Monday, December 30, 2013

Reclaiming Me

Though the madness leading up to the end of any given year is crazy, often the actual winding down of the year is one of my favorite times. The introvert and the Virgo in me like staying at home, moving at a slower pace, organizing things and prepping and planning for the new year ahead. It's about getting my literal and metaphysical houses in order to move forward.

I haven't made any jewelry since the 20th, and it's been niiiiiiiice. I've needed the time away to rest, reflect, and consider what I'm going to do for organize and gather, to shine a light on the path I want to travel for the coming  year. The peaceful cadence of doing these things soothes my frenetic soul from all the bouncing around the rest of the year seems to bring.

I've also been considering what I want to work on personally for next year, and I have two major items:

- being kinder. I usually start out in a good mood, but I get annoyed easily by minor things, and sometimes I get snappy. And even if I don't *say* anything, I will think rather uncharitable thoughts. I get a little snarky in my head, you could I'm going to be working on changing that. Being more Zen about everything, and being more patient (haha, yes, I can hear some of you chuckling at that. I know...but a girl's gotta try).

- being more proactive. This applies to my personal life as well as the business. I've done some intense therapy work in the last few years, it's stirred a restlessness in me. I am wanting to meet new people, try new things, stretch and reach and feel more fulfilled. The last three years - since my jaw surgeries, in 2011 - have been tumultuous and messy and left me scrambling for balance. I've not recovered entirely from those years, but I am closer. And 2014 feels fresh and new and full of promise in a way that the last few have not.

I also need to be more proactive business-wise. I've touched upon this before in my blog posts, and I'm hopefully putting some things in place that will help me tremendously next year. I have two potential people who could come and help out with production and cleanup, and I'll be getting with them both after the new year to discuss further. I can't tell you how excited I am about this opportunity! I feel like the Universe is offering me what I need when I need it...and if it works out I am going to jump right on it.  :)

And I have a sketchbook full-full-full of new design ideas that are just waiting for me to get going on them...this is a year to stretch my designs and I can't wait. This downtime / away time from the torch and fabrication has been much needed...but I'm ready to go back next week. Last night I felt that familiar tickle in my head, thinking about creating, designing, the physicality of making. I'm almost ready to plunge in with both hands...

The year of the horse...very auspicious, I would think.  :) 

I hope that this is a fulfilling and rewarding year for all of you, loyal peeps. Your support always touches me so much and I couldn't / wouldn't be where I am on this journey without you! Take care of yourselves, rest, and be happy. I look forward to many more adventures for all of us in 2014!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Madness and Good Fun

It's nearly mid-December, which for most artisans, and jewelry makers especially, means that we are right in the swing of madness. Men are asking for things that we can't possibly fulfill (or can't fulfill without giving up a piece of ourselves to get it done) at this time,as they tend to do. Custom orders are in high production mode to get made and mailed by the USPS shipping dates. There are a million-and-one end-of-year things to do, not to mention the personal holiday stuff, and it seems like the days are far too short.

I'm alternately feeling rushed and not energy is low, low, low. Though I adore making jewelry, I am not really in the mood for it now (though I am putting my time in on those custom orders). I'm ready to sit, breathe, meditate, regroup, organize (some more), and rest. I'm ready for January, to begin anew, to design with more purpose, without short deadlines looming (though there are always *some* of those), with time on my side. Which is's never really on my side. But I'd welcome some bigger, quieter chunks of time right now.

I did a brief inventory a week or so ago, to see where the time went, and as far as I can tell, in 2012, I made 60 or so hand-fabricated, one of a kind, designed from scratch, gemstone-set items.

By the end of this year, I will have made 200.

just a little sampling of the more recent creations

Now I get that 200 doesn't sound like a lot. But moving from 60 to 200 in one year? I've definitely gotten faster, for one thing.  :)  And making each one from scratch? There's a lot of design and creation time in each of those. And consider this:

- I struggled to keep up a decent festival inventory all year long. Every month, every week, every stolen moment got devoted to designing and making.

- Currently there are about 367,128 things on my idea list that I *can't get to*. Okay, I don't have three-hundred-thousand-plus ideas...yet. But I have a lot of ideas. And they can't get made, or much more than thought about, because I am spending my time making other things...the things that have been selling.

I can hear you now, thinking, "Well, poor Jilly. She's making and selling. She can't get to the *other* things she wants to make because she's making. Isn't this what she loves to do???"

Well...yes. Hell yes! Absolutely. But there comes a point when one person cannot possibly do enough to grow a business or stretch its offerings or even meet its needs. And I'm there. I'm probably way past there, except that there's been no time to stop and plan for how I can change that.

And this year, pleasingly, my skills have grown to the point at which I can really delineate what I *need* to be working on and what I *don't* need to be working on. Last year, and this year while I was growing my skills, I needed to work on it all. Hell, I just finally got comfortable with my polishing (I know I've gone on about this ad nauseum, but to us jewelers it's a big, big deal) now it's time to turn over the more grunt-work aspects of making to another's hands.

For those of you who don't know, I see the creation of jewelry (at least the creation of the jewelry I'm currently making) as three processes (four, really, but the design process is a whole separate dealio):

1. Fabrication. This may involve, but is not limited to:

- filing, cutting, shaping, sawing, sanding, texturing, marking, bezel making, soldering.

2. Finishing. This is when all the actual fabrication is done and there's no more heat applied to the piece; it's ready for the clean up, or finishing stage:

- filing, sanding, polishing (and more polishing), depletion gilding, tumbling, oxidation, more polishing

3. Stone setting

- Exactly what it says above. But not nearly as simple as it sounds.  :)

And at this point if I want to grow the business and stretch my skills further, I need to have someone else involved in the finishing stage, possibly some of the fabrication stage, and possibly the stone setting stage.

I've been revamping the studio to allow some space for two people to work on jewelry here. Even if I have someone once a week, I think it would totally help. What many people don't realize about art jewelry is that the actual making of the jewelry (the fabrication process) is sometimes only a small part of the end result. There's often a LOT of time spent on cleanup and polishing. And even if you're good (i.e. quick) at the fabrication part, the cleanup and polishing is still going to be a bit of a time suck. So training someone to do that process will free up a good bit of time for me to do more with other aspects of the business.

I'm eager to push on, to expand, to dream even bigger...but for right now, there are still several custom orders awaiting my attention, so back to the work table to make things that will delight several women on Christmas morning.  :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rhythm and Flow

I have been working on a custom order Mosaix pendant for the holidays, and about halfway through I realized how much I was enjoying the rhythm of the piece. Usually when I start these (and especially because I'm not making them regularly; they're sort of sandwiched between all the other designs), I get frustrated. They're slow. The pieces seem to take forEVER to align. They drop from my tweezers on a regular basis...just then I've found the *perfect* piece...but once I slow down and concentrate, there's a great flow to adding them on to the metal backing. It reminds me of how very, very much I love what I get to do for a living. I'm a lucky girl, and very grateful. get going on that plan to make MORE of these next year!!

The piece I'm working on is very similar to the photo above. The customer ordered it from my sold gallery and I happened to have *one* more teardrop charoite in a very close size.  :)