Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reflection on My Career

I have taken a bit of a break from writing in my blog the past few months... but, I feel like I have a free moment (gasp), so here it goes! I have made jewelry for over 20 years...


The summer before I graduated (my junior year of nursing school), I worked as a nurse extern in the PACU. The truth is I had no idea what a "PACU" was, but it had to be better than the Geriatric Med-Surg Floor, right? I thought I requested Labor and Delivery or the Nursery... So, not having any idea what I was getting myself into... I started working as a nurse extern in this thing they call the "PACU."

On the first day of my 3 pm to 11 pm shift, I mistakenly asked Stan, the nurse I was placed with for orientation, "Do you ever have CODES?" I quickly learned what NOT to ask... EVER... AGAIN... as I fumbled that evening to figure out the intercom system and shout in a panic "CODE BLUE... PACU..."  For those of you that do not know what "PACU" stands for, it is the Post Anesthesia Care Unit or Recovery Room for patients waking up from surgery. Airways, Pain Control, Nausea... basically every bodily fluid known to man...

During the day, I worked as a lifeguard and manager of a neighborhood pool. I taught swim lessons in the mornings, swim team before the pool opened and then worked until 2 pm as a lifeguard. I came home, took a shower and worked 3 pm to 11 pm at the hospital, Monday through Friday. On the weekends, I worked all day Saturday and Sunday from open to close at the pool. And somewhere in between, I made jewelry. Sometimes, I wish I had traveled to Europe for the summer, but instead I was growing a strong work ethic.

I worked SO hard for my nursing degree and passing the nursing boards was a difficult feat (I am a horrible test taker). I took the minimum number of questions... Wait... What? That's it? No!!! I only answered 75 questions... I want the 200+ questions!!! Please don't shut off at 75?!?

I asked my manager if I could continue as a nurse extern because I was sure I failed my boards, so several days later when I called to hear the news and to ask when I could retake my test... They started rattling off a license number. I was in shock. WHAT? I passed? Whoa... Whew! It was a good thing, too... because I was poor. I just graduated and was running out of income from my savings account that I had worked so diligently the summer before to live on my own. After passing my boards, I moved in to an apartment in the city. I was young and beautiful and RESPONSIBLE FOR SAVING LIVES?

I have been a nurse for 13 years. I worked full-time from 2001 to 2009 and after the birth of our FIRST son, I went back to work part-time. I worked part-time for 6 months (pumping on my lunch breaks and in between patient care), but I was determined to do what was best for my baby! I carried our insurance (for myself and the baby), so I basically worked to pay for health insurance. After feeling like I was missing the first year of my child's life, I decided to go prn (occasionally or as needed basis). In the early Spring of 2012, we welcomed our SECOND son and I continued to work prn until the end of October. After feeling like I was needed more at home than at work, I decided to QUIT my job as a nurse and stay at home with my two boys.

Now, after the birth of our THIRD son, my license is up for renewal. Since I have not worked as a nurse for two years, I am choosing to inactivate my license. I think the past two years (besides having an identity crisis when anyone asks my occupation) I have struggled with... What if I have to go back to work? What if my husband loses his job? I can always get a job as a nurse! But, thankfully my jewelry business has helped our family supplement our income and I have been "self-employed" for two years now! And, while I am having trouble juggling three babies and all of the other things in life, I am thankful for all of the wonderful people I have met along the way.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Procrastination... Getting Ready for the Show

So, I have always been a procrastinator. I always wait until the last minute to do things... the very last minute! Especially when it comes to getting ready for shows! I have all of these grand ideas that somehow get pushed to the back until the very last minute (I've started writing them down on paper now because my brain can only handle so much)! I always freak out right before shows and usually stay up late the night before instead of getting my beauty rest. And, the mornings of the show I am a frantic mess... rarely spending time on my appearance aside from my long, hot shower where I lose track of time and spend the rest of the time loading up everything in the truck (or piling it up by the back door so my helpful husband can load it). And, I ALWAYS forget something important!

This year, I am debuting my silver jewelry at the Downtown Edmond Arts Festival. I brought some of my rings last year and had a great response, so I am venturing out and evolving into jewelry artisan world. I have been doing shows for over 10 years now, so this is kind of a big deal (for me)! I've been taking silver-smith classes at a local art center for about five years now and I finally feel like I am ready (almost)!

I have been focusing on rings and pendants in my last few semesters and have quite a few that I am working on at the moment (I'm sure until the very last minute)! I am very thankful to have been accepted into this show and can hardly wait! Well, I can wait a few more weeks... until my designs are complete anyway! And, on that note... I will stop procrastinating and get back to work (after I upload a few pictures)! Wish me Luck!
Chrysocolla Labradorite Turquoise Necklace

RainCloud Iolite Necklace

Cobalto Calcite Ring

Ancient Roman Glass Necklace

Black Tiger's Eye Tourmaline Necklace

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Business...

