Amy Ng Pikaland: "Connecting the dots between creativity, illustration and entrepreneurship."
The Creative World of Eni Oken: Where fantasy and discovery meet in a tangle of zen!
Kelly-Ann Maddox: Establishing a connection with spirit, one blog post at a time.
Ted Talks: "TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we're building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world's most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long."
Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: For some inspiration through music, these performers are magical!
Wil Wheaton's Tabletop: Embracing the imagination and the spirit of communal creativity.
Pinterest: Is there any other website as all-encompassing in its obsessive use of inspiration?
Tiny Buddha: Learning to live a life of gratitude and love.
I Need Motivation: Self-improvement and life enrichment.
Zen Habits: Spiritual and self-development.
Productivity501: "is a site dedicated to bringing you regular tips and tricks to help increase your personal productivity."
Tree of Life symbolism is known throughout a multitude of mythologies the world over, spanning generations, religions and cultures as a philosophical archetype by which we can all learn valuable life lessons.
As a teenager, I was fascinated with Greek and Roman philosophy. I studied both the Greek and Latin languages in high school, and the mythologies of these cultures figured into my artwork, poetry and other personal creative passions. Through the years, these interests spread like tendrils from Zeus to Odin. From Odin to Kabbalah. From Kabbalah to Hinduism. Soon, it was less about the individual god or goddess and more about the philosophy or metaphor of their story, at large.
In Buddhism, at the base of the Bodhi Tree is where Buddha discovered enlightenment, thus a representation of wisdom and knowledge.
In Norse Mythology, let's look at the World Tree through this quote from the website Ancient Origins: "When Odin hung, speared, for nine days on the World Tree, he uttered the words that he had ‘sacrificed himself onto himself’. This stanza gives us a description of the unity existing between the Godhead and the Tree in the myths. To emphasize this connection, we find in old English the word treow, which means both tree and truth. Etymologically, then, truth and tree grow out of the same root. Subsequently, in the Norse creation myth, man and woman originated from trees. " Here, we could discern that the symbolism is one of infinity, of flowing ceaselessly from one creation to the next, and a symbol for the thread that connects us all.
I expect, in the years to come, this symbolism will continue to evolve in cultural prominence. While its importance may, at times, wane in popular culture, its message will, I believe, continue to prosper as a spiritual, philosophical and religious icon. These concepts will inspire and unite, connecting one creation with another through the symbolic reaching of its branches, forever rooted in mysticism and beauty. The legend of the Tree of Life will continue, despite the science of this new world, to connect the physical and metaphysical with its green, reaching fingers.
Are you reaching back?
Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional and this is not a comprehensive look at keeping records for your home or jewelry business. Please contact a tax professional for a complete list of IRS or tax requirements.
While I have devised a record-keeping system that meets my needs, here are some resources to help you establish a system of your own:
The system by which I've chosen to keep my records is electronic. I scan all receipts, and import into electronic files all mileage, cost of goods, and sales or expenses as they occur (ideally) or as an end-of-month record keeping task. These files are not only stored on my laptop, but on an external hard-drive, a secondary business computer and a cloud service. While at least one is always current, the other redundancies are updated monthly.
These e-files are broken down into the following categories:
Inventory (Raw Materials)
While most of the sub-categories listed above are self-explanatory, let's take a closer look at one possible way of maintaining records for inventory. I have, in the past, used Jewelry Designer Manager Pro, but found the program rather cumbersome for my needs. I've discovered, through the years, that keeping a minimum amount of materials on hand is most beneficial to me when calculating the tax benefits or disadvantages involved with ones inventory records. Purchasing materials as needed, verses an inventory surplus, means my capital is not tied up in unused materials. Remember: you can only claim deductions on materials in your costs of goods sold in any given tax year, not necessarily on materials purchased. However, inventory purchasing habits are entirely dependent upon the needs of your business, the nature of your product, and the market to which you sell.
Since my inventory of materials is limited, I find spreadsheets sufficient for my needs. Let's take a look at how I've set up my spreadsheets for inventory maintenance.
My categories include: Wire & Sheet Metal, Metal Findings & Incidentals, Seed Beads, Swarovski, Gemstone Beads, Gemstone & Glass Cabochons. Each category is listed alphabetically and these materials are stored in their containers alphabetically, so conducting an inventory checklist (quarterly, ideally) is as painless and seamless as possible.
When new materials are purchased, each are broken down by item name, size, number of items purchased, price per number purchased, price per each, and total cost in inventory. For wire, while most calculate the cost of wire used by inch, I have decided to calculate by weight, into price per gram. Sheet metal is broken down in price by sheet, but may be broken down further in my Cost of Goods spreadsheet, depending on how many pieces I'm able to complete from a single sheet. When a strand of beads are purchased, the strand is broken down by price per strand, price per bead, and total cost of beads available. Every time a bead is used in a piece of jewelry, for example, the amount of beads is subtracted from the Inventory spreadsheet and added to the Cost of Goods Spreadsheet.
Cost of Goods
When determining the cost of goods, each item used is transferred from the Inventory spreadsheet to the Cost of Goods spreadsheet and adjusted to reflect the amount used in the goods. So, for instance, I copy and paste the line "Copper Round Wire, Dead Soft 28g" from the Inventory spreadsheet, then adjust the "Grams/Pieces" column to accurately reflect the number of grams used in the piece while also subtracting that amount from the Inventory Spreadsheet. This way, both spreadsheets accurately reflect the transfer of inventory as each piece is constructed.
