving. I have to figure out the best way to translate my idea into form. When I was in school I had access to awesome facilities but now I foot the bill and I got scrappy. My books, Print Workshop and Yellow Owl Little Prints, grew from projects I made with a many techniques. I share my formal training with short cuts that make it easy, achievable, and affordable at home. Handmade, exalted with those gloriously personal imperfections, doesn’t need to look homespun!
How do you find the time to do all of this?
It’s a 3-part recipe. I have a stellar team of people in my studio that keep everything humming along. (High five Maria, Nina, Natalie, Alexa, and Jessica!) They allow me to focus on design work while they are in charge of the bread and butter. Any success is shared alike because whipping up the creative part is only a pinch in the biz batter. Second part would be my husband, Evan. He works incredibly hard by day on affordable housing and helps me in his free time. Third would be a heaping scoop of childcare! We have a 4-year-old named Emmy and without access to resources we would not be able to do either of our jobs. Too many caregivers, especially woman, are holding back because their creative passions conflict with their life loves. Looking forward to more interviews here with female artisans that get the support they need!
What inspires you to keep creating new designs?
This is tough because honestly they just bubble up. Sometimes it comes in little poofs. Sometimes in a pouring fury. Honestly, I like to make things I myself want so it is a selfish business plan. Luckily it has been keeping the lights on.
Do you think about how your drawings could work as jewelry designs when you create them, or do you start with a drawing and then decide it might make a nice jewelry piece?
I always start with the function. I work in so many formats from paper goods to rubber stamp to jewelry and I want the end user to enjoy their own creative expression.
What gave you the idea to create mismatched earrings?
Might be because I am a fraternal twin: I am myself different but a part of a unit. I’ll spare you the therapy–but I like to change it up. We make all the earring on the same scale so even between sets you can fine your perfect personal combo!
What’s the process for creating a pair of mismatched earrings from start to finish?
I draw designs by hand, cut them out, and tape them on my ears. Super Technical stuff here! I then scan the designs into the computer. From the computer design we create a die, like the bottom of an intricately designed ice cube tray. That creates wells that are filled with hard enamel. The process is called cloisonné. I have sensitive ears and we made these with hypoallergenic posts because, again, selfish moves!
Of the pieces in your new collection with Uncommon Goods, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite is the Dog and Cat earring set. Everybody I work with has rescue cats but I have two adopted mutt border collie-ish pups, Calvin and Clementine.
Honestly, my favorite bit about this collection is the collaborative effort with [Jewelry Buyer] Sharon and the team at UncommonGoods. It was a blast tossing ideas back and forth. It is rare reward to work with a company that supports unique artisans and responsibly made goods on every level.