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Artist Yuliya Shulman on How Gifting Handmade Jewelry to a Friend Led to a Business

Photo of Yuliya Shulman by EVE Photography. Photo courtesy of the artist.Yuliya Shulman works with polymer clay.
Photo of Yuliya Shulman by EVE Photography. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Yuliya Shulman creates colorful handmade jewelry and home and kitchen accessories made of polymer clay. We recently interviewed the artist to learn more about what motivated her to become a creative entrepreneur and the inspiration behind her work.

One of Yuliya Shulman's pieces of handmade jewelry in red, white and blue. Polymer clay and seed beads.
Photo courtesy of Yuliya Shulman.

AJ: How did you get started creating your art?

YS: I’ve always loved crafts. All sorts of crafts—knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, macramé. I’ve always wanted to make beautiful things. It runs in the family. I learned most of those crafts from my mother and grandmother. I dreamed about being a theatrical designer when I was a kid, but it didn’t happen.

I first started making jewelry using store-bought and home-found beads (don’t you love digging in your mom’s boxes!). Then I discovered polymer clay and fell in love. It’s a fun, versatile medium that produces such bright, contemporary jewelry and fashion accessories. Of course, beads didn’t go away completely, but nothing can compare with a chance to make something from scratch with your own hands!

AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your craft into a business?

YS: One day I made a necklace for my friend’s birthday. She loved it, which meant a lot to me because she’s an accomplished artist. But everyone at the party started telling me I should try selling those things, so I decided to try.

One of Yuliya Shulman's colorful sets of serving utensils made from polymer clay.
Photo courtesy of Yuliya Shulman.

AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

YS: Anywhere and everywhere. Polymer clay is a very versatile media. Part of the fun is finding new color combinations. It’s also part of the challenge—coming up with something I haven’t done before, combining colors I haven’t combined before. And the shapes—I enjoy the freedom of freeform cutting when I make earrings and pendants.

AJ: How do you apply that inspiration to your work?

YS: When I come up with a new color combination I’m eager to try, I rush to my clay supplies and make a clay pattern in those colors.

AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

YS: The biggest challenge for me is to let go. It’s easier to make sure a piece is completely symmetric and round than to cut a freeform shape.

AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?

YS: I’m learning to live with it. I have for years. Perfection is unattainable, and it’s easier to do something to death than to stop when it’s just right. Art is not supposed to be perfect because life isn’t.

AJ: What advice would you give to someone interested in putting their art out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?

YS: Try it. What do you have to lose? Expanding your comfort zone will do you a lot of good.

One of Yuliya Shulman's colorful Christmas ornaments made from polymer clay.
Photo courtesy of Yuliya Shulman.

AJ: Has someone ever criticized your artwork? How did you handle it?

YS: I always thank and smile. Sometimes say that I will consider the suggestion. The rest really depends on how constructive the criticism is and whom it comes from.

AJ: Are you are passionate about a cause and why?

YS: I care about many things, including nature preservation, art preservation, environment. I’m Jewish, and I care about my people and preserving the memory of the generation that perished in the Holocaust. I work with my local Jewish educational center.

AJ: What brings you joy?

YS: Many things bring me joy, such as travel, a quiet evening with family or close friends and a good book.

Thanks, Yuliya! Her products are available for purchase at claywithstyle.com. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.

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