While this may sound complicated, once the spreadsheets are initiated, it's only copy and paste to keep each updated. I always maintain an unedited record of my inventory at the start of the year, and create a separate inventory list which is modified in real time, as jewelry is made and supplies are purchased or used. When an item is used entirely, the line item remains at zero in my End Inventory spreadsheet. This allows me to accurately determine all the supplies utilized from the beginning of the year, including supplies purchased and used throughout the year. At the end of the year, however, all lines with zero items is deleted, and this creates a "Start Inventory" list that will remain unedited in the following year. In essence, the "2017 End Inventory" list becomes the "2018 Start Inventory" list, minus all zeroed line items.
Cost of Goods is copied and pasted to the Cost of Goods SOLD list as each piece is sold. Customer name and date of purchase is added beneath the photo.
Now, using a program like Jewelry Designer Manager can certainly simplify the process for some, since it's all-inclusive in a single program and tax documents can be individually exported as needed, I personally found it more work towards its initial set-up than I was willing to invest and, upon discovering that tech support was not offered for the life of the program, I hesitated to perpetually re-purchase. I once had to transfer the program to a new computer, my files were lost and no tech support was offered to help recover those files, so I had to start from scratch. Insert the use of spreadsheets, especially those created in a free cloud service, which are updated and saved in real time and can be accessed from any device.
A Note On Bookkeeping Software
I admit that I am woefully unskilled in utilizing programs like Quickbooks to their fullest potential. For a couple years, I used GoDaddy Bookkeeping, which was incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate, though still (for me) an unnecessary monthly expense. While it tracked sales, payment processing fees, returns, in-state purchases (for state sales tax reports), receipts and quarterly tax payments made, I discovered these were all things easily exported from my sales platform and payment processors, into quarterly spreadsheets, and it proved itself a redundancy I just didn't need. I'm saving myself a yearly bookkeeping fee and only adding 10 minutes of work to my monthly bookkeeping processes. And, honestly, most of this bookkeeping and exporting of data would keep until my end-of-year review.
Ultimately, however, your sales, platform, payment processors will all determine your need for a specific bookkeeping software.
Bookkeeping, inventory, taxes are all evil words.
Evil, evil words.
Though I have an understanding with my bookkeeping process, and me and my process are cordial to one another and exist as a working business partnership, I will admit I wont be inviting my inventory out for a drink any time soon.
And while I understand this article is only a quick outline of things to consider, I hope you found it useful during the discovery and establishment of your own evil, evil bookkeeping system.
A while back, I wrote an article on giving and receiving constructive criticism and, in light of some recent social media activity, I thought it was a subject worth revisiting, but this time from the perspective of creative flow.
What I read online recently was a statement declaring there was absolutely no benefit to giving praise for artistic work unless praise is deserved. Seems straight-forward, right? I mean, are we enabling improper technique, poor design elements or incomplete production with our placating reactions of "Great work!" in response to art posted online?
This question, however, remains: deserved by whose standards? While one person might deem a piece of art sloppy or ugly or unacceptable, someone else might view it as a beautiful representation of creative expression. And, while I might not necessarily purchase for myself a particular piece of art, I tend to believe supportive reaction to that art is far more conducive to creative growth than a critical review.
Now, let's assume critical commentary is unwelcome or unsolicited. Let's assume we don't particularly like the work posted, either because we consider it sloppy or unattractive, per our standards or aesthetics. Should we then refrain from offering supportive commentary at all? More importantly, should we discourage others from offering support, per our particular set of standards?
Imagine this comment (real enough, as it turns out): "I'm so tired of reading 'Great work!' on jewelry that should never be posted online, much less for sale." This is a real comment. I've read some variation of it more times than I care to count during my years in this industry.
How many times have you been frustrated with a creative project so profoundly you've reached out to the public in a desperate pitch for encouragement?
So many, right? We've all been there. We've all been pushed to abandon our passions. And I even hazard a guess that many of us know when our work is inadequate on some level, to some set of standards. Yet, we need some consolation to continue, to push past our own perceived deficiencies and strive for perfection as defined by our own set of standards.
Six years ago, I gave up. I gave away my jewelry, my tools, my beads. I was discouraged, disappointed in my progress as defined by my own standards. And, after it was all gone and I was resigned to live a life without wire wrapping, a stranger contacted me. She found a photo of a piece I'd completed years prior. The photo embarrassed me. The quality was horrible. My wrapping was unimaginative, I thought, perhaps even sloppy. But she loved it. She praised it. She commissioned a copy of it and then purchased again. And again.
And it was then I realized that praise, or positive affirmation, is critical to maintaining creative momentum. Technique can always improve. By creating, it improves, whether we set out to do so or not. The act of creation is the conduit through which improvement happens. Praise, however, is a conduit through which creation happens.
So, then next time you refuse to offer "empty praise", I hope you recognize how that strips the spirit from creativity. Instead of denying someone your support, lift them up. If you can't comment on the positives of a piece in its entirety, pick out a single element you enjoy. You don't have to sacrifice your own aesthetic or standards to support the art of others. You just have to suspend judgment long enough to see what you might otherwise allow your perceptions to easily dismiss.
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