Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Week to Break Your Creative Block, Stress Dreams, Twitter's Redesign, Wearable Business Cards, and the New Square Card Reader

TWITTER REDESIGN (well, your profile anyway)

Some say it’s starting to look more like Facebook. 

Not everyone can see the changes, but by the end of the month they say the new format will be rolled out to everyone.


Do you have recurring dream themes?  I do… and they’ve changed throughout my life.

Supposedly the one where I’m back in school (college, usually… which is funny since I didn’t go to college) and I can’t find my class.  Ugh!  It’s so stressful.  I know I’m going to be late and/or I haven’t done my homework.  Blah! 

To me, stress is stress.  Yeah, I realize “dreams aren’t real”, but does that matter if the stress is still real?

Apparently this is the same theme as being late to catch a flight.  Guess what… another recurring theme of mine. 

Here’s the surprising (not!) part… perfectionists tend to have dreams of “unpreparedness” (both the above mentioned examples).  One article stated that one explanation for these dreams is “… you may be tying your self-worth too tightly to how you perform at work.”   Ha ha ha!  Yeah, that could NEVER apply to artists.  ;-)

When I was working in the corporate world, I used to have recurring dreams where I was on out of control elevators.  So yeah… me not being in control of my direction.  Didn’t need a book to tell me what that meant. 


Do you use Square?  If so, I hope you know you’ve got to get the updated card reader eventually.


Ran into this blog post the other day and thought I’d pass it along.  This is a really cool idea and kudos for the author for passing along the instructions for everyone to see.


If you don’t feel creative today, sort your beads, clean your workshop, or rearrange your books. 

But on day two, sit down and sketch.  It doesn’t have to be something you’re going to end up making… just sketch.  Doodle, zentangle, anything.  Write words if they come to your mind, too.  None of this has to be jewelry design related.  You’re just practicing the relationship between your hand, your pencil, and your paper.   Your brain doesn’t have to be overly involved.  Today should be about fun, not work.

On day three, relax.  But didn’t we just do that?  Grab some of your favorite craft or technique books and read.  Just look at the photos and see how you feel about them.   Keep a sketch book by your side and when trust me, the ideas will come.  You will see things or read things that will inspire you.  Whether it’s an actual design you can sketch out or just a note that starts out with “what if”.  

A couple of my favorite books when I need to take a brain break:

  • Landmarks of the World’s Art: Prehistoric and Primitive Man (by Andreas Lommel)
  • Jewellery: The Intelligent Layman's Book (by Jack Ogden)
  • Narrative Art (edited by Hess and Ashbery)


On day four, realize that being creative doesn’t always mean you have to be wildly innovative or ground-breaking.  That kind of thinking can stop a designer cold in their tracks.  Frozen with fear.  Stop.  Take a step back and do some rote technique all day long.  Set up your soldering station and fuse some silver rings… over and over… make necklace after necklace.  By the end of the day, your fusing or soldering skills should be wildly better than they were in the morning.   Remember “wax on, wax off”?  That’s what we’re doing.  You can also do wire-wraps or torch some beads or do some chain maille or simple enameling… anything that needs a bit if improvement in your skill-set, but nothing that’s so complicated that it will be a big stress for you.

On all of these days, set a timer to limit your time on the computer.  Social media can be fantastic for our jewelry business, but in the wrong hands (or for the wrong reasons) it can also be a huge time vacuum, sucking up hours and hours of potentially creative design time.

On day five, shake up your routine.  Take the day off and go exploring.  Drive on a road you’ve never driven on before.  Go to a park and hike where you’ve never been before.  A museum, a zoo, a bike trail… any place you’ve never been before.  If you’re really brave, talk to strangers too.  Just be in the moment and notice what’s around you.  You want to fill your senses with new experience.  Let your brain know it’s not in a rut.

Also, I think one of the most important things you can do is keep a notebook with you at all times.  Write down all those ideas that you’re SURE you’ll remember.  ‘Cause you know what?  We don’t.  We don’t remember lines we saw that made us think of a necklace design or the color combination on that tv ad that made us think of a bead idea.  Write down everything.  And then when you think you have no creative ideas, go to your notebook and remind yourself about all these wonderful things you thought of and can now do.

On day six, search the internet and download a project/tutorial that looks interesting.  Make sure you have the materials on-hand and then go at it.  Don’t download one that you won’t be able to do that same day.  Sometimes following someone else’s instructions takes a load of pressure off of us and gives our brains the time to relax and begin thinking again of ideas for us.

On day seven, commit to blogging on a regular basis.  Pick a project and just start babbling about it (with photos!).  Other jewelry makers love to read about what we’re all up to.  We want to see how it’s done and what you tried and what worked for you and what didn’t work for you.  One of my most popular blog posts is about the day that I tried to learn how to fuse fine silver.  There are tons of videos and tutorials online from people who already knew what they were doing, but a lot of people really enjoy seeing it through the eyes of the explorer.  And sometimes the explorer shares something that a master might not think to mention. 

