I started with something easy... packaging. My packaging, I thought, needed some sprucing. I wanted to maintain something recyclable, or at least mostly recyclable, so anything plastic was out. I settled on greens and florals as representative of growth and expansion, and my husband had a brilliant idea to include a scratch off ticket with every package shipped. One out of 25 will include a code for $75 off a single purchase. I'm excited to see who the first recipient will be, as they've started to roll out with purchases placed last month. For customers: be sure to remove the gold sticker to dispose separately before adding the box to your recyclables.
The earliest change I made, which some may recall, was that retired lessons would no longer be re-released on their brief, bi-yearly basis, and they had a final hoorah early last year before enjoying their senior years permanently ensconced in storage. There are a couple reasons I retire lessons frequently: 1) 600 lessons listed at once (even 100 lessons) can be overwhelming, for both my website and the viewer and 2) I try to keep designs consistent with what's popular, so what's available creates a cohesive collection for those who are looking for projects in which to invest their time and money. If you are interested in any lessons, I always recommend purchasing them as soon as possible, as lessons are retired every few months. Then, later in the year, we saw the end of the Tuesday Tutorial Treasure Hunts. These became an unfortunate victim of my chronic illness, though I still hope to offer them on an occasional basis.
Now, the next change may not be a popular one, but I feel it's a necessary one. Due to some mental and physical difficulties these past three years, I've had to prioritize my energy in ways no longer serving me. While I've greatly enjoyed offering the Tutorial Membership Discount Program these past five years, I'm afraid this current year is the last, at least for the foreseeable future, and will not be renewed this fall. COVID has caused a great shift in priorities for many, rightfully so, and tutorials are no longer in demand as they once were. There was some talk of this in January of 2022, as I began to see the decline in demand set in, but wanted to see through one final year, with some of the best lessons (I think) I've offered yet.
While I have always loved creating lessons, and have amassed more than 600 comprehensive designs over the last thirteen years, including a detailed six-part workshop, I can sadly no longer dedicate the time involved in the production of lessons for the price of the membership, as consistent monthly releases are (deservedly) time-consuming and becoming difficult for me to maintain. My chronic fatigue now limits what work in which I can indulge. I've found, these past several months, I've had very little time to invest in original creations due to the promised commitments of the membership which has, sadly, grown less popular and, as a result, is now financially prohibitive. Unfortunately, there's no way to guarantee enough interest in the membership to move forward with it this fall. It has been such an amazing program to offer, and I'm so glad to have been able to offer it for as long as I was able.
If by some chance, my health and energy greatly improves these next several months, I'll be happy to revisit the idea. Otherwise, I will definitely do my best to continue to offer new lessons when possible, and would like to return to YouTube with free designs if my energy allows, but as it stands now, once this membership concludes in August, lessons will likely be much fewer in number and frequency. However, hopefully this means I will have the time and energy to focus on new original creations and my shop may finally be filled with wearable goodies once more! This prospect fills me with a tremendous amount of joy, as I've missed having the opportunity to offer one-of-a-kind creations. I hope to even invest time in a couple personal bead embroidery projects, in which I haven't indulged in more than two years!
I understand many will be disappointed that the retired lessons are, or will be, gone forever (including those which are slated for retirement this year), and that the membership will not be renewed this September, as has been the routine these last five wonderful years. But I truly hope you'll stick around to see what's still to come. There will certainly be occasional new lessons, possibly treasure hunts, as well as live chat tutorials in my Facebook group and also, perhaps on YouTube. And lots and lots (if things go according to plan) of new jewelry to share. I'm very excited for what's still to come!
TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses depression.
I've always, from the time I was 10, been an avid writer. I used to sit on our porch and wax poetic about the trees as if I were a brandy-drinking Henry David Thoreau, using nature as a metaphor for social structures. This evolved naturally over the years into poetry and fiction, however, I always held true to my diaries, completing more than three dozen during a three decade stretch... all of which were burned in a yearly ceremonial pyre of release!
