Selling and creating

The last few months I have been whining a lot, at least I'm sure that's what it sounded like to some people.
This Jewelry Artisans Community blog carnival gives me a good opportunity to whine some more ;-) No, in fact it gives me the chance to explain what has been on my mind. The topic is "
Selling vs creating; do we sacrifice our artistic integrity by selling?"

Spontaneously, my answer to that would be - maybe. It really depends on the person, but also their life circumstances. It's so easy for someone who doesn't really need the money or at least doesn't have to live off what they make with their art to tell someone who does that they are selling out by creating according to trends instead of pulling their designs from the deep of their soul.
Of course this topic doesn't just concern jewelry making. How often have you heard of an artist who had a "bread and butter" line and an "artistic" one? Does that automatically mean that the "bread and butter" pieces are not artistic? Are they crap even if the artist is a good one? If he doesn't need to earn his bread and butter, though, because he was born rich for example, but he's still selling his paintings/sculptures etc., he's selling his artistic integrity with them? Does a piece's price determine its artistic value?
This has always been a topic, probably since the first piece was sold by an artisan or artist, and we could discuss it at length, but this post is about my personal experience.

Who is to "blame" that I even started selling? It was the predecessor of JAC, the Starving Jewelry Artists forum. No matter how I try, I have no idea how I found them and why I even had the guts to participate from the start instead of lurking first. I guess they were just too nice and encouraging, shame on them! ;-)
In fact I opened a shop rather quickly after joining the forum. One offer by the forum was to team up newcomers with seasoned sellers as mentors who would give them tips or answer questions. The second thing my mentor told me was if one design had sold to make it again and put it in my shop - and I thought, no way. I don't even like making a second earring which is funny as the first item I ever sold was a pair of earrings.

The thought of making the same things over and over was terrible to me. The thought of making something just because it was "trendy" was terrible to me. If friends asked me "why are you not making this or that" (usually in a style or technique completely different from mine), I knew they meant well, but it still frustrated me. I tried to understand why some pieces sold and the ones that were so dear my heart didn't. I went back and forth between motivation, outbursts of creativity, and self-doubt. I learned that self-promotion is not my thing. There were times when I said I'd throw my jewelry out of the window, but couldn't bear the thought that no one would pick it up. Self-doubt leads to me being just a tad overdramatic ... :-D

I joined venues and left them eventually, one reason being the direction they were headed to. When DaWanda went down, my German market pretty much went down with it because I wasn't on Etsy anymore and my stubborn genes told me not to go back just for the business. I did okay with my shop and sales groups, though (my expectations weren't high after all) ... and then came Covid (ah, we are getting to the whiny part).
Suddenly there were shipping restrictions to the countries where most of my customers are living.
I can't even give gifts anymore. I had packed up a parcel for a charity, but it was already too late to send it. The only options to ship are way too expensive for what I am selling. It has been 5 1/2 months now, and to be honest, I don't see anything changing in the next months, and of course there's the problem with USPS as well now, so even if I could ship to the US, would my parcels arrive and when?

The way I am feeling about 2020 ...

What happened now was very interesting to me and not really what I would have expected. At some point all motivation to make jewelry had gone. After more than ten years. So had it been about selling after all? Had this been a wake-up call that I was ready to move on and if so, where to? Was this a sign to give up completely? Should I find the motivation to get back into the German market and how? Was it Covid depression? Would I ever be able to create again? Last but not least, what would I be doing with the things I make? Pile them up neatly? Make something, rip it up and make something new? Hadn't that been one of the reasons that I had opened up a shop, so I wouldn't pile up things? So many questions!

I can't answer all of that ... yet. I'm quite sure Covid depression is a part of it. I have hardly left my place since mid-March, and while I have been kind of prepared for it after turning into a bit of a hermit over the last years, it does leave its traces. At least I already know I'm still able to be creative because I started working on bigger personal projects like the doll outfit or the beaded sneakers.
Does this mean my artistic integrity is back now or had it never gone or hadn't I got any in the first place?

As you see, I have more questions than answers myself, but I'd love to hear your story.

