Friday, August 7, 2009

East Coast jeweler takes a turn West

Lisa Cimino makes artist fair circuit a monthlong trip


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Jewelry designer and crafter Lisa Cimino presents her latest work at the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Fair today through Sunday, at Atkinson Park in Ketchum. Photo by

Jewelry maker Lisa Cimino returns this weekend to the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival, the last stop in her sweep of Western arts festivals.

Cimino is a full-time jewelry maker and designer. Her work is exhibited at more than 100 galleries in the United States and abroad.

Five years ago, Cimino (pronounced Chee-Me-No) started her Baltimore-based jewelry business after completing a two-year certificate program in jewelry making at the Maryland Institute of Arts.

"I did the program off and on for four years," Cimino said. "It was expensive, and I had to waitress the entire time."

"I design and create everything myself," she said. "Every once in awhile, I will bring in a few assistants to help with the workload."

Cimino, who makes more than 1,500 pieces a year, sells many of her creations at winter and summer trade shows. Buyers place orders with her year-round, which accounts for 50 percent of her business. The other half of her jewelry business income comes from retail stores and art festivals, such as the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival.

"I love interacting with customers," Cimino said. "Getting feedback gives me a fresh edge."

This summer, Cimino decided to travel for an entire month to do a Western circuit of arts and crafts festivals. She began her trip at a show in Jackson, Wyo., followed by a show in Park City, Utah. The last stop is Ketchum.

"This summer was my largest circuit of shows," Cimino said. "I have never been away for a month at a time. It was a great deal of work to make pieces for all three shows and nail down travel arrangements, but it's been fun."

Cimino's jewelry is priced between $60 to $240 on average. Her work consists of organic designs inspired by the lines, textures and colors of coral reefs, tree canopies or birds. She uses vermeil, a gold-over-sterling finish, which is an affordable way to create gold pieces. She also makes sterling silver pieces with a variety of finishes, such as an oxidization process that makes a permanent black finish.

Until she traveled to Jackson, she had not felt the effects of the economy like many artisans, she said.

"I know a lot of other artists who are not having a good year," Cimino said. "I know an artist who has been in the business for 20 years with eight employees who has to shut down because she cannot make it work anymore. I believe I have a better price point to survive the recession. I would love to do more custom work, but I am unable to find the time to do one-of-a-kind pieces."

Cimino said she is at a crossroads with her work because she needs to go to the next level and hire permanent people to streamline her business, such as an assistant, so she can do more custom work.

The art show circuit has been a good experience for Cimino. It has been a great way for her to travel because, otherwise, she would not be able to get away. She first came to the Sun Valley Center's show last year.

"The Sun Valley show is a well-juried, well-run and organized show in a beautiful location," Cimino said. "This show takes artist feedback seriously and listens to the needs of its participants."

The festival runs through Sunday at Atkinson Park in Ketchum.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com




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