In 2016, with the growth of my business well under way, I began to recognize the need for a conventional planning system, which extended beyond standard notebooks, to help organize my projects, goals and tasks, while still maintaining a daily journaling practice. While I toyed with a digital system, I felt it never held me accountable because... well... I had no desire to view a digital planner. It made everything feel a little too clinical and clerical. Blech. So, to pen and paper I went! The Hobonichi planner became my obsession and I was truly excited about planning and completing projects, simply for the excuse to be inside all these beautiful books and crisp, crinkly paper!
And the planner helped, too! I was more organized, more likely to stay on task if for no other reason than to enjoy the satisfaction of ticking tasks off my list with my favorite pen. I rarely left my house, but could now highlight the few instances of social gatherings and appointments that kept me connected to the outside world. And, with a daily journaling habit, I had a clearer path towards living a healthier life. It was a joyful, almost spiritual process, during which I would empty myself of the heaviness of the day.
Then COVID hit.
social anxiety against which I (sometimes barely) won my battles was a small price, I learned, for the precious freedom to socialize. We need one another, dont we? We are not the solitary creatures some of us might convinve ourselves we are. So, without those rare social situations in which to invest my energy, I slowly withdrew into my own thoughts for company. But I'd forgotten, somehow, that my journals were meant to take the burdens of my day. Perhaps I thought "What day?" I was home. I'd done nothing to plan, had no experience to journal. But ignoring what was once a natural inclination to journal because the world shut down somehow began to burden me with my own negativity. In the past, I would've naturally turned towards journals during difficult times to work through the shadows and eventually... hopefully, see the light. But, for some inexplicable reason, I abandoned them and, as a result, the sadness festered deep in my thoughts.
I didn't understand at the time exactly the depth of the damage I caused myself but retreating from my journaling habits into a really poisonous internal monologue of negativity. If I wasn't putting these thoughts to paper, they took root and grew. They grew with a ferocity I almost didn't crawl out from underneath. My work suffered. Our income suffered. Our home was no longer a bright place of promise, even though I struggled to maintain a face of (if nothing else) benign resignation with some inkling of hope.
It was a dark time for me, the past (almost) three years. And, during a rare day of clarity, I realized at least one thing I'd been missing... my journals.
And I started to enjoy productivity again. I was releasing, while slowly, some of the best tutorial designs I've created (in my opinion, ahem) in years. Truly. I was proud and excited for work. I was making plans, again, for a future I could finally see through the darkness. I was able to work through the mud in my head with my journals and, as a result, experience clarity and, most importantly, a hint of happiness, for the first time in almost two years.
I will not lie. The darkness almost took me.
So now I have many notebooks. For poetry, prayer, journaling and planning, for notes and tutorials and jewelry ideas. I have notebooks I haven't even found a use for yet, but they bring me comfort regardless. I have filled six 400 page books since last August. Filled them with fear and doubt and allowed them to strip me naked of negativity, to make room for something... bright. I am a minimalist, yes, and I had to work through a period of justification to have so many notebooks. But it's an easy justification to make once what was on the line became so frighteningly clear.
They have been my friend these last several months, when I felt the most lonely. Without judgement, without suggestions or opinions or ideas about what's best for me, they allowed me to work through the pain of depression. And I'm smiling again. Laughing again. Hopeful again.
I wont say that journaling is the answer for everyone or everything. How could I possibly know? But what I will say is that it saved me, and I'm grateful.
2023 may not be any easier than the previous three years, but I'm ready for it.
Change is a natural part of what is hopefully progress, though the changes I've implemented may seem a little.... backwards. I am un-doing many of the things, especially in my business, that have been a staple over the last few years, and I'm here to talk about what those changes are, and why I've made them (as best as I'm able, at any rate). These changes have been announced here and there, on social media, in my newsletter, but for those who may have missed it, here's the scoop!