Here's what other JAC members have to say about this, please stop by :-)

My Bijou Life
Jewelry Art by Dawn


Tackle that stash - Butterfly necklace

Yesterday I found a little butterfly body in one of my wire tins where I keep wire ends that I want to use for jumprings, headpins etc.
It looked so sad without wings, so after a while of not making jewelry anymore it was time I sat down and gave it some. The hardest part was to decide how to fill the wings. On the last butterfly I used a lot of crystals, but I wanted to give this one's wings a more delicate look, so some of tiny blue agate and amethyst beads from my stash seemed like the right choice.
Only afterwards I noticed that the colors had been vaguely inspired by those of the male common blue butterfly. It's a pity I hadn't seen that before, so I could have made the lower wing pair bigger and maybe added some blue to the body as well.
I still think, however, that it's cute :-)


Beaded sneakers

I wasn't sure if I would ever get them finished. The beaded sneakers are definitely one of the, if not THE most time consuming project I have ever worked on.
It's rather funny that it actually started out as something I made to use my stash of bugles and ended up in a kind of an obsession.


The beads are stitched on in backstitch, always a combination of one bugle and one seed bead at a time, so that may give you an idea of how much time went into these shoes.
When I started working on them, I had grabbed my only pair of jeans sneakers. I had the idea and I wanted to try it right away and not have to wait for a shoe order.
What I had not taken into account, however, was that those shoes were not meant to have laces. They have elastic bands on both sides of the tongue which means you can't pull that out, and you can't open up the sides.
Now that meant I had to work blindly from the inside on most parts of the shoes and feel around with my hand inside of them to find the right spots for my needle, and more than once the needle thought my finger was just right. A lot of times I had to try several times before the needle finally ended up in the right spot.
So if you want to try this, be smart and don't use this kind of shoes!

Another problem was finding that the blue bead mix wouldn't suffice for both shoes and I wanted to use my stash, not order more beads. So I mixed up a batch of transparent warm colored bugles instead and went for a "Night and Light" design. Even if that had not been the plan, I liked the effect.


Those were not the only problems, though. Like many sneakers these ones also had reinforced heels which was one reason for leaving them unbeaded. That reinforcement, however, also went around the sides into part of the back segments. I broke quite a few needles on these parts although I used pliers. With pliers and my hand in the shoe it got quite crowded in there, I tell you that! ;-)

Then there were the tongues which tend to crumple up at the top due to the elastic bands, so I couldn't use bugles sideways there, not to forget the big leather logo that I didn't dare taking off or stitching through.
My solution for that was to use the beads lengthwise, but more spaced out than those in the side segments.


The middle segments had little logos in the center for those people who fail to notice the big one (can you tell I'm not a fan?). I had no scruples hiding them and luckily the center part was fabric with rivets only in the corners. Do you notice how the beads seem to cave in at that spot? That's because the border of the logo was a bit higher, but at least the rivets had the perfect space between them, so I could fit my bugles in.
The spaces between the holes for the shoelaces (these are functional) proved similarly difficult because I needed shorter bugles there, but most of them were one size and too large. I had to cut off a few and filed them down to protect my thread. That sounds a lot easier than it actually was because it's not easy to hold such a small bead and file at the same time.

I kept the "curved" segments with the two holes towards the tip of the shoes for last. These holes are non-functional, there's an extra layer of fabric sewn on underneath. I tried, but thicker fabric and even less space because of the shoe curving towards towards the sole won over my determination, so I just "sprinkled" a few seed beads on which connects it with the "sprinkles" on the tongues.

A friend suggested to try out some satin shoe laces for the extra kick. I'll let you know how that works out!


Oldies but Goodies - Fire

Matching this week's Zibbet finds, the topic for the Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge was "Fire" as well.
This week felt as if someone had turned the thermostat up even more, really like fire for someone like me. I have been completely useless during the last few days and not been able to show you anything new - still working on the beaded shoes, though - but at least I have some fiery challenge pieces for you.

1 and 6 My Bijou Life
2 and 3 Jewelry Art by Dawn
4 and 5 Cat's Wire


Nostalgia - What are we out of today?

Some years ago when I still did the "Finds of the week" posts, I had some called "I'm a collector" in which I shared vintage items. Over time my collections have mostly stopped growing due to different reasons, but they are still there and still loved. I also have vintage items, some inherited, some gifts, some from fleamarkets, some more interesting than others. So I thought it could be fun to share some of them every, now and then and tell their story.

