I have no “off” button. I have a gear that gets stuck in 5th, grinds loudly and I keep going. Even when it’s probably wiser to stop. Both in my jewelry studio and in real life too. We recently came home from a 12 hour day driving through Oregon from vacation. Instead of winding down and relaxing, I propelled myself into laundry, unpacking, emptying the coolers and washing all the road trip stuff. My husband thinks I push myself too hard. I don’t know what I think. The button has a mind of its own. I don’t get a say.
I make art jewelry. I spend hours learning, practicing, making and failing. I spend more hours agonizing why the hell I do this thing when it doesn’t really make any money. Is it the economy? Is it the fact that I have no idea how to run a website I just paid bucks for? Is it my SEO? Is it that I haven’t found my niche yet? Is it…could it possibly be that my jewelry is overpriced, or worse yet, shit. Is it shit? Nah, it’s not shit. Some of it is, because I’m learning. But too many people tell me they love my work.
But they’re not buying.
It’s very confusing and makes me wonder if I’m on the right path. But I know that “fall down 99, get up 100” rule runs through my veins so I’ll keep at it. I’ll keep at it because I believe those people. Because I want to believe in myself.
Tsk…that pesky “off” button. That passion I have, to create. To connect jewelry with meaning. To shine a light where it is dim. That’s all I want. And to possibly make a living at it? That would be nice. Really. Nice.
This might sound like I’m throwing a dart trying to get people to buy my stuff. But it’s not. It’s about the button. Again. It’s also baring my neck a bit. Taking that risk. Vulnerable. Open. Freedom, of sorts.
Yesterday I spent hours working on a custom order. Not a complicated piece, for sure. 21 tries later I have a semi-success. I text the customer a photo and put it aside. I anxiously await some kind of approval. No the kind that says “great job” or “I love it” but the kind that tells me I can either put it in the pile of 21 gun salute or hit the light switch in my studio and call it a good day. I’m near tears. It should have been a simple piece but it wasn’t. Metal doesn’t always obey. And that’s where I screwed up — thinking I could control it and force it to do my will.
Yesterday was a Monday. And between Monday and metal, they both said “no way.”
And my (lack of) “off” button said “Watch me.” I have a place in my brain that doesn’t ask permission. It doesn’t freaking KNOW that there it’s not possible to do something but tries anyway. Sometimes I find my way and sometimes I don’t. People tell me it can’t be done, but my ego says otherwise. Well, sometimes it’s my ego, other times it’s my naive nature.
10 minutes later, still no word. So I take that as a “she hates it” and pick up more metal and start the piece all over again. From scratch. At the beginning. I’m really pissed at this point because — I’ve tried 21 different ways to make this piece. I’m looking at a pile of metal that’s mocking me and I’m torn between crying and gritting my teeth and bearing down for one more run at it.
A writer can tear the paper out of the typewriter with a dramatic flick of the wrist, ball it up and throw it into (or near) the overflowing trashcan of dead words. A metalsmith? Ha…we have tiny metal graveyards. So. Many. Mistakes. Some piles of metal are kissed with skin, blisters from a careless move with the torch. Some are cursed over because a sharp end nicked us. Some are just …not…perfect. Although, make no mistake, later on those sad little bodies do end up in spectacular pieces and we cherish them for coming back to life and …personally I feel bad that I called it a mistake. We ‘smiths call those pieces “happy accidents.”
Handmade is human. It’s full of imperfections, and those imperfections have tendrils that touch us in the same places that the scribbles from a 3 year old on the refrigerator do. That place. The heart. I love “other owning” a piece of another artisan. I call it “other owning” because the artist owns it first. I love knowing it’s not perfect. But my work? Pfft please. I hold my own work to higher, machine made standards.
Stupid, really. But honest.
But that heart connection tho.
And that heart is the connection I want to make. The impact I want to have. The legacy I want to leave. The kind of life I want to live. Some days it’s “money be damned. I’m happy, healthy and doing what I love. I get to work at home, dogs laying at my feet in the studio. Music blaring. Coffee flowing. Happy to the core. Other days — yesterday, Monday… I wanted a bit more. I wanted to do it once, get paid and move on.
She finally texts me back. “It’s adorable, I love it! Can’t wait for Saturday to see it in person!” Incredulous and mumbling to myself “Obviously you’re blind” I text her back “Great, see you Saturday!”
And I reach up and turn out the light, close the curtain and push my chair back. I’m tempted to just swipe all the 21 mistakes into the trash with a sweeping “f you” gesture, but I don’t. I leave them there. They’re not 21 mistakes. They’re tiny representatives of the whole “fall down 99, get up 100” mentality I have.
Today I’ll get back in the studio and breathe calm. I’ll not stir the hornets nest of the money chasing ego artisan mind that I have. I’ll work with mindfulness. Purpose. Passion. I’ll dwell in the “here and now” — because, that’s where my heart is.
Perhaps today though, I’ll hit the “off” button when it’s clearly time. I have 21 reminders, after all.