First off, some may have noticed that January marked the first month, in many many years, that I haven't had a Tuesday Tutorial Treasure Hunt. That's right, the trusty Tuesday hunts are a thing no more. Now, that doesn't mean there wont be hunts, they just wont necessarily by on a Tuesday, nor necessarily for a tutorial. Occasionally, I may have a crazy good 70% off coupon code available in limited quantities as part of the hunt. Sometimes there may be a hunt for the checkout page for a free piece of jewelry. They may not be every month, they may be twice a month. And there may still be tutorials in the hunts as well. There just wont be quite the adherence to schedules as was previously the case. (Note: Those who purchased the membership last August and September will still get an intermediate design as if it were a Treasure Hunt tutorial).
Next, I've made some changes to my packaging, which I'll have a separate post on soon. My packaging has, for a while, been 100% recyclable, as eco-friendly practices have become much more important to me, personally and professionally. There are no tins, no drawstring bags, no jewelry boxes with those poly-cotton inserts. Just paper products with recyclable labels for boxes and shipping.
dSo, when I say lessons are retired, or only available for a limited time, it's forever. Once gone, they are gone, with no opportunity to snag them moving forward. This also helps me run my website more efficiently, as over 500 lessons and images can become a frightening mammoth to sort through on a bi-yearly basis when retired lessons made a brief appearance. So, the many many lessons (over 300) currently listed in the Retired Lessons shop section will be available through the end of February and then permanently deleted from my storefront and from the admin side of things as well. EDIT: COUPON NO LONGER ACTIVE, AS THESE LESSONS HAVE NOW BEEN PERMANENTLY RETIRED.
The 2021 membership may also mark the last membership moving forward, though I still have time to contemplate this decision. Eeek! I know! But there are still new things coming, such as the various treasure hunts mentioned above, a 5000k Members Facebook Group 12 Hour Giveaway (you can join my group here), most likely happening sometime between late April or late June, new YouTube videos and more mystery box options! And who knows what else this brain of mine might cook up, so stay tuned!
I recognize the last two years have been.... an adjustment, for most of us. But I just want to say that I appreciate all the support shown to me these many years. I've fostered many fantastic friendships, full of inspiration and creativity, and hope to be around to foster many more. So, on that note, I'll see you in the next blog post... of which there will be many!
into something a little more.... ritualistic. As stated in a previous post, my spirituality and spiritual practice has begun to play a much larger role in my creative expression these past many months. Somewhat due to the mental exhaustion of quarantine but mostly as a general balm for my mental health, as a whole, which has been much in need of outlets healthier than ice cream and chips (ahem).
As a practicing pagan for more than 30 years, the idea of ritual has played a prominent role in my day-to-day life. It's important to make a ritual of even the simplest tasks because within this ritual is a cleansing of the spirit and release of negative thoughts. Much like journaling (another passion of mine) is used to dust off the day, whether of a happy nature or not, the same can be said for cleaning, organizing, photography, and creating in its many forms. We can pour the pent-up energies of our lives into these projects and tasks, and free ourselves for new experiences.
With this in mind, I began to craft these new headdresses as an expression of what I felt I lacked in spirit, or what I had an abundance of, in order to release them into the ether and let that energy live a life of its own, to affect my own life or not, as it chose. This may sound too esoteric or eccentric for many, which is understandable, however, I've approached the creation of my jewelry in this manner for many years and been better for it.
I don't expect these to make regular appearances in my shop, as part of a collection, as my creative outlets shift over the months to suit what I need to express mentally or spiritually. Perhaps simpler versions may appear with wire wrap adornments, perhaps these will be all there will ever be (at least for some time). So, if you'd like to add a little meaningful ritual to your day, I'd urge you to take a look at my creations. Should you find yourself in possession of one, wear it. Wear it every day. Walk around the house in it. Feel like a wood witch, a goddess, a queen of your own making. Wear it to ritual, if it suits you to do so, or during cosplay and festivals for fun.
