Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Melton.
Nicole, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started making jewelry in late 2012 by doing hand beaded earrings. It was extremely time-consuming and I felt limited in the types of work I wanted to make (silver with stones, rings, etc). I wanted to be able to make unique components and learn metal work so I enrolled in a beginning metalsmithing class. I was highly inspired by vintage/Victorian mourning jewelry and vintage Native American jewelry.
I lived in Chicago at the time and worked as a full-time graphic designer for a university. Shortly after starting to do metalsmithing in my spare time, my day job moved locations from Downtown Chicago to Hyde Park so my commute was about 3 hours per day… so draining. I would work from 9am to 5pm and then travel to a shared metalsmithing studio after work (I often worked til past 1am, sometimes 4am, on jewelry). Shortly after doing those daily long commutes, I found out I needed a spine fusion surgery. That surgery really changed my life and marked a huge change in pace for me (both personally and business wise). I had to quit my day job shortly after that and then figure out how to create my own home studio so that I could work from home. I started weaving after spine surgery and my interest grew in learning floor loom weaving. It’s still really hard for me to sit in one place for long, and metalsmithing takes up a great amount of my time these days, although I do still weave when I feel well.
We moved to Kansas City, MO in October 2016 to be near my husband’s family. We purchased our home and adopted our first rescue dog named June (we now have 2 rescue dogs). My current studio is in our basement (which has natural lighting with windows). It was quite a change trying to set up a work area in a bigger space, but I really love having more room. I’ve slowly collected tools over time and work on new techniques in between collections/orders.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh, this is such a hard question to answer… it hasn’t been a smooth road. Being an entrepreneur artist in and of itself has so many risks. It requires a lot of planning, waiting, hard work, and many leaps of faith. Putting out work you’ve invested a ton of time, heart, and money into is always a bit nerve wrecking… having your income rely solely on your abilities (or lack thereof) is so unpredictable. It’s not an easy path to carve out for oneself, but many people do figure it out and find a way to make it work.
One of my biggest struggles that I’m fairly vocal about is chronic health issues. I struggle with Endometriosis, Dysautonomia, and Spondylitis. I have chronic inflammation along my spine and large joints and it really makes the planning, preparation, organization, and productivity that I once thrived on so difficult now. I think that many people can relate to this struggle in some way or another as they navigate self employment… there are so many hats to wear at all times. It can be overwhelming and stressful.
My faith has really gotten me through some hard times, as well as having a community. I have some wonderful customers who support my work even when I’m producing less of it, and it’s really helped me to continue making work even if my schedule is unconventional when I don’t feel well. I started taking on a tiny amount of custom gold work this year, and I usually build in more time than I actually need which makes projects a bit less stressful. I think it’s better to surprise someone with finishing their piece early than to ever be late. Timelines are extremely motivating to me as an artist.
I started focusing more on one of a kind jewelry a few years back and it’s really allowed me the most room for creative growth and exploration while offering an ongoing collection of jewelry with unique American mined gemstones. I absolutely love expanding my skill set, working on new techniques, and finding rare and special gems for the jewelry I create.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Knot & Splice – what should we know?
I make work under the name of Knot & Splice. It’s a one-woman show. I specialize in sourcing high quality and ethical American mined gemstones and purchase recycled metals for my fine jewelry.
I am most well known for precious metals and American turquoise, although I use a wide variety of stones (as long as they’re mined in the USA). I’ve recently had the joy to work with some faceted stones—the majority of faceted stones on the market are imported. It’s been really special to find some American mined faceted gems — namely Montana sapphires and a few others. Because I work largely with one of a kind stones, the majority of my work is one of a kind. I really love this idea as the individuals who buy my work are all unique… why shouldn’t the jewelry they own reflect this?
Each jewelry piece I make is a one of a kind artwork to wear and enjoy. The inspiration and excitement for me are in collecting stones, connecting with mine owners and lapidaries (the people who cut/polish the stones which are an artwork of its own), as well as the process of creating the work. When someone loves it enough to purchase it, that really helps me to continue to do this work that I love.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think genuine storytelling is at the forefront of my business. Sharing my story is really all I know…I’m not good at selling things nor do I want to be a salesperson. I think people relate more to each other’s stories, what makes them human, and at least that’s what I’m most drawn to in the artists and makers I follow online.
I love what I do, so sharing my passion despite the health challenges I face…I think it’s a story of hope and perseverance people can relate to.
So much of the business world is about disconnecting from the too real/personal and attempting to manufacture a relatable experience. Except, consumers are eyes wide open to this fabrication.
My job as an artist is already unique. I don’t enjoy just selling, I want to make the work that I put out, it’s love-driven. I also enjoy connecting with people in meaningful ways well beyond the simple transaction. Yes, sales are necessary to continue the work (which is quite expensive to produce), but money is not at the core of what I do. There is a great depth to my story and it’s ever-changing… I enjoy connecting my work with my story and getting to know the people who support my work. Money and success are ephemeral, but souls are forever.
- Website: Knotandsplice.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: Instagram.com/knotandsplice
- Facebook: Facebook.com/knotandsplice
Portrait with Nova (dog) by Shelby York Photography