So that’s one week where you don’t have to agonize over your creative block.  And hopefully, something in that week will spark your ignition.

Will this jumpstart week work for everyone?  I should think not since we’re all wired differently.  But you never know until you try.

Report back here.  I’d love to hear how things went for you.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Should You Encourage An Artist, The SRAJD Jewelry Design Challenges, Salvaging a Design Error, and The EtsyMetal Charm Swap Bracelet

Follow Up to Encouraging Artists to Feel Good About Their Work

One of my last blog posts was encouraging and all about feeling confident and whatnot.  But here’s the flip side.

Many years ago I heard a story, one of those motivational things.  But this one resonated with me for some reason and I’ve called it into play on more than one occasion.  I am now going to do my usual job of butchering my paraphrased version of it because I have no idea where the story originated and I only have my memory to go off of.

So there was this student of the violin and he played at a recital one day.  Afterward, he met a violin maestro (is that what they’re called?).  The young violinist asked the master for his opinion of the performance.

“Do I have what it takes to be a professional violinist someday?” he asked the master.

The master looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, son, you don’t.”

The young violinist left and the master’s friend came up to him and said, “That young boy was brilliant.  He has amazing talent.  Why did you tell him he doesn’t have what it takes?”

“Because”, answer the master, “If he has what it takes to be great, he will not care about my opinion.  He will continue to do what he loves and become a master at it.  If he lets my opinion of his talent change the course of his life, he is not passionate enough to become a master in the first place.”

While I don’t agree with everything this story represents, I do get the point of it and ponder on it occasionally.

There’s something to be said for the person who can put his head down and forge ahead without needing the encouragement of others. 

SRAJD Jewelry Challenges
If you want to see some cool jewelry designs check out the weekly jewelry design challenges of the SRAJD members.  On the SRAJD blog, every Friday, we’re posting the entries for the weekly design challenges. 

March’s theme was “geometric” and the weeks were:

And here are a few random photos from the first month with the theme of "geometric" jewelry design...

April’s theme is the elements.

Etsy Metal Charm Swap Bracelet

Last year I took part in EtsyMetal's charm swap. 19 members of EtsyMetal all make 21 identical charms and every member gets one charm from every other member, then the 2 leftover go into the EtsyMetal shop (one to be sold along, the other to be added to the Charm Swap bracelet). Awhile ago I showed you the charm I made for the swap, but the bracelet just got listed recently and I'd love to share it with you.

And just this week I’m mailing off my group of charms again for swap #13.  Will show you a pic of my charm after I have it photographed.

This is NOT What I Had Planned

I was trying to finally work on making signatures for my work.  So my idea was to etch the logo into copper then I could use that as a mold template for the metal clay.
So I make the thing and didn't realize until I was all finish that it's great to remember to "flip" your image when you're etching onto copper... if you're end product is the copper.  Ha ha ha!  Yep, I remembered to flip my image.  What I hadn't taken into consideration, however, was that by pressing my metal clay into the copper, I was then reversing the direction again.  D'oh!

So I turned lemons into lemonade by giving the logo template a patina, then cutting out the tiny rectangles and punching a hole in the corner.  Now this wasted project can be used as hang tags.

Back to the drawing board with making my metal clay template though.

My Recent Jewelry

Here’s a piece I made at Hadar’s workshop.  It’s reverse construction.  I like the idea and want to explore the technique more in the future.

Same thing with this… reverse construction.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Artistic Confidence, Being Nice, and Finding Your Artistic Voice

Can you imagine going up to a jewelry booth at a show and saying to the artist, “You work really sucks.  These people around you are so much better than you.  You shouldn’t even be here.”

Pretty shocking, right?  I mean, even if you THINK it, you’d never say it.

But some people do say it… to themselves on a daily basis.

It breaks my heart.

Ideally, we wouldn’t only not say these kinds of things to ourselves or to others, but we wouldn’t even think them.  (Yes, I am an idealist.)  Can you imagine accepting everyone’s efforts as worthy?  Everyone. 

I was watching one of those cooking shows the other night and I was mentally trying to give a pep-talk to one of the contestants.

“Don’t worry about it.  Food is about taste and you can’t force people to taste things the way you taste things.  You can’t predict how someone will feel about your food… because it’s just too subjective.”

Granted there are certain things that could be more obvious deal breakers.  If you burn something, odds are you won’t find many takers.  If you accidentally use salt instead of sugar in your cookies, you may not be asked back.  But when we get into the finer differences, a good portion of the judging is subjective opinion. 

I was wondering if I’d rather be in a field that is cut and dried, a job where you win or lose based on ability, not opinion… like (most) sports, for example.   In a math competition, you either get the correct answer or you don’t. 

In cooking, you are making something according to YOUR personal preferences and YOUR taste buds and being judged by people with their own personal preferences and their own taste buds.

Same thing with jewelry.  We make (usually) what WE want, what WE find attractive.  Then we hope that people who have the same taste as us come along and buy our creations.