Wear it, simply, because you can.
But, while I've always taken time to meditate, practice gratitude and journal on a daily basis, the true mess this year has made of things has further driven home the need for cleansing... of a different sort. Ironically, as you can see pictured, my sacred space is the only space in my home you could say lacks the minimalism I've otherwise wholly embraced. But each thing has great meaning and usefulness to me and my practice.
This is my creative and spiritual oasis. Some may assume my desk, where I create my jewelry and tutorials, would better serve this purpose. But, because jewelry is my business, I've learned it suits my productivity better when my work space remains practical and usable and easy to navigate. However, that's not to say I don't carry my spiritual inspiration, lessons and messages from my meditation cushion to the workbench.
These new designs were all conceived here, in my sacred space, where I'm surrounded by the symbolism of my life-long practice, my Slavic roots and ancestors, and the peace of stepping away from the crazy of 2020, if only for a few minutes a day.
I hope you'll enjoy the designs to come and maybe derive a little peace of your own.
Let's get a little personal.
While I've always been a rather organized person, I've also always had a penchant for collecting things. First it was books. I'd amassed a library of 5000 books in my younger years and enjoyed them at times, for sure, but also became acutely aware, when I moved with my husband to Michigan, that they became more a burden than relief from burden. As a family of four, our space was limited and decisions were required to make the most use of our space and to feed our mental health and the health of our family, as a whole. Not only was a book-purchasing habit financially ill-advised at the time, but they drew me away from acknowledging and dealing with stress in a healthier manner. Obviously, this doesn't speak to everyone who has a library of books at their disposal, but is only a comment on my own experience with this addiction.
And I've found, over the years, that my answer to stress or guilt or grief was to feed my addiction to acquire. Yes, I donated my entire collection of books to the local library book sale and moved exclusively to borrowed, rented or electronic books. But when grief became a constant friend a few years later, I found myself acquiring things anew. This time it was tarot decks and purses and clothes and things I felt would somehow provide a fulfillment that I was otherwise missing because of the loss I'd recently experienced.
It took a long time, four years actually, to recognize the habits I'd formed and how they negatively impacted my mental and spiritual space, and to take steps to rectify the behaviors and partake in a little self love by, well, not partaking, as the case may be.
2020 Has Been A Real BITCH.
I've reduced my wardrobe, purses, tarot decks, personal items, kitchen items, only to those things I truly value, that I use or take time to appreciate daily. If it had time to collect dust, that's time I'd forgotten what worth I'd assigned to that thing in the first place. And I'm aware now, more than before, the impact that unconscious spending and acquiring has on my life and the wider world. Last year, I had more than 200 Amazon packages delivered to my home, 200 boxes and bubble wrap and packaging in landfills, 200 trips to my door. And how many of those 200 items did I truly find value in? I actually went through my 2019 Amazon orders and only 19 are items I still have or would purchase again. Wow. Talk about an eye-opening exercise!
So I've become conscious of the waste I leave behind, and the distraction from the people and things important to me. And, as a business owner, I don't want to contribute to waste and clutter and things without value. Sure, I make baubles and sell baubles and love that people wear my baubles and enjoy them. I love that people value what I offer and that I can offer something worthy of that at all. But I want to do so consciously. Purposefully. Meaningfully.
Because of that, you may notice some changes to how I run my business and offer my products. It's been a journey in itself, finding solutions to product packaging, for instance, that are entirely eco-friendly, while still embracing a minimalist home. If you run a business, you'll know what I mean.... it can over-run your living space! So I was on the hunt for packaging I could buy in bulk (thus reducing the amount of deliveries and carbon emissions) but would fit in the space allotted to it, and was 100% recyclable.
