Seasons Change

20170910_110158Door 44 Jewelry is officially dead. I’ve shut down my Etsy shop and I shuttered all of my social media accounts. I wanted to pick it back up again. I really did, but after five months away from my workbench, I have no desire to go back to it.

This has been a strange year for me–a particularly difficult year, in certain ways, and a remarkably peaceful year in others. And so that strange dichotomy that’s preceded all of the critical turning points in my life seems to be back again.

The season of change is upon me.

I’ve had some fascinating experiences with nature in the months since I put Door 44 Jewelry on pause. There was the heart-stopping, awe-inspiring moment in Monument Valley Park the week that I decided to shutter the business for a while. I didn’t manage to capture an image of that incredible sight because my phone was to my ear instead of in my pocket where I could have grabbed it quickly and snapped a shot.

I was out for an early morning walk that day when a friend called. She’d been having a difficult time, and she needed to vent. I always strive to be an open ear and a steady shoulder to lean on for my friends, so I listened quietly while she vented. Although I was struggling internally with my own challenges, I tried to push my own problems aside and focus on hers instead. And then along came the powerful wisdom of nature in the form of a Peregrine falcon.

This falcon landed not ten feet in front of me on the trail. It had a dead pigeon in its clutch, and I could see that it was struggling to get a solid grip on its prey, which was just slightly smaller than the falcon itself. Our eyes met for a moment while the falcon adjusted its grip. It cocked its head, and I could almost hear it whisper to me, “Who is tending to your needs while you’re tending to hers?” Then it whisked its awkward burden to the other side of the creek where it began eating its meal.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what my friend was saying in that moment. I was so stunned by that close encounter that I couldn’t hear a word. All I remember hearing was the soft rustle of feathers on gravel as the falcon adjusted its grip on the pigeon and lifted off to glide gracefully across the creek.

When I was finally able to return my focus to the voice in my ear, I found that she was still venting away–completely oblivious to the fact that I’d been momentarily transported to another dimension through a spiritual encounter with powerful raptor. I didn’t bother telling her about that experience because she wouldn’t have understood the significance of it. I just resumed my walk and let her continue to vent until she arrived at her office and had to put away her phone.

That encounter with the falcon rattled me, and the question it seemed to whisper in my ear nagged at me for a long time. Then, several weeks later (just after I started my new job), I had another unusual encounter with nature. This time it involved two mating Dragonflies that hitched a ride on my vehicle as I was returning to my office one day after lunch.

I was sitting at a stop light when two dragonflies, linked in tandem, landed on the trim of the driver’s side window of my Jeep. If you’ve ever observed dragonflies in nature, you’ve probably noticed that they’re rarely still. So I was stunned to see not one, but two, dragonflies clinging to the felt weather strip around my window. They were so close and so still in that moment that I could see every detail of their delicate wings.

The brown female and her iridescent blue mate seemed to be desperately in need of a respite from their tandem flight. The light turned green, and regrettably, I had to move. I tried to accelerate as gently as possible so as not to disturb them, but as traffic picked up speed, the male lost his grip on the window and the two tumbled off and away from my vehicle. Fortunately, they did so just as I was crossing a bridge over the same creek where I’d encountered the falcon.

Perhaps they knew I was heading that direction, and they merely hitched a ride with me to the water.

As with most of my unusual close encounters with nature, I was again struck with a bit of intuitive wisdom that came to me like a gentle whisper in my ear. This time, I was reminded of my husband and the bond that we share. It’s easy to lose sight of the things right in front of us. During the transition of shutting down my jewelry business and going back to working for someone else, I’d lost sight of him. Of us. I’d forgotten, briefly, that I was never in this alone.

Even though we’d decided together that I should go back to working a regular job with a regular paycheck so we could more quickly achieve certain financial goals that we’d set for ourselves, I’d let myself slide into an unpleasant place where I felt isolated and alone. I’d been struggling with depression and sense of failure and loss after shuttering Door 44, and my new job was… well… let’s just say it’s quite a large step backwards for me in terms of both salary and level of responsibility.

To say I’m underemployed is an understatement. Those two dragonflies reminded me, however, that the only thing that truly matters right now is my marriage. Everything else pales in comparison to the partnership I share with my husband, and my current job (insignificant as it may be) is helping us to achieve our mutual goals.

It was at that point, after my visit from two very wise teachers in the form of mating dragonflies, that I started turning away from external distractions and began to focus more of my time and attention on the two things that truly matter in my life: my husband and our daughter. I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone and deactivated my account for several weeks. I stopped taking phone calls from friends who only wanted to replay and analyze the drama in their own lives, and I started focusing pretty much exclusively on my own family.

