Blue map Accredited courses from leading Australian universities, TAFEs and colleges

Alice Whish - Contemporary Jeweller & Artist

Alice Whish
'I alternate my time between making jewellery in the studio, organising exhibitions and working on my business.'

Alice is a Sydney-based artist in contemporary jewellery. She has been working as an artist for over 20 years, but also works as a jeweller selling her creations online.

Some of her work has been displayed in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Definite Style is a new business that Alice manages with her partner. Through an online retail site they sell contemporary Australian jewellery from 35 artists.

For the past few years Alice has been involved in projects with Aboriginal artists in Arnhem Land. She is currently working on Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia which stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

What work do you do on a daily basis?

I have a young child at school so I work part time during the week. I alternate my time between making jewellery in the studio, organising exhibitions and working on my business, Definite Style. I also spend some days visiting suppliers and maintaining equipment and consumables in the studio.

How did you start working from home?

I started working from home in 1987 designing and making contemporary jewellery for sale in craft retail outlets and exhibition work. A jeweller doesn’t need a lot of space and it’s cheaper to rent a combined studio and apartment, so I’ve always had a studio attached to my home. My first home studio was a shared house with another jeweller, and we both lived in the house and shared the shop front as a studio space.

How did you initially fund your business?

I decided that if I wanted to make jewellery and artwork to support myself, then everything I did had to relate to it. I used my income from small art projects to buy equipment and other necessities for my business, and supplemented this by teaching community adult education classes and university.

How has your business developed?

My business and profile as an artist have grown through my exhibition work and involvement in community projects, initiated by myself as well as other groups. This work has included working with women in remote communities in Arnhem Land, exhibiting at the National Gallery, giving guest lectures at universities, and volunteering to mentor younger artists through media-based groups such as the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia.

How do you find a balance between working as an artist and creating jewellery to support yourself financially?

I dedicate different parts of the year to the two aspects of my work. For example, in the beginning of this year I focused on retailing, while the second half of the year is dedicated to the exhibition at Object Gallery and selling other people’s work on the website, as I only work two full days a week, because the rest of the time I’m a mum. I also do guest lectures, teaching and workshops. The jewellery that is sold on the Definite Style website is another income stream. I get a 50 per cent commission from these sales. My retail pieces result from groups of artwork I have exhibited – in any exhibition of work there will always be a few artworks that are good retail sellers.

How do you find clients?

I make use of promotional opportunities at exhibitions and craft retail outlets. My website and magazine articles also generate some additional business.

How do you manage clients who won’t pay up?

In the past I would walk away and cut my losses, and never make anything for them again or sell through their gallery. These days I take a 50 per cent deposit before I start work.

How do you juggle being a mother and a working woman at home?

I try to maintain my own space where I can work. To achieve this I limit myself to three parts of the house, but spend most of my time between the office and the studio. For my role as a mum, I make use of before- and after-school care and don’t work when my daughter comes home from school. We try to do one activity every weekend as a family.

comments powered by Disqus
Pop up

Stay in the loop with loads of
free study and career advice

Thank you email


we'll be in touch

Over 1,000 accredited online courses from leading Australian universities, TAFEs and colleges