When you receive a package from me, the entire box, from the packaging tape to the label can be tossed directly in your recycle bin. Easy peasy. No mess. No guilt. And an entire year's worth of supplies fits snugly in my office nook. No more overtaking cabinets or closets in every room of the house.
But it's not just packaging. While this may not be everyone's favorite change, I am no longer accepting any custom requests for anything not currently in my available materials inventory. I am only ordering jewelry-making supplies once a year, again to reduce carbon emissions and packaging waste. If I do not have a 24" chain to substitute with the 20" chain offered, for instance, I will not be buying chain specifically to accommodate that request. While I don't typically take custom requests regardless, if I should take one and it requires materials I don't have on hand, the request will (sadly) be denied. I want to push myself (and encourage any artist out there to do the same) to use what I have before investing in more. More, in my case, is simply a distraction from creation. I call it "decision overwhelm", when I see too many things and fail to actually start a project because I can't decide what to use. It's the same reason I reduced my entire wardrobe to essentials. I no longer have to spend time deciding what to wear and can just put on what's available and get on with doing things.
And, I'm sure, during the months to come, the need for more change will make itself apparent, and I hope you'll bear with me while I continue to transition to a sustainable, minimalist and ultimately happier way of life. It continues to be a struggle, but I'm daily working towards buying consciously from people and brands I believe in, for things I truly value, and to offer those things to others in return.
Stay creative, folks (and I assure you that you can do so with less)!
Now on to the winners! But first, I'll say a big thank you to everyone for participating. You fill me with a sense of creativity and reignite my passion for design, each and every time I see one of these pieces, and I hope you participants all had fun giving it a go.
Both winners deserve a round of applause for their work, as does everyone who participated in the challenge. I'm always so humbled by the entries received, the participant's excitement and encouraging words to one another. You all represent a true sense of community, and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
These winners have received their $25 cash prizes and have been emailed regarding the other winnings. I hope you'll head on over to the Pinterest gallery, if you haven't already, and show your appreciation for these two amazing designers, as well as all those who took the time to enter with their original creations.
Thank you and happy weaving,
Now VOTING BEGINS and it's time for the normal contest jargon....
View the GALLERY OF ENTRIES here (please view from desktop or laptop as the link is proving finicky from phones and tablets)
I often hear a lot of folks say that tutorials somehow negate the creative force, that following the instructions of another lacks a sense of originality. And this design challenge proves exactly why that's nonsense! Instruction is not law, it's not immutable. You are allowed to work with the flow of a lesson, or row down your own river. It's a jumping-off point, but not canon. I love to see how others change designs, allow mistakes to happen, cut wires too short accidentally and have to improvise. Those moments always spoke to me on a personal level, and offered me the opportunity to own the process, which is exactly what these entrants have done. They OWNED it!
(Please note: I received 69 emails and responded to each. I checked my spam folder daily to make sure I didn't miss a single entry. If you attempted to enter and do not see your entry in the gallery, please send me an email ASAP. I will add your entry to the gallery as quickly as I'm able.)
The gallery of entries will be available for VOTING, however, through July 22nd, 2020. Voting is open only to those who participated in the contest. To vote:
A note to non-participating viewers and commentators…. please reserve the term “VOTED” for participants only, to avoid confusion during the judging process, but do feel free to comment as a show of appreciation for the beautiful work submitted. These entries are worthy of the recognition they receive and then some.
On July 23rd, votes will be tallied and the “Group Favorite” (most voted by participants) will win my completed version of this project, any ten tutorials of their choice and a $25 cash prize via PayPal. In the case of a tie, I will place the deciding vote.
Also, a “Judged Favorite”, chosen by a panel of four jewelry artists and three “consumers” (who are not participating in the contest), will also receive any ten tutorials of their choice and a $25 cash prize via PayPal.
Every contestant should receive the finished version of this tutorial as a thank you for his or her participation. This tutorial will be sent as a reply to all the participants, within the next day or two. Please check your spam folder or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not receive your copy of the tutorial by the end of the weekend.