It was there, in the blissfully drama-free zone of our living room, that I finally found the peace and stillness I’d been looking for all along. And then I had the third and most recent strange encounter with nature. This time it was with a lone Damselfly while my husband and I were enjoying a day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Mike’s Camera was there that day, and my husband was anxious to try out some new photography equipment. We were at the Amur Tiger’s exhibit while Matt was trying out a new camera lens. The tiger, one of Matt’s favorite animals, was particularly active that morning . We’d already had one wonderful experience with this amazing animal as he came unusually close to us and seemed to acknowledge us with a friendly rub against the fence and satisfied twitch of the tail–the exact same body language our housecat, Rose, uses to welcome us home whenever we’ve been away. But then I’d noticed that a lone Damselfly landed on the fencepost right in front of me while Matt snapped photos of the tiger and dozens of strangers milled around us (you can see Matt’s photos here).

Again, I was enchanted by the unexpected stillness of an insect that is almost perpetually in motion. The Damselfly rested peacefully on that post while I snapped photos of it with my phone. It sat there long enough that Matt noticed it, too, and we both photographed it with our respective cameras–he with his Cannon 550D and me with my LG V-10 phone camera. We joked about how everyone around us was straining to get a glimpse of the tiger, who was now playing hide-and-seek with the gathering crowd while we shared a magical moment with the lovely little Damselfly pictured above.

This summer proved to be a period of transition for me. I’ve come to realize over the past few months that it doesn’t matter what I do with my spare time. Whether I’m making and selling  jewelry or posting payments from insurance companies to patient accounts or overseeing the Accounts Receivable departments for three home health agencies in two different states, as I did at the last job I had before I got married… Those are all just pastimes. What’s really important to me now is whether or not I’m a good wife to my husband and a good mother to our daughter.

Somehow through that brief connection with a startlingly still Damselfly, I managed to find my way back to feeling centered and grounded again. As we transition into Fall, my favorite season, I feel more deeply connected to my family than ever. I’m no longer interested in hearing about the drama in the lives of others; and I no longer devote significant amounts of time to social media.

My focus is completely on my family now. And that’s precisely where it should be.

 

 

 

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Eye of the Hunter

20170128_154424I’ve always been fascinated with arrowheads. I grew up on the high plains of southern Colorado, and as a child I spent countless hours exploring those plains on horseback. Occasionally, I was lucky enough to find a genuine arrowhead–a tiny relic of a forgotten time when those same plains, now subdivided by barbed wire, were dominated by herds of bison that roamed freely and the Native American tribes that depended upon the bison for subsistence.

Genuine arrowheads are very difficult to find these days, but they continue to have a certain mystique in the American West. I’m clearly not the only one who finds them fascinating because modern replica arrowheads can now be found in pretty much every rock shop in the west. That’s precisely where I found the Fancy Jasper arrowhead I chose for this necklace–in a charming little rock shop in Virginia City, NV.

I never know exactly what I’m going to do with some of the pieces I pick up while I’m traveling, but I’ve learned to pay attention to what is now a familiar sort of magnetic pull of certain stones. I can’t help but pick them up, and those are the pieces that I’ll buy. Even when I can’t possibly imagine what I’ll do with it in that moment, I’ve learned that inspiration will inevitably flow. The seemingly random stone that I picked up along the way will eventually let me know what it wants to say. And so it is with this piece, which I’ve named Eye of the Hunter.

Turn on your TV or open an Internet browser these days, and you will almost certainly be convinced that the world is descending into complete chaos. Our country is more deeply divided politically than perhaps at any time in American history. Millions of Americans are marching and chanting and demanding rights they already possess while millions more trudge off to work every day, quietly hoping that they can manage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads for another day or week or month. Those people dare not look further than a month into the future because they’ve learned over the past decade that the rug can be pulled out from under them at any moment.

Given the instability constantly portrayed on the news, it’s easy to believe that things are only going to get worse for us. But if you step outside and look around, you’re likely to find that everything is exactly as it should be. The balance and order we’re all desperately seeking is as close as our neighborhood park or greenbelt.

Growing up in a rural community, I was fortunate to spend the vast majority of my childhood outdoors. I had unfettered access to 20,000 acres of pristine land, which I explored on horseback as often as I possibly could. The countless hours I spent roaming that land, listening to the distinctive sounds of the high plains prairie and surveying wide open spaces as far as my eyes could see, left me with a deep and indelible connection to the natural world.

20170128_154152Whenever things start to feel out of balance in my life, I look to reconnect with nature. And the moment I step onto unpaved ground, I’m reminded again that the connection was never broken. I just believed I had lost it because I was focusing on the chaos instead of the order.

There is a natural order to our world, and no matter how much man claims to be above that order or in control of it, the truth is that we’re as much a piece of it as any rock, tree, or animal. We are intrinsically bound to this planet in much the same way that we are bound to our parents and our children.

The Native American Indians who once hunted these lands upon which my family now lives in a second floor apartment on the western edge of a sprawling Colorado town understood that basic truth. They knew that they were as much a part of their world as the bison that sustained them and the stones from which they honed their weapons. That understanding was central to their very survival, so they never lost sight of the common bond between themselves and the bison. Their focus was always on order rather than chaos.

