The way that I structure my time with jewelry depends on a number of things that could be life-related, stress-related, deadline-related. I used to be someone who would go, go, go and make jewelry all the time until I started peaking with burnout.
The way I had structured things before was around markets and trunk shows. My collection releases would coincide with market dates and because I was signing up for a lot of markets, I was pushing myself to research and create for more collections. At the time, it was the only way to learn. Putting out as much work as I had meant that I was getting in a good amount of practice when it came to learning new metalsmithing techniques. In doing markets, I learned what women prefer in terms of jewelry and I took notes vigorously to understand what would constitute wearable statement jewelry.
Then 2020 happened. We all know the drill, each and every one of us had to reevaluate what was important to us in our lives and the thing that came up for me—which surprised me—was that I was spreading myself too thin by trying to do everything at once. I was trying to be something to everyone and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.
That year, I made spreadsheets to see when things sold, what types of jewelry sold, to check if engagement on social media affected what sold, calculated to see where my finances were going and what I had to eliminate to become sustainable. All of this played a factor into how I began to structure my time.
Those spreadsheets were instrumental in what unfolded for the following year. Here’s what I found out:
Market fees were too expensive if I was also going to have a website. Markets were just as unpredictable as selling through a website, but I was paying $50 to $800 per market (not including displays or juror fees) whereas my website costs somewhere in between and it covers two years.
Galleries and gallery commissions were no longer sustainable. A gallery makes sense if you already have a large following and people are buying work directly from you and you have a steady income from them. I realized that a gallery should be approached as supplemental income to your already steady income and that I couldn’t depend on them. When you’re starting out, it’s not just a gamble, it’s also an investment.
Earrings sold very quickly. Necklaces, cuffs, and rings sat on my website and on my displays at markets for months, sometimes never selling.
I barely made any sales during the holidays, but consistently for the rest of the year.
Commissions/custom orders would take about 6 weeks longer to create than a regular design.
With these new observations, I saw that I needed to have a unique approach to running my business and that my structuring of time had to be different from everyone else’s, but then I was finally able to tailor my hours around what worked for me.
My priorities boiled down to three things: me time, family time, creating time. I do work often and I’ll squeeze in hours here and there to edit photos or write or design, but I also know when to walk away to ensure that my family time or health aren’t jeopardized. After eliminating almost everything that wasn’t ‘working’ for me (markets, galleries, making other types of jewelry besides earrings, hustling during the holidays, and commissions), my time became simplified and I finally fell into a routine with regular studio hours.
When it comes to jewelry, I simply cannot focus on working with metal exclusively. Metal is an intense medium. You're working with fire, hammers, files, saws, and you have to be really sharp when you walk into that studio. I balance that intensity with something more relaxing which is why I try to find things outside of metal to incorporate into my pieces. At the beginning of AyC, it was the beadwork and now I've transitioned to miniature oil painting.
It's also why you'll see that I make smaller stud earrings and then large statement pieces. Those smaller studs are simple production pieces and I can just sit there and crank them out. A statement piece requires my entire being to engage with it until it is finished. When I'm making a statement piece, I'm thinking about its construction on my morning walks, during breakfast, while having my second coffee and the feeling won't leave me until it's completed, which can be weeks, sometimes months.
I try not to push myself, and even though I have days where I just have to get the darn thing over with, for the most part if I feel tired, I know it's time to put the torch or the paint brush down and call it a day. I aim to make the best use of my time and to understand my limitations and I have learned to listen to myself more and know when to stop.
Writing Prompt No. 5
How do you organize your time? Walk us through your work week or how you complete a piece of your art. This can include a routine, how long it takes to complete a collection, anything time related. You can select a piece and tell us the timing and process behind it.
As always, you can use the same title I've used for your blog post, email newsletter, or caption for social media. This content is designed to encourage 'community over competition' and I'd love to read your response to these prompts. You can send me a link or forward me your email newsletter to my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I will share my favorites on IG stories and/or right here on my website.
Thanks so much. The next prompt will be posted on March 9th.
Stay tuned and stay well,