The Quest for a Creative Life
2018 is rapidly drawing to a close - and frankly, I feel like I’ve got a ridiculous amount to reflect on.
A year ago on the 27th, we officially bought our house. In March, we moved home to Colorado. May saw us finish the first phase of our home’s renovation - painting the pine-clad walls. In June, Ponderosa joined our pack. October saw us getting married beneath the aspens. November sent us to Seattle (where I learned a new medium - leather tooling - from one of my biggest inspirations) and found us trading in our Mini for the truck that will hopefully be carrying us on adventures for years to come. And this month, December, brought me back to California for a visit - everything has changed and yet there was still a part of me that remembered those roads like the back of my hand. And now, in the final days of this year, I’m hard at work painting and preparing the studio for the next year of making.
All this to say, it’s been a wild one.
This might be the most change-filled year of my life so far. It seemed like every day delivered new surprises and responsibilities and I am so very proud of how both Eric and I have risen to meet these challenges. I won’t go so far as to say that I’m better than I was a year ago - just that I’m different. A little further down the road and perhaps a little bit wiser.
I no longer make New Year’s resolutions (as they feel too rigid to me - like I either succeed or I fail) but I do set intentions for the new year - things to work for and towards every day. And for 2019, my intention is to live a Creative Life. Let me explain…
2018 was a struggle for me, creativity-wise. I work best when I’m settled - when my world is stable and I can lean into my making with all of my energy…and that wasn’t possible these past twelve months. For the most part I was able to push myself through the sticky spots and find joy in making, but there were stretches of time (take, for example, the entire month of July) that sit like blank spaces in my mind. I felt dull and unmotivated (when it came to jewelry, specifically) during those long days and I found myself asking the hard questions about WHY I make and about what it is that makes me feel creative and inspired to create each day. I realized I was spending my days creating, but that much of the time my heart wasn’t fully in it. More and more, my metalsmithing was feeling like a job that I had to do instead of a passion that I couldn’t stay away from.
SO - after much pondering, I realized that the only way forwards is to let go of what I think I SHOULD be doing and instead do the things that make me feel excited and alive (whatever they might be!). Living a Creative Life for me means being able to get up every day and let what is in my heart pour out into the real world. As such, there are a couple of changes coming to this little business of mine to help make this dream a reality.
The first is that I’m doing away with shop updates…sort of.
The way shop updates have worked for ME in the past, is that I’ve set a date, worked really hard up until the last minute to get pieces made and photographed and listed (rushing all the while), and I then crash, completely burned out. Sometimes this burnout only lasts a couple of days, but often it takes me a week or more to even want to get back into the studio. It’s a lot of start and stop, a flare of energy and then nothing - I couldn’t hold onto my creative inertia.
And here’s how I’ve thought to solve this problem.
I started by thinking about my making, how it’s inspired by the seasons and the light and the weather outside (and immediately felt myself perk up - for this is the core of who I am as an artist). I looked at the way people mark the passing of time throughout the year - solstices, equinoxes, planting dates and seasonal celebrations (thanks Farmer’s Almanac and Pagan calendar!). Based on my findings, I came up with eight dates, sprinkled throughout 2019, that felt meaningful to me - and marked them on my calendar as the days I’ll be releasing new work next year. And then I made a poster…because it felt like the thing to do!
So, aren’t these dates still just shop updates then? Here’s that tricky “sort of” spot again.
For me, the words I use carry meaning and feeling based on my experiences, and the idea of “shop updates” has become entwined with the anxiety I have felt leading up to the release of pieces. I say “shop update” and can practically feel my palms beginning to sweat - so I’m tossing that term in the trash. Instead, I’ve decided to call these releases “Restock Days.” It feels like a new beginning - a chance to reframe my mindset when it comes to selling my work. And the fact that I feel over-the-moon excited about this new system (instead of worried and anxious) feels like an awfully good sign.
With dates for the whole year already in place, I feel like all I have to do is make. I’m not going to let myself worry about having “enough” pieces or about getting “enough” done - whatever I have finished by the Restock Day will appear in the shop and whatever is still in progress will come out with the next release. It’s all about finding relaxation in my work once again - something I’ve sorely missed since opening up my online shop three years ago.
Another key component that I think is necessary for me to live a Creative Life is not forcing myself to create. The truth is that I always want to create SOMETHING - but in a given moment, that “something” may not be jewelry. So I’m taking a leap of faith and opening myself up to the possibility of sharing other forms of art with you all in the new year (photos, prints, t-shirts, and leather bags are at the top of that list right now…). I feel more than a little scared about branching out like this - revealing a part of myself that I’ve kept sort of hidden since beginning this venture - but it feels like the right time to spread my wings a little wider. And don’t worry, there will still be plenty of jewelry. Of that I’m sure!
The last change I’m making for the new year is by far the most difficult, both to put into words and into practice. And it’s exceedingly hard not to write this as an apology even as my stomach twists and I feel the need to look away from the words that I’m typing. But this year, as I step more fully into seeing and loving myself as a maker, I am going to be keeping better track of the time it takes me to create pieces and allowing myself to factor that time into the pricing of my work.
One of the most common bits of feedback I have received over the past three years on Instagram is that my work is wonderful, beautiful - but that it is too expensive. My reaction to this feedback has been one of guilt and shame - feeling like I’m asking too much even though I know I’m creating something built to last this lifetime and the next. As such, I took to “estimating” how long it was taking me to actually fabricate my jewelry pieces. This is a TERRIBLE business practice and it’s hard to admit that this was my model - but I continually shied away from actually keeping track of my time because I was afraid of what I would find.
But back in September I decided I needed to know.
So I started running a timer while I worked. The funny thing was that about half the time, I was spot on with my time estimates - within about 15 minutes. Woohoo! The other half of the time, though, I was off. Really, REALLY off. As in, I might estimate that a project took me three hours when in reality it took five. Or six. But even with this new knowledge I chose to undercut myself. To discount my time on the basis that I was already asking too much even as I put more and more of myself into what I was making. The old worry that I’m not good enough - that what I make is not worthy - was ruling both my life and my making.
But in the past couple of weeks, after closing the shop for the year, I’ve had some time to think about how undervaluing my time and myself has contributed to my self doubt over the years. And I no longer want to indulge that particular demon of mine.
A friend in California finally put into words an idea that I’ve been mulling over for years now - the idea that we are often drawn to wearing jewelry during the most important times of our lives - either moments light when we wish to remember our joy or moments of darkness when we need a little extra courage to make it through. And I believe I am making heirloom quality jewelry meant especially for these moments - pieces that can be passed down, along with your stories of celebration and struggle, for generations. I love to linger on the extra details, the rounded edges and weighty bands and smooth bezels - the details that allow a jewelry piece to feel like an extension of your body. And those extra details take time. They require me to tap into the skills that I’ve honed over the hundreds of hours I’ve spent at my bench.
If I’m going to live a Creative Life, I need to allow myself to celebrate those little things - the things that let you know, deep in your gut, that a piece is special (even when you can’t put your finger on exactly what they are). That time, those precious, glorious minutes that I’ve told myself were not worthy, are what make this work mine. They are what make this work magic.
So there you have it - three big changes I intend to make to get me closer to living a Creative Life this year. I don’t expect one minute of it to be easy, but if there’s one thing that 2018 has taught me it’s that the biggest growth springs from leaving what is known and leaping into the next adventure heart first. So here’s to 2019 - may it be bright. May it be challenging. May it be beautiful.
I’m off to chase that Creative Life.