Business Meltdown (and melting down is good)

Oh my goodness, friends.
I’m adrift. I’m all over the map. I’m not sure what I am doing.

 

That means I am onto something.

I took this free marketing class for a week about a month ago. It was one of those things where you get a little bit of information, free, and then they offer you their full-blown workshop, for hundreds. You get some good info to make a few changes, learn a little, but then you need to commit to get the whole tamale.

I have no issue with this, it’s how seminars and info works, you exchange money for the goods. I knew I would be marketed to, and so I was ok with it. I don’t like being marketed to, even though I recognize the irony that I need to be on the other side of that hustle for my own work, exchanged for money. I knew I needed something in my business, to make a full go of it, to really get in there and try to do it right, instead of feeling my way along in the dark with no flashlight the way I have been.

So I did the week to see what I would learn, and I did learn some new things. It all culminated with a live presentation/webcast to pull things together, and give them ample time to discuss the eight-week workshop that would be starting in a week or so after the free bootcamp wrapped up.

They were offering three scholarships to people who showed up for the bootcamp. You had to write in a FB thread post about why you thought you’d be a good candidate for the scholarship to the 2 month intensive.

Derek had a delayed start school day due to ice that day. So he was home, I was making breakfast for him, after days of snow days. I had gotten so little done that week with a kiddo home from school. So I had the laptop on the kitchen counter, cooking up eggs and toast and sausage, listening to the live webcast, and typing in my answer as to why I would be a good candidate at the same time as everything else. Not very focused arena to really write something well-worded, but I did my best.

At the end of the webcast, after answering lots of questions, they announced the three winners. And, wouldn’t you know it……

I was one of them. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I felt that morning, and still do.

So now I am deep in week two of this class, and I am so deep into chaos. I am rethinking everything with the information being thrown at me. It’s wonderful.

But I am totally flailing right now in what I make, how I make it, how I present it.  How to connect better to you, and serve you with my business. I literally don’t know what to make next, but I am working how to bring more connection and joy to everyone my business touches.  How to put it all together and offer it to the world, because of what I am learning. And the information keeps on coming, relentless, each piece working to further tear down everything so I can build it back again, correctly.

I’ve spent almost no time in the studio these past two weeks. At first, it was ok cause I was learning so much. Now it’s kind of ok because I don’t really know what to make.

There’s larger commitments on the horizon, with the Gathering of the Guilds show in April. Worst case, I will take some of what I am learning and make what I make, what I have made, with some alterations and expansions, mild ones, to get me through. Or, I may have time for the changes to move through my work, and what shows up at my booth is evolved in ways I can’t even think of right now.

I just don’t know. As John Taylor and AA say, “trust the process.”

I’ll just keep going.

 

Reaching Out.

It’s a rainy late morning. There is much to be done today, and once again, none of it at the bench. But I’m ok with this. It’s hard, but so much is shifting at juiceglass, the work of the brain and the pen are what is flowing right now. It’s good work and it’s hard work, and not as fun as creating. But getting the business itself in a much better place will work only to help reach out when the bench time comes back into the spotlight.
This month, I am working on website overhaul, creating a weekly work schedule, and getting the mailing list back from slumber.

I’ve had the list since 2004, but it’s never really had a direction. And that’s something I need to work out for myself. What IS the direction of the mailing list? To showcase new work? To ask questions? To keep fans updated on where new shows are? To elicit feedback?

So many ideas, and I’m going to figure it out. I like the idea of the mailing list, even with so many ways to connect online today. The newsletter on paper may be going the way of the dinosaur, but newsletters themselves are still delightful, if done right. I appreciate the digital means so that I am not using paper (trees) to communicate every month, and that will keep me connected with all of you as well as to my firm conviction to live as lightly as I can on this planet.

Do you want to join me on this journey? Are you on the mailing list yet? It’s about to be reborn! With discounts and giveaways and ways for us to get to know each other, and connect and create beautiful, meaningful things in this world.

So, that’s something that is definitely on my mind this week.
I’ve been doing this business workshop that is taking up so many hours with valuable exercises, but I try to make sure those ideas and brainstorming sessions also make constant change to the business as I go.

I’m off for a few days to the Oregon coast, for inspiration, for a breather, for a moment to just enjoy new places and new sights. One night will be in a yurt! I have never been at a campground in the winter, I wonder how many people will be there besides me and my partner. Oregon rain has a plus side on the coast, and that’s terrific storms and waves.

If you would like a few moments to see where I am going, or just to see some beautiful coastline and amazing waves, check out this video. My last night of the trip I rented the little loft that sits above the RedFish restaurant, as seen here. The trip also includes a visit to the sea wall at the beginning of this video, and I hope to see some huge waves!