Today's post is about a metal sign we once found at a fleamarket.
It says "Was fehlt uns heute?" which means "What are we out of today?" and then there's an alphabetical list of things you need in the household.
I don't use it, it's merely decorative although I didn't make an effort to clean it up.

Here's a translation:
Beer, bread, butter, eggs, ice (which could mean both ice for an ice box or ice cream, but my guess would be ice for the ice box in this case), vinegar, meat, gelatine, spice (it doesn't specify which spice is meant), semolina, pulses, wood, cacao, coffee, potatos, cheese, candles, coal, currants, flour, milk, jam (in German the word marmalade is often used for jam although it's not the same), almonds, noodles, oil, fruit, petroleum, cleaning water (that is a literal translation, my guess is they meant cleaning powder etc. for use with water), Palmin (which is the name of a German brand of coconut fat that exists since 1894), parsley, pepper, rice, salt, soap, anchovies, mustard, floor cloth, scouring powder, soda, ethyl alcohol, starch, mirepoix or "soup greens" (in Germany you can buy bundles of certain vegetables that are used for aroma in soup or gravy, like parsley, carrots, leek, onions, celery root etc.), tea, vanilla, sausage, lemon, cinnamon, matches, sugar, onion.
I think the list is rather interesting because it gives you an idea of what items were important in those times.

These kind of signs seem to have come with kitchen cupboards, at least I've seen a few pictures of that. They were attached on the inside of the doors, so if you put something into your cupboard or took something out, you could move the little sliders - one of whose is missing in my sign, so tea is out forever! ;-) - to give you an idea how much you still had left of that particular item.

I would have loved to find out the history of these signs, but all I could find was there were different versions, I even found a modern one. Believe me, if I had the room I would probably start collecting all the different ones I could get my hands on!

Later signs for example had a different text "What's missing in the household?", they are often marked "E. Kosta", a company I couldn't find anything out about, either.

Some signs have a shorter list with a few different items like pearl barley, honey, shoe polish, laundry detergent, and lard - like this one from the Museum Wolmirstedt.

Others list maccaroni and custard or baking powder. Some have white on cream print instead of a dark teal. The sliders don't always look the same, either.

Some list different brands like Ata and iMi, scouring powder and laundry detergent, which were first manufactured in 1920 and 1929.
That made me wonder if those signs had also used to be made by certain companies to advertise their own brands or if those brands were just so well known that their names were used to represent the kind of item like it is still done today, calling all tissues a Kleenex for example.

Also interesting is the spelling. In my sign "Gries" (semolina) and "Zimmt" (cinnamon) are spelled differently from today (Grieß, Zimt).
It also lists a word used very often although it's wrong which would be "Gelantine" for gelatine.
In 1901 an Orthographic Conference was held at Berlin with the aim to standardize German spelling. That didn't mean, however, that the now wrong spelling wasn't used anymore until many years later, you know how people are.
So this is not proof for my sign being older than 1901, but it's definitely younger than 1894 which we know thanks to Palmin being listed. I would think it's from the 1910/20s.


Tackle that stash - Two bead Herringbone bracelets

I have been working on two bigger projects lately which I will post about once they are finished. You can see WIP pictures of one project - beaded shoes - on my Facebook page.
In between big projects I need smaller ones for distraction and especially for rather instant gratification.

I still have a bunch of seed and small bugle beads in my stash some of which I won, got for a gift or bought with some stuff in destashes. I hadn't found a good use for them in what I do, mostly because I would have to buy more beads to compliment them, but after I found the two bead Herringbone spiral tutorial video that I have mentioned before, I thought they would make nice little girl bracelets.

These are the ones I have made so far. Each bracelet has two different strands. I hope the girls at the daycare center will like them even if I don't have any more pink beads!


Oldies but Goodies - Hollow

What is the definition of hollow? The Cambridge Dictionary offers "having a hole or empty space inside" and uses as an example "The hollow chocolate egg held a diamond ring." Nice! Where do I get those eggs? ;-)
Yeah, I don't have any diamond rings to show you or even chocolate eggs, but I brought you a few examples of hollow items from this week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge.