Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Series: Petal sterling silver, nylon, sequins, seed pearls, onyx, glass, organza
Model: Lauryn Straubhaar
Photographer: Pat Jarrett
An Interview with Michelle Pajak-Reynolds
I was very excited to get the opportunity to interview Michelle Pajak-Reynolds. Her experiences have been very different from mine, and I knew her perspective would be
insightful and interesting for everyone following the blog.
She did not fall down the MFA rabbit hole, she has been successfully supporting herself with her work, and she is vocal in her support of savvy business practices for artists.
Michelle works in a diverse range of materials to create lyrical pieces that blend the feminine with the theatrical.
Jillian-- I know this isn't your first conference, so how many have you attended? Did you go as a student before you attended as a post-student/practicing artist?
Michelle--My first conference was Cleveland 2005 and I've been hooked ever since. I did not attend as a student but, in hindsight, I wish I had.
J-- What have you experienced as a result of the conference that has positively affected your studio practice?
M--I've had many wonderful things happen to me due to attending conferences. I've formed wonderful relationships with many members whose knowledge has helped me grow. Through those relationships I was offered the role of SNAG Volunteer Coordinator, which is a Human Resources function that I absolutely love. I've gotten better at how I present my work both in exhibitions and promotional materials. I've been inspired by
countless works of art and had the opportunity to explore cities that were not on my list of must see places.
J-- Have you experienced anything negative?
M--The only negative I experienced was is 2007 when I ran the Board of Directors. I had a few members question my membership and qualifications to run for the Board because I don't work in a lot of metal or have an MFA. This hurt a lot, of course, but over time I've come to realize that their views are very limited as far as our field goes and they represent a very small portion of the membership.
J—Are you interested in teaching Jewelry/Metals/Art or do you prefer to be a
Studio Artist first and foremost? I find that many of us are not really given the reality on what we will be doing with our degree and the idea that we'll all be Metals/Jewelry Profs. is a bit of a pyramid
M--I agree with your views about what one can do with a BFA, not all of us can or should be Profs. There aren’t enough positions/programs to support the number of MFA's and a lot of other things that I could rant about. I have taught but not as a department head or anything like it. I've been a visiting artist at Ursuline College, Akron Art Museum, various community art centers, private homes, and I've partnered with the Ohio Arts Council.
J— I read on your facebook profile you're getting an MBA (whoa!), what motivated you to get a business degree after the art degree? I'm curious if a lot of makers are going in this direction now, especially given the current economy.
M—Wow, the choice to pursue an MBA...there's a lot of things that lead up to this path, some of which have been brewing for a long time. But the catalyst for making this leap
was a combination of losing 3 loved ones (2 to illness and old age and one to murder) and my teaching job in a six month period, Feb-Aug, last year. I've been unemployed since June. I've always had a unique combination of creativity mixed with a mind for business and saw the MBA-Entrepreneurship program at Baldwin-Wallace as a perfect fit for my goals and as a tool to fill the gaps in my business skills. The loved ones I lost unconditionally supported my work and believed in my potential as a businesswoman. I decided that it was time to pull my head out of my a**, honor their faith in me, and live up to my full potential.
I would like to see more art programs incorporate Entrepreneurship/business
courses. Artists need to blend practical business knowledge with theory and creativity. Being a studio artist and actually making a living on your art require two different skill sets. The BW MBA is helping me learn more about sustainable business strategies, sources for funding, accounting, marketing, and expanding the market for my work, etc, etc, etc.
J-- Finally, what do you hope to get out of the conference this year? Is there anything that you feel will be different for you? What would you wish to change about the conference if you could to get a more positive result as a Studio Artist?
M--What I want out of this year's conference experience is to listen to as many fellow artists at all stages of their careers and learn more about their day, how they built their
business, and what keeps them up at night. Houston will be a very different experience for many reasons. I'm a million miles away from the woman I was nine months ago, not to mention who I was at last year’s conference. It will be interesting to see the response to the "new me". So far the new website/new me love I've received from my SNAG/Crafthaus/Facebook family has been incredible and I can't wait to see them all.
I would like to see more practical knowledge formally shared at conferences. I think it would benefit everyone to learn more about the business side of things, metals programs are businesses too, how others overcome the obstacles that are in our path. I want nitty gritty business stuff. It seems like money is a four letter word with this group and something that's poo pooed on in conversation.
I would really like to thank Michelle Pajak-Reynolds for taking the time to reply to all of my questions. I know how hectic everyone’s schedule can be before the conference. I would also like
to express how much I appreciate her candor in describing her experiences, both
professional and personal .
You can see more of Michelle’s work at her site.
See you soon!