Recharging is so important. I hope you are taking the time to recharge and treat yourself to new things, even just a new type of tea, hiking path, or a new knitting skill, or a new local restaurant or art gallery.  I’ll see you on the other side!

 

The Oregon Coast – A Winter Odyssey from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

 

Back to the ocean

I’ve been working so hard on upping my silversmithing skills, and working to make pieces that incorporate both silver and glass of late. It’s a lot of work and hard and frustrating but also fun and exciting.

Each piece takes me a lot longer, however, and I have a jewelry trunk show coming up in a couple weeks. It is at Art on Broadway, where I had a solo show in November. With the holiday orders for gifts, and other distractions, making a full body of work in silver wasn’t going to happen, so I instead am focusing for this show on what I love to do best in glass: little worlds.

Instead of abstract ones, these beads have little ocean elements in them: starfish, barnacles, seaweed, water and swirling bubbles  and sand.

Sea beads - glass, sterling silver
Sea beads – glass, sterling silver

They still take time but I can produce them faster then a single dramatic focal silver necklace with a bezel set large glass cab. So I have spent more time in the glass studio the past couple weeks, and it’s cold out there! Glass work is so much more pleasant in the spring and fall, vs. winter and summer. But, work must be done in all seasons, so I have been getting the small heater I have out there turned on early, or I make straws early and let the larger kiln I call Big Mama heat the room better for me.

I asked followers on FB if they liked encased beads or beads with three dimensional elements sticking off it better, and most went for the former option. Encasement acts as a magnifier and makes the glass inside a tad larger-looking. Plus, all that luscious clear just makes things sparkle.

 

Both were enjoyed, but B was the winner. I will make both for the trunk show, but I was curious, and always am, in what people see in my work, in the glass. Literally and in terms of feelings or memories that are kindled or rekindled when looking at glass.

I have been making encased beads this week. It’s been a joy to spend so much time with glass again.

sea beads, top view
sea beads, top view

Emerging from the Snow

Depending on if you have been watching the news or not, the Pacific Northwest was pretty buried for the last week, especially in cities and areas that are not used to a bunch of snow, real quick. As a result, along with freezing temperatures for days on end, those of us in the Portland metro area, at least, spent the week mostly at home. School was canceled for an entire week, snow turned to ice, roads didn’t improve, folks couldn’t get to work. Only now are we emerging from the snow, with the return of rain to wash it away.

I had a big birthday party planned for my sweetie on the weekend, and had to postpone it, save for the small group that could actually walk to the party from down the street. I’d rather folks be safe.

 

So, it was a week of being at home with family, and not much work got done. But, I had signed up for a free online bootcamp that dealt with branding and jewelry business, specifically, and I worked my way through that. That was something I could do in my own time, squished between surprise birthday visitors flying in from other states (when the airports let them actually arrive in the weather), sledding with my kiddo, making endless cups of hot cocoa and coffee, and trying to find moments to just watch the snow fall.

 

Work life is such a balance, whether you work at home or commute every day. Time for yourself, time for family, time for work.  As my son grows, I really want to be present for the kid years left to me, which are dwindling as I wrote about in my previous post. I am fortunate that I can work while he is at school, and be home when he’s with me. I plow all my work hours into the days he is with his dad. I miss him when he’s gone, but I do have time to focus on work as a result, and one of my goals for the next month is to really set up a schedule that takes advantage of this. It’s easy to stretch oneself thin if one schedules their own hours. Errands, housekeeping, appointments, taking a little time here and there to be social or do research….before you know it, the time is gone.

 

I am hoping to use what I learned in the bootcamp to start refining things about my jewelry business, and use those goal posts and ideas to refine actual work in the studio. And with that, I had probably get in the studio. I have a show next month and work is due in a couple weeks. It’s been so cold the glass studio has been miserable, and it takes a few hours for it to heat up in there. I had best get the power running, the kiln turned on, and the muse awake.

Once I get the work done for the show, I will return my focus to the cabochons I have already made, starting to get ready for Gathering of the Guilds in a few months. I have time, I need to block it out. In work, and in life.

cabochons ready to get sterling silver homes

Tuesday Nights

Non-maker post subject ahead. *grin*

 

I still sleep with my son on Tuesday nights. Sometimes, he talks me into more than one time a week. It’s very hard for me to say no.

 

I read somewhere recently that the basic job of being a mother, in the grand scale, is to push your child away from you so that they can learn to fly on their own in this world. And then, while you are pulling apart the closest of bonds there are, one that started with two humans in one body, you should pat yourself on the back and feel goddamned great about it.

 

I don’t.

 

My son is still sweet. He still hugs me before sleep and whispers “I don’t want you to leave.” He gets up from his dinner to give me a kiss. Sometimes I am reading, and don’t want to be interrupted every thirty seconds with a new tidbit from his Book of World Records book. I think “he must be annoyed when I interrupt him…doesn’t he see that it goes both ways, I may want to actually get a moment to read a whole page here?”

