Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Creative Life

It's been about six months since I left my regular job to come home and make a go of living the creative life. In part, this was nothing more than self-preservation - I was walking through one of those hugely painful and ultimately very rewarding periods where every single event winds up being an opportunity to look deep and examine the stuff that still needs to be dealt with in your life. Good and necessary but there's only so much of that a person can take before they just need a break, you know?

So the last six months has been about learning what it means to live a creative life. I was pretty sure - when I was longing for it - that is was going to be all about watering my plants in loose flowy dresses and drinking a second cup of coffee on my deck in soft sunlight and having a perfectly clean house and producing piece after piece of stunningly beautiful jewelry to fill my Etsy shop in no time at all.

A disaster. Not stunningly beautiful. Not going in the shop.
Um... yeah. Not so much.

And I won't show you what my studio looks like this morning, as I rearrange it for the third time in six months. (But do check in Friday for an in-depth studio tour and a glimpse into the studios of other AJE contributors! We're going to have a lot going on here for Black Friday!) 

Surprisingly, in spite of my many years in small business management, the biggest challenge for me in my new life has been time management, in particular becoming disciplined about the amount of time I give to the one-of-a-kind pieces that are an expression of my delight to be in the midst of a learning process and the production mind-set that allows me to turn out many more pieces in a shorter period of time.

Multiple earrings, same design, managed to get them done in 1-1/2 days.

An indulgence: I made every link of this chain and the glass cabochon too.

I've really indulged my love for the one-of-a-kind stuff, and haven't been very good at being disciplined about developing designs that I can create in multiples. The earrings above are an example of one successful attempt at an approach to multiples. For some reason, I volunteered to donate earrings to gift bags for a Gail Crosman Moore artist retreat at Allegory Gallery this past summer - and then panicked a little when I realized that my usual "one at a time" approach wouldn't work. I managed to get all 15 pairs done - including the designing, the cutting and fold-forming of the leaf elements, and a few disastrous missteps - in a day and a half. The necklace above, on the other hand, was days in the making - I made every single element myself, every link in the chain, even the glass cabochon. It'll take me a long time to fill the shop if I spend all my time on pieces like that!

Double hoops with shell drops.
Double hoops with Czech glass tulip drops.

3/4 Moon Series - hammered silver with carnelian drops.

3/4 Moon Series - hammered silver with Czech glass drops.
These designs are ones I keep returning to time and again - standard components that I can create in multiples and then make more unique with the addition of different beads and colors. But I don't have the balance right yet. There are still too many days when I sit with a worktable overflowing with materials and my mind goes completely blank - I can't think of one single thing to do with the things in front of me. 

I'm still learning.

My teammates here at Art Jewelry Elements do a stunning job of striking that balance. Several of the more recent articles here have featured component work by Sue Kennedy, Kristi Bowman, Lesley Watt, and newest AJE member Rebekah Payne. If you missed them, go back and check them out - this team is an inspiration, especially for someone so new to the process of living a creative life.

But I'm still learning.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put on a gauzy flowy dress and water my plants.

Until next time!


  1. Ha I think we've all got you fooled Francesca, I for one do not do well with the balancing act. I dream of quitting my day job and doing the loose flowy dress thing (that cracked me up) and I appreciate you sharing your journey!

  2. Thanks Kristi - but I really do think you guys rock. :-)

  3. I have a hard time managing my creative work with everything else. To me it seems once you get an idea in your head, you just can not let it go until you follow it to completion.....this does not help with sales, or making a living in any way. (I suppose this is why the term "Starving Artist" came about....lol

    1. Ha! That's exactly right, Tracie - I get something in my head and spend all my time trying to make it reality. It may take two days. That's not a good business model!! :-)

  4. I love this post! Funny, insightful and inspiring! I really like the half moon earrings with the carnelian! I'd wear those all the time!

    1. Well I'll just have to mention that to Santa, Linda! Thanks for the encouragement. :-)

  5. I hear you on the time management problem! I've always been a very organized person, but since I started working for myself I've found that to be the hardest thing to tackle… it's often the battle of what I NEED to do and what I WANT to do or make. And making the same thing (i.e., beads) over and over again was the worst thought ever. But thankfully I now find repeating designs actually relaxing—it doesn't take all that much thought, which leaves me more time to dream up new ideas. :-) There's a perfect balance out there somewhere… I haven't found it just yet either!

  6. Great post but Francesca you are too kind. I used to be a control freak with a career that required meticulous organisation which I was always on top of and my house was spotless. Now that I work from home my organisation gene seems to have atrophied and as for housework...well we won't go there. For floaty dresses read torn/stained/burnt jeans and sweatshirts. If I seem to have found a balance it's only that if I need to be productive all these other things go out the window until it's done which put's me pretty close to the tipping point at times. I'm still trying to regain some organisation but am coming to realise it may be a compromise and that maybe my creative spirit needs some latitude...though maybe not this much!

    1. Boy, can I relate to that, Lesley! I'm a recovering control freak myself - and I'm in a place right now where I'm just letting myself be. It's new territory, and while I can't stay here forever, I'm pretty sure latitude is what I need right now.

      And the floaty dresses are not part of my reality - fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it! I'm a jeans/sweatpants/t-shirt girl - all rumpled and just one day shy of the laundry basket.

  7. Love this post! I never dreamed of wearing a floaty gauzy dress myself...I live in yoga pants or jeans and nasty t's, much to hubby's chagrin :-) I make schedules for myself, but they are usually discarded before the first hour of the day has passed. Sigh. If you find the magic balance, please share!

    1. You guys are bursting my bubble, man! I am definitely a jeans/sweats/t-shirt girl myself - and while I am in the process of designing a planner for myself (because a girl can hope, right??), I think the odds are pretty good that I will use it substantially less than 100% of the time. :-)

  8. Hey - no blowing my plant-watering flowing skirts, cowboy boots, denim jacket while bedecked in self-made turquoise jewelry dream before I get there!!! I'm still juggling the 3 little kids/full time day job/weekend designer thing. I need the daydream to look forward to!
    Love your designs, Francesca. It's only been a few months. You'll find balance soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy the creative journey!

  9. It's been six years since I set up my jewellery business fulltime, and I'm still finding my balance! Every time I feel myself getting close I seem to give myself another challenge - having another baby for example! I'm sure I'll get there in the end....eventually! And I'm loving the journey.

  10. As long as you aren't lying in a heap on the ground you've found some form of balance, right?! It's the philosophy I'm working from anyway...Although I love the image of the creative artist, there are no flowy dresses or wearing of any jewelry in my ceramic workspace that's for sure!

    As for the perfectly clean house...I let go of "perfectly" and gave in to having a housekeeper come once a month to do all the cleaning things I hate (like in depth dusting and bathrooms) so I only have to spend a few minutes here and there to maintain it rather than hours. So worth it for me to spend that time creating instead!


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