By Brian Hendershot

This year's Crocker Holiday Artisan Market (CHAM) has been cancelled due to Covid-19. In recognition of the unique, financial constraints members of the creative community are facing, we're highlighting five artists we think best represent the show. You can see the entire artist directory by clicking here. This year, 100-percent of the proceeds will go to the artists. Be sure to read last year's roundup as well! Like what we're doing? Consider shopping the Museum Store or giving the gift of membership this holiday season.

Lisa Ramos hustles — and with gusto. She has to. Being a creative is rarely as simple as just being creative. You’re also an entrepreneur, a marketeer, and accountant — and that's assuming you don't have a "day job" to cover your monthly expenses. When you're an artist, you're not just running a small business; you are the small business.

Some of Ramos's success can be attributed to her previous career in the tech world. She started first in project management, before eventually transitioning to selling and marketing content management systems and e-commerce platforms. More importantly: She's driven by an innate desire to engage with things she’s not familiar with, a mindset that informs much of her work. “I am always looking at new ways to improve. I look at creating pieces that require a new skill set and during that process I get inspired. . . My designs are an extension of who I am. I fell in love with the creative process because of the unlimited possibilities."

In 2013, Ramos decided to turn her lifelong appreciation of things that were “very sparkly” into a career. Her first collection of women’s accessories — MONOLISA — launched in 2017. The line features a range of minimalist Italian leather handbags, meticulously hand-sculpted jewelry and, for good measure, hostess gifts like mini lamp shades, edge painted wine charms, and decorative coasters.

Each piece is hand-made by Ramos, which is relatively unusual. “Many artists choose one category such as leather or jewelry, not both.” Each medium requires a specific skill set, materials, tools, machines, and design ideas. And each one is expensive and labor intensive. Those buttery smooth card cases and leather earrings? Some are finished with Italian edge paint, a multi-stepped process that can ruin the piece (rendering it unsellable) if not applied properly. Those shimmering rings with bright bold crystals? Each one requires a multitude skills — forming the metal, soldering, and stone setting, to name a few. An uneven stone or "soldering nightmare" can "result in a design disaster, a great discovery, a teaching moment or possibly a new design."

I’m morally obliged to disclose that, even though I worked in a Banana Republic store, people charitably describe my knowledge of women’s fashion as “lacking”. This wasn’t an issue for Ramos. During our chat she graciously (and helpfully) described basic accessories like earring jackets. “If you see a woman wearing a pair of diamond stud earrings, an earring jacket is a little accessory you put behind the stud earring, resulting in a whole new look . . . imagine a decorative piece of metal with a hole at the top that an earring stud goes through, that would be an earring jacket.”

Add fashion consultant (to clueless partners) to the list of things Ramos does well. "It happens all the time", she says reassuringly. "The first thing I ask is to see a picture of the person they are buying a gift for. Next, I’ll ask if their partner likes gold or silver. Often, they don’t know. Looking at a picture typically gives me a feel if the person would prefer a minimal or flashy style. That usually narrows it down to specific pieces I recommend. Then we discuss color options. Usually, from there, they can easily decide.”

It’s a role that Ramos falls into easily — no surprise given that, prior to the pandemic, she made most of her money at shows like the Crocker Holiday Artisan Market. “I do a lot of shows throughout the year — 85% of every weekend I am on the road. Although I have a web presence, the shows are really the best ways for me to interact with customers and sell my pieces.”

The pandemic hasn’t stopped Ramos’s hustle, or her voracious appetite for new things. She’s used the time to develop and launch new earring jackets and gemstone rings. She's even created a series of YouTube videos — the perfect resource for fashion challenged people like me. "I had to get beyond being shy, embarrassed, or worrying too much about what others will think. I knew my first several videos wouldn't be great. They still aren’t. Lets just say I have had a ton of practice with my many do overs. The more I do, the easier it becomes."

Her advice to anyone still struggling to make the transition to the digital world? "Just go for it. Building a web presence takes a lot of time, hard work, learning and patience. You get what you put into it."

Click here to learn more about MONOLISA or to make an order.


Images courtesy of the artist.

Brian Hendershot serves as the Crocker's primary support editor, writer, and occasional audiovisual editor. Before joining the Crocker, he was the Head of Communications at the Museum of the Red River in Oklahoma. He also sat on the McCurtain County Historical Board of Directors and the Crocker's MASS Action Committee. He received his MA in Communications at Drury University in Missouri.