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Meet Christina Paluszek-McClure

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Paluszek-McClure.

Hi Christina, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Ever since I was a child I was always creating and doing things with my hands, but my love for jewelry, and the craftsmanship that is involved in making it, started with my grandmother’s jewelry box.

As a little girl, I would spend time at my grandmother’s Brooklyn, NY home where I would spend hours in her backyard garden getting lost in my imagination while climbing a giant peach tree and rummaging through her jewelry box that was filled with beautiful Art Nouveau jewelry which completely fascinated me because each piece was so ornate and looked like it came straight out of a fairy tale.

That jewelry made me feel special every time I put it on. And her garden made me fall in love with the beauty of nature. Combine the two, and I had my own personal treasure chest filled with beauty, wonder, and magic that inspires my work to this day. Jewelry-making was something I stumbled into one day after I saw a blacksmith working at a historical restoration village on Long Island when I was in my early teens.

It fascinated me that you could take something so cold and hard as metal and bend and shape it to create beautiful fluid pieces, and it reminded me of the beauty and detail in my grandmother’s jewelry. I’m a self-taught jeweler who started making jewelry, beginning with wirework and then transitioning to metalsmithing, as a hobby for a long time while I was working in marketing and promotion for the music and entertainment industry in New York City. I was creating jewelry for myself that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

And then one day a friend of mine decided to take some of my jewelry to work with her and see if she could sell it – and she did, and came back with orders for more. That’s when I thought I might actually be able to do this for a living. At that point, I had been contemplating making a career change, and my family had moved to Florida years before that. So, I did some research and realized I could sell my jewelry at art festivals that were plentiful in Florida.

I made the move down here to the Tampa Bay area in 1999 and I’ve been here ever since. I was participating in about 20-28 fine art and fine craft shows a year for many years and selling my jewelry through art galleries and through my website. About six years ago, I cut back on the art shows and really started concentrating on selling more through my website and to select galleries, as well as focusing a bit more on wedding and engagement rings and bridal jewelry because I was getting a lot of requests for that style.

During this time, I also became more involved in PAVA (Professional Association of Visual Artists) by doing their marketing and promotions, and am currently the organization’s vice president as well. It’s been an interesting journey, but definitely a fun one.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I don’t think undertaking anything brand new on your own is going to go smoothly because you are learning as you go, and there are always other bumps in the road that you can’t control. You just have to adapt and I think that is pretty normal. Just figuring out an artist booth set-up for an art show has a learning curve to it, as well as researching which shows and galleries are the right fit for your art.

I feel like I am constantly learning something new as I progress with my art and my business. I mean, certain aspects of my jewelry design have changed a bit as I learned new techniques. And when this happens, I have to figure out where I now fit in and how to go about finding the right audience. A perfect example of this was my transition to making what I call non-traditional wedding bands and engagement rings.

I never made a lot of rings because the sizing is all over the place. But when couples kept purchasing certain rings that were set with something other than a traditional diamond, like a pearl or a moonstone, as an engagement ring or a wedding band, it really opened my eyes to the fact that I was now creating jewelry for an entirely new audience. And this audience isn’t necessarily at a fine art show, so I really had to start figuring out how to market them.

Additionally, technology is always changing. And if you are a one-person show like I am, you have to keep up with the times and know how to use social media effectively, and definitely have an eCommerce website and know how to keep it updated.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a self-taught metalsmith who creates contemporary artisan jewelry inspired by the beauty and enchantments of nature and the romantic style of a bygone era. In each piece, I aim to capture the beauty and delicacy of these two elements and entice the wearer to really investigate each piece, and discover its texture, personality, beauty, and unique story.

Each piece of jewelry is individually handcrafted by myself using traditional metalsmith techniques using eco-friendly recycled precious metals in gold and silver, ethically sourced gemstones, and conflict-free or lab-created diamonds. I make jewelry for the person who appreciates thoughtfully made jewelry, created with care, passion, and love, that holds a deeper meaning.

I truly believe that your jewelry should celebrate you and tell your own unique story. It is not only an extension of your personal style, but it should reflect who you are, make you smile when you wear it, empower or inspire you in some way, and sometimes remind you of those special people and moments in your life. It’s a personal talisman that should feel effortless to wear and hold special significance.

I am most proud of the fact that I try to create my jewelry in a socially and environmentally responsible way in order to help protect the environment. In addition to using recycled precious metals and ethically sourced stones, I also try to use all eco-friendly and recycled packaging and avoid harmful chemicals in my production process.

I really don’t follow trends when it comes to my jewelry. I aim to keep my pieces timeless. And when it comes to custom orders, it’s really all about what the client wants. I will try to accommodate them to the best of my ability, but if I feel conflicted over the process or a certain element of the design, I’ll be upfront with them and let them know.

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
That I do it all! From the designing to the fabrication of each piece. I do all my own PR, marketing, promotion, website, and photography. It’s a lot of work, but I love what I do, and I am so grateful I can do what I do for a living.

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