A couple of weeks ago, between the hours of 4 and 6pm, on a Wednesday afternoon, something magnificent happened. Something miraculous, marvellous and long over due.
a venture into the unknown.
This maiden mess marks the end of a near two year, perhaps longer, stale spell. There’s been no shortage of creative plans fluttering around my head but more a severe lack of umpff to see any through to a complete project. No doodle successfully made it out of my ideas journal, not even to mind-map phase. It seems my mojo politely ducked out and tootled off without leaving a single biscuit crumb to follow.
I’ve learnt that the mojo is an elusive creature. It certainly didn’t turn up last Wednesday unannounced with party gift in hand. It’s return has been a waiting game of trust and patience after a gentle year of coaxing. Much similar to the efforts my partner put into taming Stanley, our resident squirrel. Who now comes with two babies. And so we seem to have created more of a pest problem than the odd delightful visit from our not-so-shy-now furry friend.
Last January I decided to take a break from my business. It was a very big and slightly terrifying decision to make but an inevitable and much needed one. I continued to make and dispatch orders, keep up with email enquiries and take on bespoke work, but relinquished all exhibitions, craft fairs, social media activity and new product development. I saw these areas as expendable, my business wasn’t going to frazzle over night if I stopped doing them. They stressed me out and cost money. I knew that things would slow, but it was a risk I was prepared to take for the sake of my mental health. It seems I reached the limit, over spilled and blew a fuse.
Dan & Caryn's 'fun-guy' necklace.
I’m thankful to every one of you who contacted me for bespoke work or placed a web order over this past year whilst Bug has been in an intermittent state of grogginess. Your button mushroom necklace requests have kept me going! They’ve helped me believe in myself and my business. From constructing giant paper mache butterflies in first school to dishing out paint by numbers Christmas after birthday (welcome or not), I’ve been making things since I can remember. Having always been tirelessly creative and stubbornly determined, it’s hard not to doubt your efforts when that determination begins to wither.
would you employ this dog walker?
Drastic action plans entered my realm. It’s all very well having an indefinite break from your business, but as a sole source of income, how was I going to earn a living? A reliable 9 to 5. Give up the workshop. Become a dog walker? I set up a Linkedin profile, joined DogBuddy, updated my CV and filled out endless online job applications. Not all in the field of dog walking.
No path or pooch emerged and through lack of moral I was ready to give up. My confidence was bruised and squishy. I truly felt lost.
Fed up with futile online efforts I returned to the world of work that I was all too familiar with. One afternoon Spring 2018, I went to my local favourite lunch spot and gingerly asked Chris - the owner, if there were any vacancies. I’d always been fond of the 8 Foot Grocer, the veggie sandwiches were soft and crusty and they made a mean chocolate brownie. Even if I’d already eaten I’d think of a reason to pop by, sometimes just for a chat. With a little hesitation I assured Chris that I can cook. This little sandwich shop became my new job. Grateful, nervous, excited and relieved, I let Bug drift off into a guilt free uninterrupted restorative snooze.
Victoria sponge attempt no. 1
During this period of snoozing, I gave myself a break. A break from creative thinking. A break from interpreting every moment, object, holiday, meal, experience into miniature silver form. Looking back through my ideas journal, you’ll see every trip, pastime or other significant happening doodled and thought out as a jewellery design.
TIME ISN'T MONEY
As the years passed and the ideas continued to remain as forgotten sketches I shamefully wondered why.
Downtime. Now it’s so obvious. But isn’t that how life goes. Hindsight don’t they call it? Downtime from constantly being ‘on’. Constantly mapping out every experience as a commodity. My ideas journal increasingly remained buried in the musty depths of unpacked travel bags for longer and longer time periods. As I was sure it was lost forever, until finding it in a crumb and hair grip ridden tote bag, it started to dawn on me that it was refreshing to experience life without the relentless whirring of a business brain. Perhaps those racing frantic thoughts of turning the waffle machine from that campsite in the South of France into an enamelled locket complete with removable waffle aren’t so welcome after all. Perhaps sometimes it’s nice to enjoy life for goey drippy waffles sake. There doesn’t need to be a reason - a design idea, an Instagram post, a new business venture born of every experience.
a tiny person and a big word
In summer 2017, I was fortunate enough to experience Burning Man. Surviving the ticket frenzy and the Walmart shop, I made it to the desert. Business brain in full swing, I envisioned art cars, sculptures, camps and travel essentials as silver forms. It hit me – this art belongs to someone. That someone not being me. One of the ten principles of Burning Man is decommodification:
“Our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”
Amongst other principles; immediacy and participation, which I wanted to honor in the default world, decommodification was a value that resonated with me when thinking about Bug. I thought perhaps it could be something to apply to my own life and the core of my business.
LIFE ISN'T AN OBJECT
These stories aren’t for sale. This contradicts everything my business currently encompasses, for it is closely linked to my experiences. My bio even states that it is a silver timeline of my life. This means a significant shift in narrative. But that’s okay. It’s okay to change things up, get bored of things, venture off to outer space in search of something, or nothing. Sometimes there aren’t any stories. It’s unhealthy and tiresome to relive and retell the same stories. Life and time moves in one direction only. Living in a bubble only gets you covered in fairy liquid. Embrace change. New places and new faces.