Thank you all so much!
Enter between June 10-July 15. Open world wide.
The purpose of the "Finish It!" challenge is to encourage the participants to extend themselves, their talents and creativity beyond the limitations of a single set of instructions and create pieces uniquely their own. Tutorials have been an integral part of my personal evolution as a jewelry artist, from such talents as Eni Oken, Iza Malzcyk, IMNIUM and Lonely Soldier. And my progression from the steps and instructions provided to me by others has been a worthwhile journey towards my own creative self-discovery. Tutorials need never represent a "cookie cutter" aesthetic, nor the only design possibility, but rather a gateway to limitless possibilities, and the entries received for these contests have proven, time and again, the truth of that statement.
Here’s the gist: At the bottom of this post is a link to a tutorial or, more accurately, the beginning of a tutorial, and ending abruptly less than halfway through the instruction. Your job is to create a piece beginning with the steps, as explained in the file, but ending with your own imagination!
While this is mostly intended to reward you with a sense of accomplishment, the “Group Favorite” will win my completed version of this project and any ten tutorials of their choice, plus $25 via PayPal (be sure to be PayPal ready!)
A “Judged Favorite”, chosen by a panel of four jewelry artists and three “consumers” (none of which will be participating in the contest), will also receive any ten tutorials of their choice plus $25 via PayPal.
Every contestant will receive the finished version of this tutorial simply for participating. This tutorial will arrive as a reply to your submission email, after the contest is closed to new entries, so check your spam folder if you do not receive it by July 22nd. Also, be sure your email host will accept incoming attachments. I've had many emails rejected because the mail box was full, or security settings did not allow attachments.
Note: Please access this file via a laptop or desktop computer. Some mobile devices are uncooperative with PDF downloads, and I may not be able to address requests for manual email delivery of this file in a timely manner (thus using up your submission time).
Let me preface this by saying that, while I've been disappointed in my lack of progress with outlined goals, I've since come to a point of acceptance and self-love that allows me to acknowledge it's okay to experience your day, week or year within the parameters of your energy and needs. This means that, no, I didn't meet my goals. Not a single one. But that's okay.
I spent too much money. I bought too many planners and too many clothes and too many purses. More of any one thing than I am likely to use. Not only did I spend money, but I realized too late what a superfluous purchase it was, then later re-sold it or gave away many of the things I had acquired. I recognize the waste I caused and in which I indulged, and I'm working steadily to make better choices as the weeks unfold.
However, it's been a struggle.
Last fall, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. This illness persisted for longer than anticipated and, even when my tests came back negative and I was clear of the illness, I was feeling lethargic, unmotivated and uninspired. This has continued through today. In February, however, an answer arrived in a diagnosed of ME / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, most likely triggered by the viral pneumonia (in theory), and was told to expect my physical and emotional stressors to continue indefinitely.
So how does this relate to my depth year and 2019 goals?
It has led me to understand that it's okay. That it's acceptable and encouraged to make allowances which encourage self-care. Sometimes this means goals and plans must be sacrificed so my energy may be utilized in ways that many take for granted... taking a shower, folding a load of laundry, grocery shopping or an afternoon with the in-laws. But it has also taught me that there's no excuse for indulging in unhealthy behaviors and habits that are not feeding my wellness, but adding to its demise.
What does this mean moving forward?
It means I'm taking things slow. I'm keeping myself accountable for using my resources responsibly, which include my energy and my finances. It means lessons may be released late, videos may be postponed, personal art projects may remain in a perpetual state of "almost complete", and how I interact with others is altered to protect my mental health.
And I hope those of you out there who also experience chronic illness are recognizing your needs and finding healthy ways to address them, without guilt, without regret and without self-admonishment. You deserve to care for yourself first, before you can care for the needs of others.
Stay safe everyone and stay creative!
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