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News . Feature Stories . Jewelry designer started her own company just three years after graduation


November 05, 2014

Jewelry designer started her own company just three years after graduation

Five questions for Liza Rifkin '13

Liza Rifkin is a jewelry designer and maker who started her own company, Liza Michelle Jewelry, in 2013, just three years after graduating from CIA. Rifkin earned a bachelor of fine arts degree (BFA) in Jewelry + Metals. She is represented in several local and out-of-state stores and boutiques. Prior to starting her company, she worked for a high-end jewelry manufacturer in Cleveland.

In October 2014, Rifkin served as a panel for NEXT: Living Art + Design, CIA’s program that introduces the professional world of art and design to high school and transfer students who are interested in pursuing a career in the visual arts. Students loved hearing about how she made her dream career happen. CIA caught up with her for a few follow-up questions.

How did you end up going to CIA and pursuing a career in art or design? Was there one particular person who strongly encouraged you to develop your artistic talents into a career? Was there an “Ah ha” moment when you realized this is what you wanted to do?

I had always been artistic but took my first jewelry class in sophomore year of high school, and from that point on was hooked. I applied to art school and haven't looked back. My parents are incredibly supportive and knew with my work ethic I could make any career work for me. My a-ha moment was when I was 16, learning to cast silver. I thought to myself: I want to do this every day.

In your creative work, do you enjoy collaborating with others, or are you happiest when you are working by yourself? How do you strike a balance between the two?

I am constantly isolated in my studio, so I am always looking to collaborate or network with other makers and artists. Admittedly I am typically flying solo in my design process, but often try to include anyone who will listen to me when I'm trying to hash out new designs.

Are there misconceptions that you would like to dispel about careers in art and design?

First and foremost, the notion of the 'starving artist.’ This whole idea that we are ‘starving artists’, I don’t buy that. Everyone is struggling and working hard in whatever career they choose, especially entrepreneurs, and I think it’s a baseless stereotype that we need charity. There are so many applicable careers within the art and design field; you can really make your degree do whatever you want it to.

Looking back on your CIA education, what did you gain or learn that benefits you the most in your career to this day?

My skill set is first; I wouldn't be able to make the quality goods I do without the skills I developed at CIA. I also learned to self-direct my work, which created an incredible work ethic within myself. Self-motivation is incredibly important in the arts.

What would you say to recommend CIA to a prospective student?

Follow your passion, and remember: you create the life you want to live. If that includes gaining knowledge and a degree in the arts to further that dream, go for it and don't compromise.

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