But…I also don’t. I have maybe, maybe, 2 years left? Three if I am insanely lucky. Three years of him wanting to share with me, hug me, do things with me. Three years of telling me about his books, his Minecraft, his stuffed animals. Three years left of my child, as a child.  Soon, the chemicals will start brewing and his simple desires and drives will be overrun with others far more complex, that will change his life and rule his outlook for the rest of his days. These are exciting things. I can’t imagine, and cannot wait, to meet my son the man.

 

I could also wait forever for it.

 

To get there, I must go through the forest of his teen years, where the trees will start to block my view, once so clear and close, of my son. He will stop holding my hand. He will one day let me know when Tuesday night is no longer mine.

I know on the other side lies the return, but it isn’t the same. It’s not supposed to be. But I will miss this, so I want to be present for it now. Even if it interrupts my reading every thirty seconds. It is what I want, while it is here.

I don’t know how any mother does this, nods, smiles, and thinks, “This is goddamn great.”

 

Tonight is Tuesday. And for now, it’s still ours.

pbsunset2016

 

Holiday Time

Here we are, America! Still digesting our turkey while balancing on ladders getting our twinkly lights up on buildings and draped on evergreen trees.

I hope for snow this year down in the valley. We have the luxury here in Portland of traveling to snow almost all-year round, up on Mt. Hood, but nothing beats the delight of watching snow fall from your home window.

For those of us in the retail business, we get the added smash of orders, if we are lucky. The time between Thangsiving and Christmas is often the biggest month of the year for sales, and while it’s a challenge while trying to manage making merry for the family at the same time, it’s a blessing. And my blessing has begun. In the past 24 hours 18 hours have come in, so as soon as I finish this blog, it’s into the studio I go to start filling them.

 

I have gotten a few ideas in my head for new jewelry, which is handy in terms of timing. We had our quarterly meeting at the Art on Broadway Gallery yesterday, and the jewelry folks will have a trunk show in February. My show is just about to end there, so it is a fairly quick turnaround to get some new work done, but I am eager to do so. I am not sure how much “play time” I will get to fiddle with these new ideas until after the holiday rush, but I hope to try to take at least one day a week to get in there and develop these ideas.

I guess this will be a short entry, as there are orders to fill and printer ink to go buy, and if I am lucky, I’ll get to the gym today after the work is done and before picking up my son from school.

Life is good. Days have been a little difficult, but as the guy in the liquor store said to me last week. Have a good day? I can’t miss. Upright, and breathing. I’ve got it. And that’s true. I’m alive. That goes a long way towards it being a good day. =)

New (Old) Shiny.

Tools. There’s nothing like new tools.

It’s scary to invest in myself. All the money in doesn’t mean it will equal money out. I’m not going into debt with my purchases, and I am setting myself up for long term success with what I buy. Things that are good for my body, and things that are good for my creative soul. Today I offer an example of each.

I’m not a spring chicken, but I’m not an old lady either. Still, if I am going to work harder with my hands I need to take care of them. Bezel setting and sawing have been making strange parts of me ache in ways that are new!

When I started doing glasswork as more than a hobby, I bought a setup that would help me ergonomically to stay safe with so many hours at the torch. So, I did the same for myself now with the metal work and bought a GRS Benchmate, which will allow me the same, I hope, for my hands and elbows as I dig deeper into working with silver, setting bezels and bending metal to my will. 😉

I hope the instructions are in there somewhere
I hope the instructions are in there somewhere

So today I will be setting that up.

 

I also finished a small challenge of bringing new life to an old tool. A friend I made one evening at the Lucky Lab in Portland ended up being a wonderful jeweler and metalsmith, Jim Dailing, who I have been delighted to know and experience in the years since our meeting.

He traded me some of my early work (sweet guy) for a hammer and a bench block. The block got a lot of use and neglect early on,  from me and students who handled it rough. I looked around for a new one, but this one was the perfect size for me, and thicker than most. Plus, it was a starting out gift of an important tool I didn’t have.

img_2109

I called several machine shops trying to find someone who would bring it back to life. A lot of them said nope, can’t do it, won’t do it, too small of a job, don’t have the right equipment, etc.

And then I found Paul Brong Machine Works. The end price was only about $10 more than buying a new, thinner block. They turned it around in 24 hours, and while it is on the other side of the river from me, I had other errands and just did it all at once as best I could. They were quick and nice and didn’t look at me strange with my funny square block of steel.

And just LOOK at it now!

Whee!
Whee!

 

I’m excited to have a tool that has a story, in my life, to be refinished and given a new life. Old tool, new tool, together, to help further what I can create and share with the world.

But now I gotta go find those dang instructions.

