I have been all of my adult life. It’s not necessarily the first thing you notice about me. I quite like it that way. More than once when people find out that I am pagan and make jewellery, the presumption is that the pieces I make are going to be pagan too.
This is not the case. Paganism is a belief system, subscribed to by many, with wildly varying interpretations and paths. It’s not a thing I can make. I couldn’t make a pagan pendant any more than I could make a Buddhist mobile phone. It just don’t think it works that way. Obviously, as you can see, being Pagan heavily influences the things I make and when I work with images that represent so many years of faith, I am always careful and mindful of those images, as I work with them. I am also aware that some of the pieces will appeal to other pagans, because of the beliefs we share in common, but I could also say that about some of my old Goth friends too.
I am always wary of wearing my labels too openly, I am uncomfortable with the presumptions that follow and dealing with the inevitable upset that occurs when I challenge them. It’s a personal thing, but isn’t that what faith is all about?
I make things that appeal to me and that I think others will like. I’m not convinced that wearing any of them will make you any more pagan, or that making them makes me more so. Inevitably, it all comes to making the point that me, my beliefs, practice and behaviour are what makes me who I am, not what I sell, or what I wear.
Enamelling is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. When I was a child my Mom did piecework, putting ceramic decals on tiny enamelled boxes, as part of the long standing artistic tradition that my home town was once famous for. These tiny, precious works of art fascinated me and whenever I walked past a jewellery shop that had them in the window, I would have to talk to whoever I was with, about my family’s role in their production.
I had always laboured under the illusion that it was an expensive, difficult process to start, which was only reinforced by my very brief use of it in one of my final projects at school. Obviously now, I realise how wrong I was. After watching many hours of You Tube videos on the subject; I took the plunge and bought a cheap blowtorch. I was lucky enough to have a handy blacksmith around the house, who made me a suitably fireproof space and a makeshift trivet from an old baking tray. After a few disasters I eventually managed to enamel a two pence piece and some wonderful friends lent me a kiln to use. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a few days without enamelling something since.
Especially with a blowtorch. There is something fascinating and deeply satisfying about watching the colours and textures change as you heat a piece, seeing the gloss spread and never really being sure what you are getting until the piece is cooled. Not knowing how successful your enamelling attempt is, goes double for kiln work, every opening of the kiln is a potential revelation.
It is easy to start.
It took my teenage son, with a little guidance, very little time to get to grips with the basics. This is really him, but I haven’t got agreement from him to show his face here(yet).
Previously, working in resin has always left me a little dissatisfied. I know that, while there are environmentally friendlier alternatives, essentially I’m still working in a plastic, which is harmful to the environment and always feels a little throwaway and impermanent to me, perhaps it’s just because it’s such a modern medium.
Enamelling has been around for centuries, it’s one of the oldest forms of permanent decoration and we have lots of surviving examples to admire. I love the idea of not just making things to wear, but making things to keep. I also love sitting at my table, carefully placing decals on tiny, precious things (well precious to me anyway), just like my mother did, when I was a child.
In my last blog post, I talked about trying to find a way to continue making the things that I love making and finding a way to remove the pressure of feeling like I need to make something commercial enough. I decided that I was just going to make things I liked for now and not worry about the rest, until I felt ready. I am now however, finding myself surrounded by the results of my experiments and exploration. So I have decided to put them all in a folder and offer them up on a “pay as you feel” basis.
How it works.
I will put the items in a folder, on my Facebook page, with a brief description and if you decide that you want what I have made, then you can message the page and offer me a price on the item you want. If it’s realistic and reasonable, we’ll discuss postage costs, I’ll arrange payment through PayPal and the item will be yours. Once the item has gone, it’s gone, if you want a remake you will, either have to be really persuasive, or wait until I’m making them for sale properly (with fixed prices).
Everything I’m putting in the the folder will be a result of my experiments, either, working up a repeatable, saleable design, or just trying something for fun. I will try to be clear about which is which. As a result a lot of the items are made on scrap copper pipe, small change and other random items, some of the decals are also made from leftover scraps sent by my supplier. This means that they are, in my opinion anyway, not perfect, but I haven’t made anything I consider perfect yet so that might be a matter of opinion. If this works I’ll probably add random experiments to it, no matter what else I’m making, or doing.
How I’ll be spending your money.
Any money you spend with me, is going straight into my current enamelling obsession. On the list at the moment, will be, buying more enamel (really!), including transparent colours, for some etching and enamelling experiments, and custom printed decals, which include such delights as, ravens, more ravens, wolves, tarot cards, Odin, Celtic, Norse and William Morris designs. I’ll try and use this blog to keep anyone who cares up to date with my adventures and experiments.
Yesterday I was struggling, well metaphorically, and it wasn’t really yesterday.
It was before that and has been for some time. I hear a lot of talk about impostor syndrome and I like to laugh and pretend that’s not me. Which if you really knew me, would be hilarious.
I started this blog because it’s what successful selling people do. I want to be a successful selling person right? I can be enthusiastic about random beads on a string and sell my authentic genuine self right? I was wrong, am wrong and will continue to be wrong about this. I make things because, I love doing it, it makes me happy and in a rare moment, if you catch me at the right time, I will wax lyrical about it for hours. Mostly though I’m not convinced anyone really cares. Which is why there only a few very short posts on this terrible blog.
