Claire Sommers Buck was introduced to the maker culture early on in life, and it was from her parents’ creative and hardworking influence she gained the confidence and enthusiasm to pursue a path in metalsmithing.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
I grew up in a family of craftspeople, so from a very early age I knew that working with my hands was in my blood. However, it wasn’t until after I earned a degree in International Environmental Studies and traveled through South & Central America making jewelry, that I discovered metalsmithing. It is a craft that I continue to fall in love with everyday. In 2009, I spent short bursts of time studying jewelry fabrication and casting at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. While there, I learned excellent foundational skills and have since been developing my work independently. Working on my own in this way has given me a very raw and unique perspective on my craft, one that allows me a lot of personal and creative freedom.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
Luckily I haven’t had any major failures, but owning your own creative business is certainly a rollercoaster of ups and downs on a monthly, weekly and even hourly basis. It is super challenging to be one person wearing so many hats. Over the years, I have realized that building a community around your business is incredibly valuable. Having a network of smart people around me that I can seek for advice or bounce ideas off of has been integral in my success as a businessperson. Plus, simply knowing I’m not the only one navigating this path is huge!
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
My favorite moments are those when I get to personally connect with my customers. It means the world to me to meet the people who love wearing my jewelry. It is through these interactions that I am able to discover the elements of my work that make an impact on others. I really love this about what I do.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Austin has been a fantastic place to grow my business. The energy and support for creative small businesses here is incredible and it’s really encouraging to see local brands thrive. Because of this energy as well as the laid-back environment, living and working in Austin not only provides me with the space I need to honestly create, but also the genuine support I need to grow my business.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Truth is, I had no idea what went into owning your own business before leaping in and frankly, I am still learning A LOT. My experience in metalsmithing, however, was much stronger and this gave me the confidence to keep moving forward despite the many unknowns. I knew I could create well-designed and well-made products; I just needed to learn how to turn it into a business.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I was working full-time for another small business and began to realize that no matter how hard I worked, at the end of the day, I was still just an employee. It was then that I realized I wanted to put my energy into something I could build for myself. As scary as it was to leap into the murky waters of self-employment, I was certain that because of my love for the craft, only positive things would follow. I really couldn’t be happier that I took that leap.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I look at a lot of ethnic and folk jewelry from around the world when I am designing a new collection. My latest designs in my Alma Collection emerged from a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. The natural and cultural landscape is a fascinating place rich in history. It was really special to take my observations from the trip and develop new jewelry designs. I am also very much inspired by the materials themselves and the ways in which they can be manipulated. Often, the materials tell me if a design is working or not.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Genuinely know and love your craft. Without this foundation, navigating the world of business can be tough.