Friday, March 20, 2009

Ileana Munteanu: Ambassador of Jewelry by Darcel Rockett

Profile in success

Article in The Crafts Report Magazine, January 2007 issue.

If life is what you make it, Ileana Munteanu’s life is comprised of those little details that make said life worth living – art, music, quality time with family and the myriad of colors that dot the spaces in between. A passerby can tell all of this by glimpsing any one of the Enchanted Beads proprietor’s jewelry. It catches the eye in a way that beckons the rest of the body to touch and inspect the intricate handiwork in amazement. Cases in point: a rotund ladybug that appears as if it has a glandular problem is really a brooch, a lavender bauble that resembles a seashell oxidizing itself thanks to the beading on the circumference, and sunhats that look to be blowing in the wind. And her necklaces, one can easily make the correlation to mini-mosaics or medallions of whimsy that have customers recalling their fantasy of the Greek isles or the Mediterranean – the coral, cracked whitewash houses baking in the sun, the dapple shade reflected in the darker beads. And it’s that sensibility to the senses that has given the multi-faceted Brooklyn-based artist her own version of success.

A former ambassador’s wife, Munteanu’s brooches, necklaces, and earrings used to don the necks and shoulders of diplomat’s wives and help charities like Arts for the Aging, the American Cancer Society, and Romanian Christian Enterprises (for children in her native Romania). Now, Munteanu brings her nature-inspired beadwork to women across the country. An admirer of Erte’, her granddaughter Isabelle, and Italian Renaissance, Romanian, and Impressionist artists, she melds her unique, intricate twists and oblique. lace, and peyote stitches with her love of pearls and semiprecious stones to create stylized designs that ‘bring more beauty to everyday life, inspire good feelings and increase self-awareness in the lasting symbols that are always present—love, faith, sincerity, purity, hope, renewal, and good luck.”

She specializes in the tiniest of Japanese seed beads (size 15) by Miyuki. The scale, shape, and variety of color of the material help her mold her creations into the shapes she wants perfectly – much like a painter uses colors and brush strokes to convey his version of imagery.

She uses the quiet time found in the evening to listen to classical music and bead anywhere from three to six pieces at a time, works that range in price from $20-$400. Munteanu, who also serves as a translator and interpreter of French and Romanian languages, finds working with beads very meditative. But then the consummate art consumer has always found the arts a constant joy-from her early days in Romania surrounded by her family of writers and painters and her art history major background to her artistic inclinations today as a writer of essays for magazines and children’s books. Munteanu attests all these aspects of her person feed into each other and fuel her jewelry business. It’s what initially set Munteanu on the artist’s path in the first place.

Her collection of jewelry continues to evolve as she intakes more of her surroundings. She does custom work as well; doing entire sets of jewelry to show possibilities of choices and educating customers by telling them how their piece comes to fruition. And they are eating it up. Her work can be found in at least 10 galleries from the East Coast to the West Coast and online at Her biggest clients for her necklaces are young girls, while older women prefer her brooches. But all ages purchase her earrings, pins, and necklaces not just for themselves, but as presents for other loved ones. Munteanu recalls most clients finding her work at craft shows and through referrals.

“I’m happy to sell to customers who appreciate the “art” in my pieces, they buy four or five pieces at a time,” Munteanu said.

Staying connected to a community of creators online gives her a lot of support in her continued endeavors, as do customers feedback. With many colorful ideas in her head, the biggest challenge she has right now is getting her vivid imagination to materialize right away and finding the time to do it all.

“I don’t consider myself a big success in the field yet, although I had a few accomplishments that helped me to become a better artist and to grow as a human being,” Munteanu said. “Next step? Being recognized as an innovative artist by my peers as well as the critics.”

Her advice for others seeking their own version of success: do your homework, search for a path that fits your style, participate in as many contests as you can and don’t get discouraged even when you’re rejected or when you don’t make it to the finals.

“Keep trying, keep improving yourself,” she added. Of course, one very important condition is to get the right pictures of your work, to get a professional photographer before sending anything out. And the power of the Internet? I cannot praise enough. After I got my Web site, it was much easier to send out announcements, invite gallery owners to view my work and I found that others were more open to doing business with me, including consignments. I’ve been happy with the responses.”

Darcel Rockett likes to surround herself with pretty things and it’s only natural she writes for The Crafts Report. She’s written for The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune Magazine, TV Guide and CBS 2 News, Chicago.

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