NDSU professor creates concrete art
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 13:09
Chelsea Thorson, a recent graduate of NDSU, received her master’s degree in architecture in the spring of 2011. This semester, she is back in the art department as an adjunct professor instructing a 3D design course. What her students may not know, however, is that she has made a name for herself on another level entirely as a small scale concrete art and jewelry designer.
During her second year at NDSU, in a studio class encompassing plaster and concrete casting, Chelsea concluded that she could not get enough. “I really got hooked on it,” she gushed. “I completely fell in love with casting concrete.”
By 2010, Chelsea’s thesis year, she began wondering if an internship was pertinent to her success. Initially, within the confines of her apartment, she fed her artistic addiction by creating scaled down pieces, eventually exploring jewelry.
“Jewelry became the thing I was doing because it was small enough to manage on the side while I was in school, but it was still using materials I love from architecture,” she admitted.
Curious to know if her pieces would sell, Chelsea listed two items under the business title Raine Design on Etsy. Etsy is a website that specializes in handmade art for sale.
She was floored when she found that her jewelry had sold. By graduation, she already had a growing business. Today, Chelsea has a studio for Raine Design at the Spirit Room on Broadway.
She begins each design with a sketch. Wax and clay are used to make molds for casting each piece. She single-handedly constructs each order.
On the business end, Chelsea’s boyfriend, Richard, designs her webpage. This webpage is now being revamped into an online storefront, rumored to be up by the end of September.
Additionally, he assists with packaging and works in the distribution of her products. “Without him, I would be an artist without a market,” she added.
Chelsea described her unique collection of art as “wearable artifacts” and “a symbol of this time and place.” Her architecture discipline is always in the forefront of her mind while in the studio designing new pieces, as she sees them as being “interrelated.”
However, she uses “mostly organic shapes or shapes that come from curves seen repeating in nature,” because she enjoys the elemental and tribal attributes that the environment has to offer.
Locally, Chelsea’s jewelry is available at Ecce on Broadway, but she has been featured at the Plains Art Museum as well. She has begun working with Unglued, the newest crafting hotspot in Fargo, and is active with the nonprofit art organization, CoLab Makerspace, located in the basement of Atomic Coffee on Broadway.
Her jewelry has also been emphasized on websites such as The Foundry and at craft fairs from the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis to Renegade in San Francisco.
She delights in online business, such as Etsy, as it allows her to work from home while getting a sense of where her work is most popular around the country. Her market has proven to reside mostly on the coasts near California and New York
As Chelsea is becoming a more notable designer, she is now ordering business cards at a quantity of 2,000 per order. Before classes started, she was working between 60 and 80 hours each week, filling between 25 and 30 online purchases weekly.
Chelsea has come to the realization that designing is a lot of work. However, with the incredible feedback she’s received, she understands that it also requires incredible amounts of work. “I’ve created my own demand. I can’t really stop. I have to keep going, innovating and making new things.”
Her advice for emerging artists: “You’re not going for nine out of ten people; you’re going for one out of ten people. Do something unique that you feel makes you happy.”
She encourages art majors and enthusiasts alike to get involved in on-campus organizations for the arts such as the Fair Market Value Appraisal and the Arts Partnership.
While Chelsea would like to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area expanding into parts of architecture at some point, she expressed that she currently feels that teaching and designing are the ingredients for a “dream life right now.”
To learn more about her art, check out Chelsea’s Facebook page Raine Design or searching for her work on Etsy.com.