Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Changes, Big Rewards

I feel like I've spent the better part of this year moving toward the big picture. Not known for my ability to strategize (but if you want someone detail oriented, I'm your girl!), I spent the first several months of 2013 focusing on honing my making skills. Lots of time spent at the work table, with the torch, joining things together.

And in April, all that work sort of metamorphosed into a collection. Not that it was really a collection at the time....more like seven pieces of jewelry that had, at least, a cohesiveness (something my designs have been sorely lacking since I began fabricating). And they sold...not like crazy - I don't know if any handmade art jewelry sells like crazy in this economy or environment - but I sold several at my first three festivals of the year. A month later, I had two other festivals. And I sold several there. And so on, all year long. I sold several online, too. They seemed to be well-received everywhere I displayed them.

So I continued to refine, practice, design, create - in this same vein. But the whole time, I'd been making one piece. Soldering it. Making another. Soldering it. (ad nauseum). Which was fine...until I enlisted my husband's help in rearranging my studio recently (big project, still not done, but some major changes were made).  And WOW, what a difference! Last week, I made earrings. Twelve gemstone settings (six pairs). In the same painful (I now realize) manner as before.

This week, I made ten pendants. In a quite less painful manner. And I am amazed at what happened!

Having the space to design them all together made them sort of blossom. They got more complex. They got more showy. They really started to take on a life of their own...I'm thrilled. And it's funny, since I batch nearly everything I can (soldering, cleanup, polishing), that I didn't think to batch my designing...or maybe I just haven't had the time, in addtion to not having set up the space to do it. I'm so thrilled with the results! These creations started out as some very simple metal embellishments to accent my ever-constant love of beautiful gems. And now they still do that, but they're so much more than just the second fiddle to the colored stones. They're part of a more "whole" design scenario:

Looking at them all as more of a whole than as one design, another design, then another design...has really helped me focus on what I'm doing with EACH design. And designing them as series-es, which I plan to do even more going forward, has influenced how each design turns out. Some have more "choppy" or spiky ends on the textured parts, some have more loops, some have more curves and waves and circles. In this series there was only one (2nd up from bottom, center) that had spiky embellishments. The rest are quite wavy and flowing.

AND, because the metalwork has started to come into its own, per se, I am thinking about my gem buying  plans for next year. I had shied away from larger stones, buying in a certain size (which means, usually, a certain price point) to keep costs down. And I'm still concerned about that, of course, but now I'm feeling (again, I know I've mentioned this before) like I want to go bigger and bolder with the gem size and the metal design.

I think a few things have contributed to this:

1. The Sedona Arts Festival. Just over a year ago, I was in Sedona, not selling a whole lot, and hearing, "I wish it was a little bigger", fairly regularly. And the jewelry the women were wearing! Bold. Color. Heavy silver. Gorgeous! I vowed then to go larger. But I sort of chickened out on my next buying's easier to say you're going to do something, but without an established way to do it...harder to follow through.

2. The Ruidoso Arts Festival. This past July, I went to Ruidoso, NM. And tanked. I've posted about it...lots of women from Texas. Who kept wanting things bigger and blingy-er. I'm not jumping into bling, but bigger color and stone size? I can do that. And the jewelry they were wearing! (see a theme, here?). Sometimes I think I've lived in the Southeast for too long, where the women tend to like small. Dainty. Pretty. Not-statement-y. But I grew up in the West and I LOVE bold. So why not design bold?

3. My own confidence in my skills. The first year I showed any fabricated jewelry at festivals, I told people I was a "baby metalsmith". I was a beginner...totally unsure of myself. Didn't want any custom orders (which of course, didn't mean I didn't take them...a girl's gotta push herself). Felt like an impostor. Oh, it was UGLY. I hadn't set any stones at that point (well, outside of classes. Nothing I would dare to sell). I was lost and looking for myself but I wasn't ready.

This year, the payoff for persisting has been HUGE. I've been practicing nonstop for the last two years and things I used to struggle with are now coming much more easily, which frees up my concentration for designing, rather than being so intensely focused on the physicality of making. And *that's* the happiest place to be.  :)

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