I love what I do.
It can be stressful, without doubt. I have shaken my fists at the heavens when my computer went in for repairs, my website glitched, deadlines weren't met, or distractions derailed me. But every day I'm thankful for the opportunity to do it, to share my passion and spirit with those who would have it.
But, in the spirit of transparency, especially towards those who wish to have a go at similar dreams, I have my struggles. As do we all, I imagine. My personal shadow... that one challenge as a business owner that comes at me in the dark and places it's hand on my heart, wraps the tendrils of its fingers around my fears and doubts and insecurities is this: time. And the sacrifice of time. Even to time.
Oh, there's a strong word, right? Sacrifice. It evokes images of virgins at the mouths of volcanoes, Aztec altars or even just the loss of simple creature comforts in pursuit of greater things. It suggests you can't have one thing without giving up something else. This is a perception often tied to the hopes and dreams of many small business owners... that we must sacrifice.
"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." Martin Luther King, Jr.
And it's not an untrue statement. Sacrifice is often required. But it's how we perceive the importance of that sacrifice that matters. And it's how we manage the impact of those sacrifices on our lives.
I am an introvert. I have social anxiety. My home business has often provided me an excuse to indulge in my need or desire to be alone. But this has sometimes been at the expense of experiences with others. While I can pound out five pieces of jewelry in a single feverish night of work, I am also aware, at the end of the day, of experiences and interactions with others I've missed as a result.
So where is the challenge? In finding balance. In understanding that I can't allow business to derail me from spending time on family, friends, myself even. I must challenge myself to step into some discomfort for the betterment of my spiritual evolution, to recognize when it's necessary to set my business aside for social enrichment.
The challenge is in breaking free of my social anxiety, as well, and in recognizing when I'm using my business as a crutch to avoid spending time outside of my solitude. And this, while also not sacrificing my income! We all have bills to pay, need food to sustain us. These are real concerns. Real needs. But when those needs become a catalyst for our anxiety, unnecessary sacrifices are made. Sacrifices bred by fear.
So, why am I telling you this? Because it's important to know we all struggle with our sacrifices, with our perception of the sacrifices we believe we must make, with finding balance between those sacrifices and the consequences of them. It's important to know that, through it all, there are those who support us and that we are never an island unto ourselves.
Enter between September 14 - October 6. 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! (NOTE: Tutorial no longer available... contest closed)
I've decided this time I'll challenge you all in a different way.... no beads or cabochons may be used at all. This is a wire only challenge!
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.
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.
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 October 15. 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.
Happy weaving everyone, and I hope you have fun!
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).
Good luck everyone and happy weaving!
Let me say that I agree (and I've said this before) that quality is important. Pieces should never catch on clothing, unravel, beads or stones shouldn't pop out of their bezels, tool marks should be filed or sanded, etc... these things speak to the quality of ones work and should be appropriately measured before offering that work to others.
Design and aesthetics of finished work, however, are a different beast all together. And I cannot say, with any certainty, to which the above conversation was directed. And, let's be real honest here.... quality is still more a matter of preference than irrefutable, universal fact. I have purchased handcrafted pieces that have kinks in the wire, the curves are a little wonky, or the weaves are not compressed. Why? Because those pieces tell me a story, which is more important than their perfection, or my perception of perfection.
So let's talk about the implied idea above that there's such a thing as over-production, that producing too many things in some predetermined time frame can somehow be damaging to, not only the quality, but the artistry or creativity.
While we can (and should) consider ourselves designers, artists or creatives, we are also, in many instances, business owners striving to support ourselves with our craft. And here's the thing: we shouldn't judge productivity as haste. As business owners, we have responsibilities to our families, our customers and our audience and, as such, we make certain demands on our time, including a consistent production of work. One of the most important things I've learned as a business owner is this: productivity is the key to any successful venture. Producing 50 pieces a month no more suggests a "rush" in our work than producing 5 pieces a month suggests care in the work.
I know, I know. Talking about money feels icky to many artists. There's this idea that artists should somehow sacrifice their livelihood for their craft... the whole "starving artist" ideology that serves (seriously) no one at all. So, words like "productivity" rub folks the wrong way. I get it.
And you don't have to sacrifice quality or artistry to meet those productivity goals you've set for yourself. You simply have to know how to save time (your most important resource) where you can, how to batch processes and streamline work flow. That someone can complete a piece two hours faster than someone else should never imply the work is somehow less. Of course we should never sacrifice quality, or cut corners to meet deadlines. But neither should we assume quality is lacking due to the speed of production.
So, quality vs quantity? The two are neither mutually exclusive nor inclusive of one another. It's for the artist and their customer to decide.
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