The response following Get Creative week was really cool, but one of the best parts was being introduced to a bunch of creative folks that I hadn’t before met. Catherine emailed right away, and as soon as I saw her interesting jewelry, I couldn’t wait to show her stuff to you guys. Turns out, she and I have a lot in common- from starting an Etsy shop while also working a boring, gray desk job, to having a natural life-long affinity for the arts, to feeling the sting of comparison when checking out other artists. Here she is, talking about art, her stuff, and how she balances work and “work.”
Hello, my name is Catherine. I work full time at a corporate job, and also design and make jewelry, and run an Etsy shop to sell my work under the name One Little Star.
My day job has various deadlines throughout the day. There are times when I am very busy, and times when it is very slow and I have nothing to do. It can be frustrating during the slow times because I feel like I am not making good use of my time, which I already feel is very limited, and which I would much prefer to spend doing jewelry work. I always have so many pieces that I am working on and so many new ideas that I want to try that the wasted time makes me feel very stressed out. My day job is important because it pays the rent, gives us health insurance and offers security but, it does not provide everything I need.
I love that I get to go home and be creative and then share that with other people. For me working creatively is so rewarding because I put so much of myself into it. I care so much about what I am making and that allows me to get so much out of it. This is a feeling that I do not get from my corporate job, even though I work hard and do good work. It is a really amazing feeling when someone leaves me positive feedback and tells me how much they love their jewelry. The positive feedback I get from an end of year review at my corporate job just doesn’t mean as much to me as someone writing me a note to say, “I love this piece of jewelry I wear it every day.” I have sold pieces all over the country, in states I have never even visited, such as Alaska, as well as to people in Australia and Canada, and it is so exciting to think of my little pieces of jewelry being worn in all those places. Being able to put my art out into the world makes all the hard work worth it because it makes me so happy.
I have always been into art. All kinds of art, I just love to make things. It never occurred to me growing up that it could be a job or career. The kind of jobs I knew about were doctor, lawyer, firefighter type jobs. I still feel like I don’t really know the full range of career possibilities that are out there for creative people. I got a liberal arts degree (while taking all the painting classes my school offered), then I needed a job and fell into the corporate world. One job led to the next one, and I have ended up working in financial institutions for the past eight years. When I first entered the workforce, I was also taking painting classes at night. When I moved to New York, I was looking for another creative outlet and discovered jewelry classes. I love the idea of these small pieces of art that you can adorn yourself with and take with you. I like to make things that people look at often, keep close to themselves, and that make people happy. I like that jewelry can be become important and meaningful enough to people that they wear a piece every day, or use it as a way to mark special occasions. Jewelry is wonderful because it is something that ideally is very personal for both the person who makes it and for the person who chooses to wear it, but also something so public that the creator is proud to sell it, and that the buyer wants to display it to the world.
Both of my jobs involve very detailed and careful work but in two completely different ways. During regular, 9-5 business hours during the week, I am working with multiple daily deadlines, where small errors can have large consequences. It is detailed, busy work that leaves me drained at the end of the day. I think about my jewelry in the back of my mind all day and how I can’t wait to get home to work on it. However, by the time I finish work and get home, I am so tired I have to push myself into getting started on a project. Once I get going I build up momentum pretty quickly and the excitement of making something keeps me going. However, the creative work also requires great attention to detail, patience and care, and is equally tiring.
I try to go with the flow and work on what I am feeling up to working on since there are so many different parts to running my business. If I have a bunch of new ideas that I am excited about I’ll work on carving them out of wax. If I am not feeling that inspired I will work on the more side aspects of filing, sanding and finishing pieces. I feel like the best use of my time is to listen to myself instead of trying to create new pieces when I am not feeling inspired or doing finishing work when I really want to make something new. After all, this is supposed to be fun. I have learned that I need to cut myself a break; sometimes I am just too tired to work on anything. It can be hard for me to relax because I feel like there is always so much to do and work on; this can cause me stress and make me feel like I am failing. I have to remember that I have an additional full time job and cannot do as much as someone who is making jewelry full time. But still, it is easy to compare myself to what others are doing.
I work on my jewelry most nights and on weekends. Everything always takes so much longer than I think it is going to – often months longer. I first had the idea to do a collection of Zodiac necklaces after designing a seven sisters constellation necklace as gifts to several friends and relatives who participated in my wedding. I loved carving the constellation so much I wanted to make many more. I had the original idea for the constellation collection in the middle of 2010, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2012 that they were finally completed and added to the shop. My jewelry work is actually a job, and not a hobby, because I sell the pieces I create. Designing and making the product is only part of the process. When I finished my Zodiac necklace collection, I thought I would have it up in the shop in two weeks. Instead, it took me two months to get them ready for sale. I had finished designing, carving, casting and finishing all the pieces, but I still had to photograph them, write up all the descriptions and create the listings. There is so much non-creative work that goes into this creative job, so many pieces to running this small business; dealing with vendors and suppliers, maintaining an online store and marketing my pieces, which in turn involves photography, graphic design and branding work, modeling and copy writing. Much of this I have had to learn on the fly, and I am constantly tweaking the results. I am still working on zodiac bracelets, which of course is taking forever. Everything is always a work in progress and I am always trying to get better photos, write better descriptions. Right now I am in the process of redoing my website, trying to get it to look more polished and professional.
There is always more to do and more to learn. I feel as though I am in a constant state of figuring out how to make everything work. I really enjoy my jewelry business. Although there are times that things can be tough and frustrating, working through it and getting a new piece finished and selling it to someone who loves it makes all the hard work worthwhile to me.
Thanks for sharing, Catherine! Guys, go check out Catherine’s work at One Little Star!
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