My business did not grow overnight. As far back as I can remember, I have always created. My grandmother sent me a bead kit when I was about 10 years old. And, subsequently, my parents bought me a Craftsman tool kit with a set of four pliers. I started bead looming and designing my own patterns with itsy bitsy seed beads, making my own hair barrettes and sewing them on to leather. I attended local bead stores, thrift shops, and art shows always searching for supplies and inspiration.

I started selling jewelry in high school at a local antique shop (mostly clay beads that I designed and baked in the oven strung on leather). In college, I started selling jewelry at local businesses and peddling my wares at work. After graduating from nursing school in 2001, I started purchasing nicer materials (sterling silver, gemstones, and freshwater pearls). In 2004, I started participating in art and craft shows.

In 2009, I opened my on-line etsy shop (and made my first sale a few weeks later). I started taking metal smithing classes in the Fall of 2009 (while pregnant with my first son). And, that is where I fell in love with silver smithing. I have always wanted to learn how to make rings and pendants and my own findings. And, now I have opened a new etsy shop featuring some of my most precious pieces. Pieces I put my heart and soul into the making.

I have worked hard building the foundation for my business. It is not easy marketing my products. I struggle with how to display my pieces at shows in a way that speaks to others. I am not the best money manager when it comes to budgets, production costs, and how much to charge for my labor. Taking time to make jewelry, photographing, listing... is all part of a process that I am struggling with... while balancing motherhood, a marriage, and a household.

I have invested a lot of time learning how to create jewelry, spent countless dollars on supplies and tools, and not to mention the time it takes to design each piece of jewelry. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to create and how to create it. People do not understand the time it takes to make something. Between feedings, diaper changes, and picking up toys, I have realized that my time IS valuable. I rarely charge for labor, but I am learning as I go.  

When will I feel like I am worth being paid? When will I feel more comfortable explaining to customers that I will be charging for my time? OR... when will people understand that this is my job and if they are wanting CUSTOM work done... they SHOULD pay me (plus the cost of supplies)! Plumbers don't work for free... and they charge $75 just to come out and look at your leaky faucet (not including labor OR supplies to fix it)! 

I am slowly turning my hobby into a business. My business has grown mostly through word of mouth and now through internet engine searches and Facebook (all 142 "likes"). It is hard to grasp out of all of the jewelry out there in cyber space, that people choose my product through a picture I took with my camera of a piece of jewelry that I created with my own two hands. 

I feel like I am lucky to have found my passion at such an early age. Passion is something I never really knew I had until people started telling me how happy I was when I started talking about it! I feel at peace when I am making jewelry and it brings me joy knowing that my jewelry will bring someone else joy, too. 

So, from now on... I am charging for labor. Because, I am worthwhile. I have skills and even though I love sharing these skills with others (for free), I also need to pay my bills! Jewelry supplies are expensive. Shipping is expensive. And, paying retail is expensive. My jewelry is built to last. I use quality products and I am a master craftswoman. If you want cheap jewelry that won't last, go to the "insert cheap jewelry store" (here)... or bring it to me when it breaks and I will repair it for you (for a small fee)! 

Proper Haggling Etiquette

I have been known to haggle in my day and now as a shop owner I can see several issues. Some items are priced ridiculously high and the price is often negotiated to the buyer and seller's liking. "Buy it Now" or "Best Offer" are key words on-line. You can "Buy" the item at the price listed, or you can "Offer" what you would pay for the item. If you offer too low, sometimes the seller will not even respond. "There... you have offended me! Now, come back when you mean business (or not at all)!"

If the seller has a message "Hagglers Welcome" or "Make an Offer" or offers a Coupon Code with a percentage off, by all means... haggle away (or use the coupon code)! It means the shop owner is comfortable changing the price to fit the customer's needs. If, however, the price is listed "FIRM" or words like "One of a Kind" it is a no haggling zone! If you are thinking about haggling with an artist here are a few tips...

We are artisans... and we would like to be paid for our time. When you are supporting artisans, haggling is not only offensive, but devalues our skill and our creative process. To truly "support" an artisan is to pay willingly what the artist is asking for. You are paying for their time, their talent, and the cost to make the item (and the cost of shipping, shipping supplies, shop fees, listing fees, credit card fees, PayPal fees, photography... just to give you an idea of what the artist has to factor in the price for on-line items).

Art Shows can be a little different. The cost of booth fees, supplies, travel, equipment and displays really add up. If you are interested in a piece, but unsure if you are wanting to pay the high price tag... walk away. Think about it. Come back and take another look. If the artist approaches you and offers a discount, by all means negotiate away! But, just remember they are probably losing money.  If you factor in everything... artists don't really make a lot of money. But, they each have a passion, an expertise, and a pride in their work.

I know everyone is looking for a "deal" and some people pride themselves on never paying "full-price" for anything. When it comes to art and independent shop owners, please be courteous. We are all trying to make a living. Keep in mind you are paying for a one of a kind piece of art that no one else will own except you.