So - a break from turning every encounter in to a product. A break from Instagram. A break from the unpredictably and monetary pressure of living off your art. And? It was marvellous. That is, after the dopamine twitch settled down and I stopped caring about my dwindling follower count. Space appeared inside my head. The guilt and the shoulds quietened down. The extra room made way for spirited, kinder, happier thoughts. I truly started to feel like myself again. For a while things had been a bit squashed but now there was room for a good stretch and toe wiggle.
Snowdon summit. I can smell the pasties.
NOT DEAD. JUST SLEEPING.
Is Bug over? What are your plans? Do you still make jewellery? To begin with I couldn’t answer these questions. I’ve fallen out of love with my business and there’s no projects under the rolling pin so perhaps it is dead? I’m also working in a sandwich shop and thoroughly enjoying making soup and Victoria sponges so perhaps I am no longer a jeweller. Am I a baker? The more I was quizzed the more refined the answer became. Although it didn’t really clarify anything – for myself or for anyone else. ‘Bug is snoozing, whilst I take a break to focus my mind’.
The continued support from my customers and that prodding niggle helped me realise I couldn’t let my business snooze forever. There must be another chapter. In some form. I just didn’t quite know how things might unfold. This contradictory idea of taking a break in order to focus is something I’ve become quite fascinated with over the past year. For it seems to have worked rather well.
A nugget of wisdom from Flow magazine.
Interestingly, around the same kind of time that this breakthrough occurred I read a fitting article in Flow magazine. It was about solving things by not thinking about them. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I felt like it had been written for just for me. It solidifying my confidence in believing a route would work itself out. No sketches, no Pinterest boards, no brainstorms. It would all come clear in my mind when the time was ready. Just be patient. I also read somewhere was that too much preparation can backfire. Supposedly your brain receives the satisfaction of working on the project without it actually occurring in real life. I can relate to this. Many a steadfast sketchbook starts but they do have a tendency to dwindle after the first five pages. I like this theory. Perhaps because it’s a smug reason to put off doing any work.
Prior to chapter snooze, my head was full to the rafters with the day to day running of my business. There was hardly a chance to come up for a croissant let alone take note of my gut’s poking. The guilt of stepping back from Bug wore off slowly and stubbornly. I’m not sure it ever totally left. When a good chunk of it had, I thoroughly enjoyed the space. I filled my time with the café work, a new project launch with a friend, rock climbing and long wholesome walks with family.
Occasionally, my mind would drift back to Bug. Sometimes I felt nothing, no pull in any direction, no spark of inspiration or excitement. I let those empty feelings go without rumination. Sometimes when dispatching orders, I begrudged them – for leading me here, to a seemingly dead end. But that was okay too. I let the feelings float through, acknowledging them and letting them pass. But I did take note. These feelings helped solidify fleeting thoughts that perhaps a total change in direction is what’s needed. Even if I had no clue which direction I was headed. I always trust that things will work out, given time. So I had some confidence that at some point, eventually a trail would present itself. But until it did, I’d wait patiently and get on with enjoying a different path.
This was taken at the Plitvice National Park in Croatia. The park was heaving all day. I ventured back inside against the current of the leaving crowds at around 4.30pm. It was so great to take some photos once everyone had disappeared. I love the sun dipping and the winding path leading off into mystery. I was reading The Secret Garden at the time too which is probably why I love this photo so much.
IT'S A SIGN
It came in the form of an email. I received a bespoke enquiry to create a little house pendant suspended by four balloons – just like the house from Up. The sentiment behind the piece was incredibly touching and the house required construction in silver.
I sat at my bench, filing roof tiles and soldering windows – and felt something. I felt connected to the piece - it had story, meaning and purpose. It felt significant, emotional and important. Feelings that had been absent for a long time in my creative practice. I was doing what I loved, constructing an object from scratch, an object that held great sentiment to someone. I realised whilst working on the house that this is what I'd been missing. The first initial stage of making. A process that had been lost as soon as the master patterns for my collections were created. Once the initial prototype is complete there is no need to ever make it again - the casting process allows multiples to be made ease. All that is left is clean up and assembly. Although great for efficiency, I neglected to think that with time I might tire of this repetitive way of working. This little house made realise that the maker in me is knocking to be let out.
Up and away.
THE GUT KNOWS
The email, the house, the feeling. This is the sign I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been waiting to feel something. Feel some kind of creative excitement. The feeling that I had all those years ago when I felt compelled without any doubt to make what I was making. This is my helping hand from the universe. And I’m going to grab it. So there and then, it was decided. Houses. I’m going to make houses. And that was it. A direction was decided upon. I didn’t know in what context or what the meaning would be, but I had a theme. After all this time, a theme of any form will suffice. The seed of houses had been planted, but I didn’t want to over water it. I’ll mull it over, without too much focus and see what those thoughts grow.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. Please do get in touch if you also like to ramble about your creative journey.