SuZan Cumpsty, co-author of Mad about Metal, is one of the lucky few creatives who gets to live her passion and make a living from her art. She started her own jewellery crafting business, Blink Idees, in 2011 and it has grown from strength to strength since. Based in Brackenfell, Cape Town, she sends orders out all over South Africa. You can like her Facebook page, follow her on Instagram, and then place your orders on her website (you’re definitely going to want to!). We spoke to her about starting her own business, her fabulous book, and of course her passion: metal!
When did you start Blink Idees?
I started Blink Idees in November 2011. Initially I just needed a name that enabled me to share my work on social media platforms without using my personal profile and constantly spamming my friends. At that stage I have been working with sheet metal for four years and I was mainly supplementing my income as a freelance art and craft teacher.
What materials do you use when crafting your pieces?
Sterling silver, brass, copper and aluminium. For my steampunk range, I use only real vintage watch parts. Sometimes I combine the metal with other materials like wood, glass and re-purposed leather.
What methods do you use?
All the processes used to make each design are done by hand with simple hand-operated tools. These methods include melting, forging, piercing and soldering of metal into unique designs. Stamping is also done by hand and each letter, number or design is stamped individually with a hammer on a flat steel surface. Due to this there will always be differences from piece to piece which will include variations in letter spacing, alignment and depth. Designs will look similar but no two pieces will ever be identical. These little imperfections add to their charm, making each piece a unique and a one-of-a-kind keepsake or heirloom.
Do you design custom pieces?
Yes, I do and any of the items in my shop can be customized in some way by adding names, dates or other significant wording. My custom pieces are made with love so you can celebrate your special memories like birthdays, engagements, weddings, anniversaries and graduations.
Your book, Mad about Metal, who should buy it and why?
I would really recommend it to anybody who would like to attempt something creative and fun. You don’t need a lot of expensive tools to get started and you will see quick results. Most of the projects in the book take only a couple of hours from start to finish. There’s a section with real quick and easy projects to get beginners going as well as more complex projects to grow into as your skills develop.
What types of projects are in the book?
The book covers a wide variety of projects to decorate your home – from mirror frames, candle holders, decorated glass bottles to a desk organiser and bunting flags – as well as several beautiful wall decorations and a gorgeous butterfly mobile. There are great ideas for up-cycling projects and even greeting cards.
Are there jewellery projects, or perhaps methods that can easily be translated into and used for jewellery?
There are two different jewellery projects in the book. The wooden heart pendants can me made in under half an hour – real quick and easy. The embossed metal pendants are just as easy to make and since they’re covered with resin, they are more durable. Your imagination is really your only limit when it comes to craft metal.
Starting your own business is never easy… how has it been for you?
My online shop opened November 2017 and I have since sold my mixed metal accessories very successfully. This year I’ve expanded again and added handcrafted sterling silver jewellery to my range.
Starting a business is very hard work and competition is fierce! When you’re selling online, you’re competing with the whole world and not just the shops or markets in your neighbourhood or town. Even though I came from a long retail background, there was a lot I had to learn – from copy-writing and product photography to building and maintaining a website and online shop. I’m still learning every day. Being a solopreneur is a slow and often very lonely process, but that is how I currently choose to express my creativity and share my passion with the world.
Do you have any tips or advice for other creatives who would like to make a living from their passion?
There is no better way to grow a business than from your passion, but there is a diffidence between hobbyists who are just selling their work to cover the cost of their materials and someone who earns a sustainable living from selling their art or craft. Don’t under price your work. Sustainable success is not going to happen overnight. Try to create a product that’s new and unique. Something you can remake and sell over and over again and use that as your main income line. Once you have several of those items available, you can also incorporate one of a kind items from time to time. Decide on which platforms you would like to sell your work. For example: do you have the free time to sell at markets or prefer so sell your work wholesale to shops or would you consider selling online?
I only sell online, and don’t do any markets since I don’t have any items in stock. All my products are made to order. Clients know from the start that my lead time is 10 to 14 working days, and they’ve always been prepared wait for their purchase. It is a business model that has worked very well for me over the last couple of years.
If you have any more questions about products, materials, processing times or custom design options, don’t hesitate to contact SuZan via email: email@example.com.