 

 

 

Loss and Gain

It’s a dismal rainy day, by most standards. It’s early enough in the winter weather season that the rain doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I still enjoy it. But something has been in the air, or in my soul this week, that makes the dismal word slightly apt. I am not sure what it is, I truly am not. No big thing has gone wrong, perhaps some small bumps in the road, but when is the road ever truly like a freshly groomed race track in life?

I lost a necklace yesterday. The one in the center, here:

img_1986

I put it on before going out with a friend and somewhere between then and lunch, when I reached for it to show her what my work is like these days, poof. I checked back at home and in my garage, and driveway, and she checked the lost at found at her work.

Nope. So, I am pretty sure it’s found a new home, at this point. I’ve had a lot of luck over the recent years with lost things coming back to me, so that luck had to run out sometime. I hope if someone found it they truly enjoy it.

The good news is, it’s my work, so I can make another one. It won’t be exactly the same, but maybe even better, as my skills are a little better since I made the one now lost.

At any rate, that tinged my yesterday with a little extra glum. I told my 9-year-old son about it when I picked him up from school, when he asked how my day was. Around his neck was a big plastic red star on a cord, he had won it playing Bingo in French class. The star held bubbles. He immediately took it off his own neck and put it around mine.

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*melt* I wore it for the rest of the day, and then put it back in his room for him to have. He said he will wait until next summer until using most of the bubbles, but we did indulge during dinner last night.

I’m not that concerned about my blue period, as it were, with apologies to Picasso. There’s still wonder in the world, for me. My son is a gentle soul in a way that cannot be taught, it comes from within first, and for that I am so grateful. The trees are on fire with fall leaves and the evergreens slowly come into their own understated spotlight as those leaves fall. I’ve got a delicious decaf Americano here at my local favorite coffee bar. Once I am done writing this entry I will go home, and get back to work on remaking that necklace. It was going to go into my show at Art on Broadway in November, so this one will, too. If it doesn’t sell, then it will come back to me and maybe I’ll keep it. or maybe I will take it out to the coast. Who knows. But hopefully it will be mostly remade by the end of today. I feel fortunate that I can just turn around and make it again, but maybe even better. That I have the skills and the tools and most importantly, the time.

 

Can’t get much sunnier than that.

 

 

Autumn’s Corner

As much as didn’t really want it to happen this year, summer has passed. It’s still sunny outside, the Portland grey hasn’t moved into it’s month-to-month winter rental home. It’s that time where the down comforter is too much… but just two blankets isn’t enough.

Mama nature made sure I knew that the days of summer were decidedly over. No more outdoor parties, lady!

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This weekend is Portland Open Studios. If that was all that was going on, I’d be a happy clam, or camper, or whatever flavor of happy thing you can imagine. But there’s also a solo show for me just a few weeks away. And a lot of crash work that just landed on me for some computer stuff that has a deadline that won’t move.

On top of that, my guy, who I have been dating for over two years, just moved in this weekend. So there’s lots of boxes to unpack and commuting schedules to sort out and addresses to change. Plus the usual day to day and Mom world I live in.

All of this is great stuff, but it’s a lot all at once. I guess the good news is it will all be over by the end of the month. All of it. But I have to get to the end of it all, and it’s a lot to take in and figure out what order to get things done.

Along with that, I have been working on icicle ornaments for the winter, getting them prepped for photos and approval from the their future store. I can then start making them, ramping up inventory… once I get past everything else I just mentioned.

Everything  work on is good, but feels like I am neglecting something else I need to be working on!

One thing at a time, I know, one thing at a time. But I still end up doing 3-4 of them in a short time span. I don’t know how I will get out of this without being insane, but I will try.

At least during open studio, I can keep making work towards the show at the end of the month. 4 days at the torch will make lots of pendants. =)

And with that, I’m on to the next thing.

 

2 weeks

About two weeks now until Portland Open Studios. Less than that, really.

So office hours switch to all studio time, for the most part. The studio is halfway cleaned. This Friday a group of artists will come visit it. Since we, the artists who are a part of Portland Open Studios, don’t get to GO to Portland Open Studios, sometimes we do little mini tours ahead of time for ourselves. This is the case for me, this week. I hope to be able to visit some of the others after they visit me, but we will see how much work I get created this week, first.

I also quit my other job, which was a very part time marketing gig. I enjoyed it very much, especially the people, but it had become too part time to be worth the time invested in commuting, clothing, etc. My last day there is tomorrow, and then I bury myself completely in juiceglass.

 

So, to that end, I had best be off, with a very short blog this time, without much information. But there’s work waiting for me, this next month will be intense until I drop off my work for my solo show at the end of October. Head down until then. So let’s finish this Americano made by Jeremy at the lovely Murray’s Coffee Bar and head out.