I’m changing all that though. I’ve decided that I’m not making jewellery, or this blog to sell things. Money has never equalled success for me, so why would selling my stuff make me feel better? Or make it better? I’ve found myself constantly beating myself up about something which should bring me joy, because I’m measuring myself by the wrong standards. I’ve stopped myself enjoying making and replaced it with watching random statistics in a gamified system, designed to make me feel less, so I’ll spend more. I’m not a stupid person, I have pieces of paper to prove it, so why do this to myself? Don’t get me wrong I do intend to sell what I’m making, but in a way that suits me. In my time, by my standards, to please me and not some, imagined hypercritical, ideal customer and not in competition with anyone else. Which is good right?
So, moving swiftly on, as you can see by the pictures, I have been experimenting with enamels, with varying degrees of success and with a lot of love and support from friends and family. It’s what has made me get real with myself. I’m loving doing it, like nothing I’ve done before and for once, I’m genuinely pleased and proud with the results. It’s an adventure. So in future I’ve decided to wax lyrical about it here. I’m not an expert, but I am a convert, so I feel the need to share and spread the word and you never know, it could be fun.
I have also decided that until I can get real and put aside my impostor syndrome shenanigans, that anything I am making in my enameling adventures will be open to offer, on a pay as you feel basis. This does mean some negotiating may have to take place, as my feelings of inadequacy are only outweighed by my need to pay to supply my growing enamelling addiction. This will be ongoing as I develop a range that I have fully costed and found a selling platform not designed to make me hate myself, while it takes my money. I will still probably sell my experiments and random stuff this way though, if it works. I will post more details here and on the Facebook page, when I have taken enough pretty pictures of my makes to put into a folder.
If you have read this far, then thanks. You have probably just been kinder to me, than I’m ever going to be. It’s not easy this blog stuff.
Well today I’m making progress, this blog is being written exactly when I planned to do it. It is a first, if I had any cake I would award myself a piece, because I feel like I have achieved something, not just because I like cake.
When the new year comes along I try not to make resolutions. I break them, feel bad, then break them some more. I do like to look back and try and figure out what I have learned over the year and to be honest, in terms of learning, this one has been epic. Excluding the fact that I seem to be developing a distressing predilection for Radio 4 drama.
I have been using mediums I never knew existed, like low-melt enamel, and using things I’ve always used in different ways, like embedding beads and charms in resin. Learning how to use programs to make pictures and designs and then how to get those designs onto, or into things you can wear or use. The list is long and I’m still learning, it’s all so very exciting. Here are some of the more interesting things I’ve learned.
On-line tutorials lie, whether they be step-by-step picture tutorials, or helpful You-Tube videos. If you want to know how to do something technical, you will always need to make more mess, take more time, or add new steps into anything these helpful guides show you. They usually always show you how to get it right, without acknowledging exactly how wrong it can go. This can usually be remedied with a liberal application of common sense, or more videos/pictures to give you a more rounded idea of the process, but it’s immensely frustrating.
There is always a way to do something cheaper, taking some time to look around can often get you a better deal, convenience usually comes at a price.
You can find some strange and interesting things after about page 4 of an internet search.
Pinterest is more aspirational than achievable, and should never be approached when hungry. Well not on my budget anyway.
Nothing I make sticks to cling-film, it is by far the most useful piece of equipment I own.
I still have so much to learn, but so far, it’s been fun. I may even share some of it on here, in pictures, with a handy guide, you know like an on-line tutorial………
So I finally finished a pendant in this design that I’m happy with. It’s not perfect. If you asked I could probably bore you to sleep with what I think could be better on it, but to be honest that is how
I feel about everything I do. I try not to compare my efforts to others, but with so many beautiful pictures, of so many beautiful things out there, it is pretty difficult.
After a few conversations on Facebook, and some lovely comments from random people, I stopped and had a think about why I was inflicting such misery on myself. It took many hours of research, design and experimentation to get this piece made. There were more than a few failures along the way. The risk of anyone, outside of my family seeing those failures is slim. You will only see the success, my best effort. This isn’t even the first picture I took.
But every time I failed, even though I raged at my lack of success and berated myself for my lack of ability, I tried again. And again. And again. Now I get to show you this pretty picture and feel a little bit chuffed that I did this, even though it could be better. I don’t believe in perfect, but perhaps believing in myself might be something to strive for.
Here are some of my failures along the way, strangely enough, just for today, I am quite proud of them
So we opened an Etsy shop, we took some nice photographs, uploaded them, argued about the prices of our makes for a while and then we hit the wall. We had to write the descriptions. No matter how hard we tried, neither of us could manage the appropriate “delightful”, “stunning” and “gorgeous” descriptions. While we are extremely proud of the stuff that we make from things, we just can’t muster the words. It’s very difficult not to be sarcastic, in fact it’s almost impossible. We would like to think that the people who would want to buy our stuff, know what they like and can see that what we make is ace. We don’t want to sell a lifestyle, or a fantasy, just some stuff that we think you might like.
Then we had to tackle selling it on social media. We made our facebook page, which many of our wonderful friends have liked and are interacting with. Then we decided to do twitter, we both have our own accounts, so it couldn’t be that difficult right? How wrong could we be. We can’t honestly say how many of our followers really just want to sell us retweets and more followers. Apparently facebook like schemes don’t work, there is a magical retweet to tweet formula and that’s without thinking about hashtags and hashtag chats.
We are learning though, only Americans and Russians seem to care about our Etsy shop, but enough of you have contacted us, to make us think we should continue with our crafting shenanigans. The sun is shining, we have finally sorted out a proper working area. We are in the process of building a proper website, where there may be some sarcasm. Watch this space, or the one on facebook, or twitter, you get the idea.