I love doing a spring cleaning around the house and in my closet, but for the past few years I’ve taken this concept to the digital realm as well.
I unsubscribe from a bunch of email lists, unfollow any accounts that aren’t personal or inspiring, I remove pages/links from my website, I go back and redesign my website to make it look ‘cleaner.’ I check passwords, delete apps, reevaluate how I receive notifications and turn everything off, off, off.
It’s amazing to me what we do to stay connected. I often wonder how much of this digital clutter affects my work and designs. In the process of cleaning, I always ask myself how pure my thoughts and ideas are at the end of the day if I’ve constantly got something happening in the background. Like am I really ‘finding inspiration’ or am I being influenced to make something specific?
Every year that I do this and have this time to reflect on my online interactions, I question how I can do better at using the internet as a tool rather than a crutch. These are some of the things that I do to declutter my mind and to better understand where and how to place my efforts online.
Silence and Going Dark
I usually take anywhere from a few days to a few months to disconnect. Sometimes this happens when I travel, but since we’re in this pandemic, the last few years I’ve decided to do it suddenly and quietly. Sometimes I announce that I need a break but I find that it’s better for me when I just wake up one morning and decide to go for it.
I typically work in silence when I’m in the studio unless I’m doing something mundane. Silence is my friend, we are thick as thieves as far as I’m concerned and I use it constantly to understand design problems. Many of my designs are put to paper but then when you’re working on them in real life, there is always a series of issues that come up. I need to be sharp, clear-headed, and hyper focused when I’m working with a torch.
But I only have those short moments in the studio where things are silent and then I come home mentally drained and I turn to the dull noise of the internet. Social media is the easiest to fall back on and allows my brain to totally blob out. One of the issues with social media is that (aside from the obvious), I feel like because I follow other jewelry accounts, and therefore my feed is flooded with jewelry content, I wonder if my work appears like others that I’m seeing online.
When I go dark online, it’s because I want to distance myself from being influenced by others. I want the ideas to come to me from start to finish.
Reevaluating Privacy and Boundaries
This is a really big one for me. I find that sometimes having a small online business, there’s a lot of pressure to put as much of yourself out there so that people have an emotional connection to you and your work.
I’ve read articles and books about how we’re losing our identities through the internet. I like to get myself good and scared about these topics because then I know what I’m comfortable and not comfortable with sharing online.
It’s a hard one to balance. There are articles that address how women feel more obligated than men to overshare because we are constantly trying to prove who we are. There are theories about how our lack of privacy is starting to warp our sense of self. As a result, we no longer know who we are because we’re trying to create this version of ourselves in order to compete with others online.
I look back on all these things and ask myself, what makes me uncomfortable? I’m not perfect, I’ve shared a lot of myself over the years. But when I make those mistakes I’m like, “well that didn’t feel right,” and then I make a mental note of it and try not to do it again.
This can come to business practices, to sharing my opinions, to sharing aspects of my personal life. Behind every social media story, post and blog entry, I’m questioning whether it feels right or not. Sometimes it’s just a matter of telling myself that I don’t have to do it, and once I give myself that permission to walk away or say no, I immediately feel ok. That’s when I know that I’ve created a new boundary that works and I can be more myself and focus on making my jewelry the way I want to make it.
Getting more Specific about my Information/Inspiration Resources
It is so easy to fall back on to something like Pinterest when you’re designing a new collection, but it shouldn’t be the only resource for inspiration. I found myself spinning my wheels a few years ago because nothing felt fresh or interesting and I became creatively stuck. I want to create art, not make versions of what I’m seeing online.
I started to get serious about where and how I was going to find inspiration. It lead me down some very interesting paths and I discovered a whole new world out there. I had always used a social media platform for inspiration mostly because I was a beginner trying to understand how to put jewelry together. Lots of makers show their process and I was able to gain insight into how to properly assemble a design. But after overcoming my beginner woes, what was once a source of inspiration was turning into an endless scroll of boredom.
I had to take a break from social media and that’s when I discovered the world of the internet. One positive thing that came out of this pandemic was that all of the big name museums put their inventory online. They had virtual museum tours and were trying to connect to the public through blogs. It’s been amazing because finally I had access to artworks and could zoom in and get ‘closer’ to them than I ever could in person. Many artworks have their own descriptions and that became a catalyst for understanding their purpose in the art world, rather than turning only to Wikipedia.
Another positive thing that emerged from the pandemic is that JSTOR changed their accessibility policy. JSTOR is a database of scanned academic articles from an unlimited variety of scholarly journals that is normally used by university students or professors to find information (both general and specific) for essays. It is regarded as the best online resource for anyone in academia, but once you graduate from college, before you didn’t have access to these articles anymore. BUT during the pandemic, JSTOR changed its policy and now you can read up to 100 articles for free with a regular Google account. It has been such a fantastic resource. I could finally read deeper on a subject and then have proof of what I was inspired by. I never read 100 articles, but I can read stuff from museum curators, or from professors who specialize on a topic, or have access to critics or historians who I never would’ve been able to learn from.
On top of it all, I found that many of these museums and institutions (libraries, universities, etc) record their lectures and upload them to YouTube. I found out that I could view any number of lectures from very recent to ten years ago and gain insider knowledge on a topic that I was trying to understand.
Now, I don’t turn to other jewelers for inspiration. I’ve turn my view on to anything that falls under history, art history, architecture, literature, travel, gardening, culture, DIY. While a lot of my work from the past was inspired by all these things, before I was looking for how to specifically relate them to jewelry. Recently, I turn to these topics to learn and stay curious and then I allow the designs to come to me rather than trying to force them to fit into the jewelry world.