El Paso native Adriana Soto says she's always been artsy. She made her own jewelry as a hobby for several years but decided to take the plunge into full-time design after working a temp job at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's gift shop, where she saw other designers selling their handcrafted one-of-a-kind work. "When I saw other designers selling their work, I thought, 'I want to do that, too.'" She signed up for a class at the Glassell School of Art with jewelry guru Sandy Zilker. After a class or two, she went on her own. That was six years ago. Two years ago she opened up an online shop at Etsy.com and is now happily marketing her work around the world.
What she does: "I consider myself a designer first, but actually I do a lot of things. I design, I create, I market, I'm an entrepreneur. "
She also tests her designs for wearability. "I've seen a lot of jewelry that's cool, but when you put it on, it doesn't work. That's a huge part of my designs, that it looks great and that it works. If it's just one but not the other, it's no good."
Soto says the business side of the business is mostly handled by her husband, whom she calls "Mr. Formula." He figures out if a piece cost X dollars in raw materials, she has to sell it for Y dollars in order to make a profit. "Sometimes I get a little stone crazy and he'll say, 'Hey, it doesn't seem like you're following the formula.' And I'm like, 'Crap!' I try to play the crazy artist, but he's like, 'Nah!'" she laughs.
While Soto's designs sell on Etsy daily, she maintains strict adherence to the cost-vs.-profit formula she's worked out with her husband. Not only does it keep prices low for her customers, she finds it forces her to be creative. It's easy to buy a great stone and make a beautiful piece, she says. "Being on a budget, I have to rely on my design to make a beautiful piece, not just the expensive materials."
Why she likes it: "It's still exciting when somebody buys a piece of my jewelry."
Soto says she likes the freedom to design according to her own tastes. "I've tried to do collections, but it doesn't work that way for me. I do things that are trendy sometimes, but what sells the most are things that you invent. Actually, I create what I like to wear."
What inspires her: "Music inspires me, so does nature," she says. But her work is not directly related to what she hears or sees. Seeing a shell doesn't lead her to producing shell-shaped earrings, for example. The inspiration gets her creative juices flowing and ideas for new pieces follow. "I get flashes of insights. When I get a flash, it sticks with me, and I can't get rid of it until I make it."
If not this, then what: "If I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be a makeup artist. I dabbled in that before." She finds a lot of similarity in the work since both jewelry designers and makeup artists deal with colors, shapes and textures.
If not here, then where: "Canada," she answers without hesitation. "My work sells really well there; I'm not sure why, but it does and so I think maybe I'd like to go there. The Canadians love me."
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What's next: Soto plans to continue to expand her Etsy shop, adding new designs daily. She just finished creating new work for a trade catalogue. "It's called Geranium Jewelry. They sell jewelry by different designers, all of it handmade."
And she's already getting ready for the Christmas season. "Actually, I'm always getting ready for Christmas."
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright