Life of a Jewelry Designer: Choosing a School

By Michelle Ecker on August 31st, 2015

Serena Van Rensselaer was originally a student of Art History and Cultural Anthropology, but while studying abroad in San Miguel D’Allende, she discovered her untapped passion and aptitude for jewelry design. She is now an inspired creator, perceptive businesswomen and shrewd gallery manager in Manhattan’s picturesque Soho neighborhood. We recently visited Serena’s gallery and spent the afternoon speaking with her about the industry.

Here is part nine of our series, “Life of a Jewelry Designer.”

Life of a Jewelry Designer: Choosing a School

When she’s not busy styling new pieces in the studio or rearranging Gallery Lala’s display, Serena is first and foremost a teacher. She’s been working with our students for several years, offering personal insight and constuctive criticism of young designers’ projects in an effort to stir growth and individual development while molding the minds of upcoming style experts. But while originally browsing a substantial selection of design schools to join, she wasn’t always sure which one she wanted to become a part of.

“A lot of the programs I read about taught students how to physically make things, but never to subsequently do anything with that finished work- the process always just sort of ended there,” she explained. “And I remember thinking how impractical that was.”

Considering many ambitious creators’ interest in launching their own businesses and selling their finished work, we’ve always found it important to build those entrepreneurial skills throughout the trajectory of creative development as well.

“As soon as I read about this program, it stood out to me,” Serena shared. “Even before I decided to beome a mentor, I knew that this curriculum was one I respected, and one that made sense.”

At NYIAD, we find it important to impart both stylistic and business-minded wisdom to our students before they graduate and embark on their own professional journeys. Throughout the course, in addition to grasping the fundamentals of jewelry creation and refinement of artistic work, our stylists are taught to simultaneously master the science of sales, starting with the absolute basics.

“First of all,” Serena explained, “We focus on display and photography from the very beginning, not just as an afterthought. Without that understanding, other students who simply learn how to make jewelry are probably going to struggle through the post-production process of selling.”

To start this, we typically ask students to review a series of jewelry photos, and identify ones they find visually appealing. Next, they’re asked to analyze the display set up and ask themselves- “Why did I like this image?” Perhaps said stylist was drawn to a certain shot because of the wooden table a handful of beaded bracelets was resting on in the image. Or maybe they liked the way a diamond necklace looked when photographed in contrast with a natural, earthy background outdoors. Regardless of taste specifics, that visual understanding is important, and it’s something our students will grow to notice more naturally as they complete the course.

“It always meant a lot to me that I’d be helping students develop those business and marketing instincts from the very begininng,” Serena continued. “That’s why I wanted to become a part of NYIAD.”

If you don’t want your creative process to end at the completion of a piece of jewelry, make sure to look for a program that’ll teach you the art of business and marketing as well. Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck with a ton of finished accessories, but no clients to share them with.

Want to learn more? The New York Institute of Art and Design offers an online jewelry design course that can teach you how to create and sell your own unique line of jewelry. Request your free course catalog today!


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