Christine Keller, a jewelry designer from Buckhannon, was recently awarded her second grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, West Virginia Commission on the Arts. The grant will be used to outfit her studio with several essential tools, including a new torch used in silversmithing. Her first grant in 2012 was applied toward the cost of training.
Christine continues to grow her Buckhannon-based company Chrizart Creations, located online at www.chrizart.com, supplying jewelry to more than 50 galleries in West Virginia, California, Maine, Florida and the Midwest. She feels that her growth is due in part to two primary factors. For the last 13 months, she has been able to build the business full time, having quit her day job in June 2012.
When asked if she was fearful about taking such a step, she replied, "I knew I had taken the business as far as I could with the limited time I had to spend on it. It came down to whether or not I believed enough in my art to give myself a chance. At 50 years of age, I decided it was now or never, so I quit and never looked back!"
She also cited the support and help of her husband, Warren, as a contributing factor to her success.
The second factor is the Tamarack Foundation, dedicated to supporting West Virginia artists and artisans, performers and food producers, who contribute $18.6 million to the state's economy annually. The foundation assists nearly 2,000 arts-based businesses in all 55 West Virginia counties.
This support includes mentoring and an emergency relief fund to help in times of career-threatening circumstances. Christine has benefited from the foundation as a juried member of its Urban Arts program. This enabled her to participate in one of the nation's largest wholesale shows, the Buyers Market of American Craft, held last February in Philadelphia. As a vendor, Chrizart Creations established 14 new accounts there. The continued guidance of the foundation has been a real boon for her West Virginia-based business.
Tamarack's "Best of West Virginia" marketplace has also been a blessing to Christine. In July, she was recognized with an award for being the second-highest producer in her department. Christine cites her wide price point range as another element of this success.
She designs jewelry ranging from $12 aluminum rings to $500 sterling silver pendants and cuffs. Keller is extremely grateful to the Mountain State for its support and applauds the many grants and programs available to its artists. It is her wish that more talented residents will take advantage of the assistance available to them.