Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer of (Self) Absorption

It's been a very challenging year, full of successes and low points, both personally and professionally. And as I finally return to the blog, on the eve of yet another birthday (didn't I decree that I would stop having them by now?? You can only be "29 again" so many times...) I am coming to the close of Summer '09 with a lot on my plate. And one of the biggest high points of the year is my learning more and more about jewelry fabrication and metalsmithing. And even being able to fabricate somewhat regularly (!).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with jewelry design and creation, what this means technically is that I now have a torch set up at home in the studio, so that I can solder design elements together. Previously none of my work was soldered together and I used what are known as "cold joining" techniques to create my designs. Now I also use heat. A bit trickier than anything else I've ever done, but oh-so-rewarding.

It's by no means easy; I very much consider myself a baby metalsmith, but this baby is on her way to...well, who knows where the path will lead, but I can't wait to get there. I have so many things I want to learn, to design, to create, to share with the world and my fabulous customers. I can't wait to get in the studio every chance I get. And I am soaking up everything I can possibly learn so I have even more tools in the toolbox to play with.

The journey actually began last year, when a good friend generously allowed me to come to her own studio once a week for several months. She taught me many things about working with metal, allowed me to use her tools and her torch, and really pushed me to explore and learn. And I do mean pushed. She's a fantastic teacher, although her method with me often went something like this: (her) "What the hell are you doing?" (me) "I'm soldering." (her) "Like that?!" and she'd take the torch from me, sit down, and show me exactly how to do it. It might not work for everyone, but it made things so clear for me that it pushed me much further ahead than I would have gotten in a year of classes elsewhere. And so, with a lot of eye-rolling, hair-pulling, gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands (plus a lot of scrap silver - the 'smithing learning curve is littered with scrap metal pieces), the Insights collection was born. And I was on my way!

But I still didn't feel comfortable with my skills and I didn't know what to do next. I showed at festivals all spring and into the summer, played with the torch a bit, but I felt stumped. I didn't know what to make with my newfound abilities.Or how to learn all the other techniques I wanted to know. So I took a jewelry fabrication class. It started in June, and oh, what a tough month June was! I made the class projects, came home and made more for  practice, and they turned out fairly respectable, but I still didn't know how to use my new skills creatively. I could barely stand waiting for a whole week to go by before the next class, because I was dying to learn. I re-read my already extensive library of jewelry making books. I re-read my already extensive library of jewelry making magazines. I bought more books. I highlighted and tabbed pages for future references. I sat online for hours, reading information from jewelry sites and chat groups. I thought about jewelry making all the time...but I didn't know what to make!

This continued through July...I was learning techniques, practicing them, and yet...nothing original. Nothing that I put together creatively. It was just practicepracticepractice with no creative spark driving me. But then, slowly, I started playing with some metal design elements that I had made previously. I joined them together. I took them apart. I re-joined them. I hammered them. I polished them. And slowly, a look started to emerge. Something was unveiling itself...the stirrings of another set of designs. When I got the first one completed, I was crazy with excitement. So I completed another. And another. Now the collection is growing, and I am trying to find time to start creating the NEXT collection, and all the others crowding at the door.

I've spent the last few years focused on many other business-related issues, but I'd allowed my skill set and creativity to grow stagnant. And that was hurting me in so many ways. Allowing myself the time and freedom to focus on learning again has made a world of difference. It's as if I finally found a way over a wall that had trapped me for so long, and now I can see far into the distance. What's out there is unclear, but every step is moving me forward, toward the endless possibilities that shimmer so enticingly. I'm on a fantastic journey, and every step is full of joy. Bring it on! I can't wait to know what happens next...


  1. That's so exciting, Jill. I love the pieces you've created so far and can't wait to see where your new found skills take you next!

  2. Thanks, Alice. You are always so supportive of my journey!

  3. Very excited for you!! Your blog and shop are just lovely. :) Great things are ahead . . .

  4. Thank you, Rosy m'dear. I appreciate your encouragement!