Have you ever made something you thought was hideous and yet people raved about it? 

When someone compliments you on something you make that you don’t’ like, you can’t say “thank you” because you figure they’re just messing with you… you’ll look like a fool if you take them seriously!

And then something you don’t like sells… and it leaves you scratching your head.  Maybe even questioning a lot of things about your creative direction.


As an artist, I think one of the best things you can do is work on technique.  Because that’s one thing you have the most control over.  You can’t control how many people will love or hate your work, but you can control if it has scratchy wires, rough edges, loose stones, etc.

So tighten up your skill set and make jewelry that makes you happy.  It will most likely change over time anyway.  Evolution is natural and pretty necessary in this industry.

So yeah, we’re in an industry that relies heavily on the opinions of strangers.  So the least you can do is be gentle with yourself.

Most people I know who are critical of others are twice as critical of themselves.

Have you ever done that thing where you say a word… over and over… and it starts sounding just ridiculous… like not even a real word anymore?

I think we get the same effect with our jewelry.  I made 22 charms for a charm swap last year and by the time I was done I thought, “OMG this thing is so ugly. I can’t give this to people.  I’ll have to start over.” 

But that wasn’t the rational part of me talking.  It was the part that lost all perspective from seeing the same thing, in minute detail, for five days straight, inside and out.  My perspective went in the toilet.  I was too close to the charm, too intimate with it, and had just plain old seen it way too much to have any kind of reasonable opinion.

So not only do people have opinions that differ from one person to the next person, but even within ONE person opinions can change… perception can change.

I decided to opinionate on this topic now because of something someone said to me recently.  One of the ladies in my SRAJD organization (self-representing artists in jewelry design) was comparing her creative work to that of others in the group and making pretty disparaging remarks about her own efforts.

This makes me so sad.  I’d like to think sometimes people are just fishing for compliments or maybe aren’t even paying attention to what they’re saying… but taking it at face value, I sincerely don’t want people to feel this way about their creations.

So for starters: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else.  Go back and read my first paragraph.  How can you be meaner to yourself than to an absolute stranger?  Yet we are, on a daily basis. 

Seriously people, start being nicer to yourselves!  Start talking nicely about your work.  What are you afraid of?

I want each of you who struggles with confidence in your artwork to do the following.  It takes a CONSCIOUS effort, but I have faith in all of you.

The next time someone compliments your work, just say “thanks”. 

Don’t say, “Thanks, but I feel I could have done better.”
Don’t say, “Thanks, but I was actually going for this other thing.”
Don’t say, “Thanks, but I know you’re just trying to be nice.”
Don’t say, “Thanks, but I know it doesn’t hold a candle to the real artists who do this.”

Don’t say any of that crap!  Just stop yourself!  Say “thanks” and shut your mouth (or stop typing).

It will be hard at first, particularly if you’re used to be down on yourself.  But it gets easier as time goes on.

Be nice to yourself.

Because you know what?  If you keep telling people your work sucks, they’re going to start believing you.

If you can’t love your own work, look at it and define precisely what you don’t like about it.  I had to do this about seven years ago.  When I started making jewelry, I was trying everything and mostly imitating what I saw around me.  I ended up making lots of different things and not liking it all… not by a long shot.

So I took a hard look at what I did like.  I needed to pinpoint what direction what aesthetics and styles appealed to me.  I made a folder of photos of my few pieces that I really liked and/or was proud of (which usually is synonymous).

Then I started looking around… books, magazines, internet, etc.  I clipped photos, hundreds of photos until I started figuring out what design aesthetics I am attracted to.

Starting to work on pieces that more closely identified with my personal taste made me start to like my own work better. 

So figure out what you like… and then don’t just make jewelry… make the kind of jewelry you want to make.

And don’t compare yourself to others!!!  There will always be someone better than you.  Should you not do something just because someone else is better than you, even if you know you’ll never ever be as good as they are?  If you say yes, then it makes sense that we should only have one painter in the world, one photographer in the world, one chef in the world, etc.

And that’s too bad because there are always going to be people who don’t like that artist’s work or that chef’s food.

Fear is a prison.  Stop being afraid of the competition.

Now…. before you think I’m trying to encourage you… stay tuned for my next blog post.

So I’m going to end tonight’s rant by showing you two pieces of jewelry I listed this week that are the end result of collecting all those photos.

Believe it or not, I didn’t have a folder full of one style of jewelry.  Luckily (because I do feel this is lucky), my personal taste has a few different directions.

One of them is ancient artifact jewelry and design.  I’m fascinated with things like archaeological digs and the things they find.  There’s something I love about primitive jewelry and design.  It’s not something I can explain… it’s like liking cilantro or not liking cilantro.

So these are my last “ancient artifact” inspired earrings.

And after looking through my folder years ago I came to the realization that I’m really attracted to minimalist geometric style jewelry.

Here are some earrings that exemplify that concept.

Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble.  Talk to you soon!