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Local artist shapes career path from passions

As a graduate with an art degree from Hastings College, owning my own business wasn’t on my radar. In truth, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use my training. After a couple of career ventures and life changes, I started an art business. At the time, I didn’t realize what it would become or even if it would work. Having an art business seemed a bit far-fetched.

With encouragement from some close friends, I decided to start producing art on a daily basis. Since 2006, I put art, in the form of metal sculpture, into my everyday life. To my surprise, it became a full-time job.

In the beginning, I was unsure how to market what I made, or how to price it. In the last nine years, the business grew and I had to learn how to balance production, marketing and financial aspects of the business.

Metal sculpture definitely has a market in central Nebraska. I am able to fill some of the market and bring in an income. Pricing is the toughest part of the job. How much is an idea worth? Does it depend on whether it’s my idea or creating a customer’s thought?

I learned to market through community involvement, art shows and festivals. I am still not secure in my success. I know it can go away as quickly as it has happened. I am working on supply and demand with thoughts of what I can do if the success changes.

Since I’ve developed a following, I now have to listen to my passion. Projects that are just reproducing other’s ideas are not using my creative abilities. It’s important to keep in mind what drives me in my business. Am I developing my goals and achievements? Am I making money for these advances?

I started thinking about the time, materials and experience that go in to each project. When figuring price, how did that influence my asking price to cover expenses and give me an income? I have to look at projects in relation to my expenses. Finding a price per hour for production, considering customer consultation and cost of goods all play a part.

Good market prices are not concrete when it comes to art. They are a combination of what you are able to do and what others are doing. There are not many metal sculptors in central Nebraska. If I have to "outsource" for a commission, it gets frustrating and pricey. This is where I have lost money in the past.

I also discovered that bookkeeping wasn’t one of my strong suits. With a suggestion from a friend, I started looking at my strengths. After understanding all aspects of the business, I discovered that it was more productive for me to hire a professional in bookkeeping and spend time paying for it in the metal shop! I also found it was best for my productivity. This was a good way to problem-solve my weaknesses.

I am still trying to educate myself and others that I want to produce art as a job, not crafts as a machine. I have my own ideas... not always wanting others. It is also important to develop self-discipline and treat your job seriously. If you want respect from others, you have to respect yourself.

Sally’s Advice For Artists

+ Stay true to what you are capable of doing.

+ Try not to get into a routine of complacency.

+ Challenge yourself.

+ Try not to be pushed in too many different directions.

+ Specializing in a trade becomes more unique and marketable.

About the Author

Sally Jurgensmier
Metal Sculptor, Sculptures by Sally
Raised on a farm in central Nebraska, Sally's roots never strayed far. She obtained her BA in art from Hastings College and ventured into the business world. She returned to the family farm in 2006 and has dedicated herself to sculpting and creating on a full-time basis since.

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