Today, in a world where our food comes neatly packaged in tidy little boxes and we spend more time staring at screens than gazing out of windows, we’ve lost that focus. We’re so easily distracted by the chaos we see on the Internet and TV, and it’s easy to believe that the chaotic world portrayed on the screens that we’re so addicted to is the real world; but it’s not. The world in which we live is as ordered as it ever was. All we need to do is turn our focus to that order.

Eye of the Hunter is a reminder to turn our focus away from the chaos of politics and back to nature because it is there that we will find our way back to peace and order. What we focus on is what we foster. If you want peace, focus on peaceful things. If you want abundance, focus on those areas where your life is brimming with abundance. We all have some form of abundance in our lives for which we can be grateful. If it’s joy that you seek, focus on the squirrels chasing each other around the tree in your front yard or on the birdsong that wakes you at dawn.

Animals–particularly small woodland creatures–are inherently joyful. It’s no accident that nearly every Disney film includes scenes of a pretty girl singing joyously while surrounded by helpful woodland creatures joining in her song. Nature calls upon us to acknowledge our connection to it. I feel that call daily. Do you? Do you answer it?

20170128_153235All forms of Jasper are considered to be nurturing stones, and we’re all in need of more nurturing these days. It is my hope that this necklace will help at least one lovely woman reconnect with nature so she can restore the balance of strength and softness that is inherent to all women. The world needs more balanced feminine energy, and I can think of no better way to restore that balance than to bring as many women as I can possibly touch back to nature.

Eye of the Hunter consists of a Fancy Jasper replica arrowhead that has been intricately wrapped in handwoven copper wire and embellished with a Red Creek Jasper “eye”. The back of the pendant is finished in a pretty filigree of scrolls, so this piece can also be worn reversed. The pendant, which measures about 3 inches long by 1-1/4 inches wide, is strung on five strands of waxed nylon jewelry cord. Each cord is hand knotted with an array of natural copper and colorful Red Creek Jasper beads. Finished with an adjustable slide knot, this one-of-a-kind necklace can be adjusted from 24-40 inches long. It is currently available for sale exclusively at door44jewelry.com.

 

Collections and Websites and Wholesale, Oh My!

 

 

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Chalice Earrings – New for Spring 2017

Things are about to get real here at Door 44 Jewelry! I have a full year of sales under my belt, and I somehow managed to exceed my wildest expectations for my first year in business. That said, 2016 was a particularly challenging year for my family. It was a year of financial instability and uncertainty for we three Reamys. My husband was out of work twice last year, through no fault of his own. It’s just the nature of his business. Sometimes one contract ends before the next one is lined up, and sometimes it takes longer to line up the next gig than we expect.

 

We were without an income for four of the last thirteen months as a result of two such incidents of poor timing, and that made me realize how vulnerable we are as a single income household. So, what’s a busy mom with an even busier 6th grader to do?

I considered going back to work full time, naturally, but there are a multitude of reasons why that’s a less than ideal solution for our family. What really needs to happen, I decided, is that it’s time to level up my jewelry business to a point where it replaces my former salary as a project manager in the tech sector. Last year when I launched Door 44 Jewelry, that felt like a pipe dream. Today it feels totally doable, and I’m going for it.

I kicked off this year by participating in the 2017 Jewelry Brand Makeover Bootcamp hosted by Flourish & Thrive Academy, and what an eye-opener that was. I learned more about growing a jewelry business in that 10-day Bootcamp than I learned in an entire year of promoting my Etsy shop. The biggest revelation for me, though, is how much I’ve yet to learn. So, I’ll be dedicating the next eight weeks to a more in-depth Flourish & Thrive Academy course called Laying the Foundation.

I’ve always suspected that I would ultimately end up working for myself someday. It’s not that I don’t play well with others. I do, when I’m on the right team. It’s finding that team that’s been a constant source of struggle for me in the corporate world. Too few companies are willing to do the right things for the right reasons. Corporate America is plagued with incompetent and unethical management, and the situation has only gotten worse since I joined the workforce as a young woman. I made a lot of money for some of my former employers through the years, but for all that hard work, I have little to show for it. I was never the prime beneficiary of my own effort, but that’s about to change.

That 10-day Jewelry Brand Makeover Bootcamp showed me that it is completely within my own power to turn my love of jewelry into a lucrative business that will benefit my family in ways I’d only dreamed of until now. It’s high time that my family and I become the direct beneficiaries of my hard work.

You can expect to see a lot of changes behind Door 44 soon. You may have already noticed some changes, but there is so much more to come. I see now how I can leverage my background in manufacturing and production management to produce more jewelry more efficiently so I can sell wholesale to my favorite boutiques and galleries around the country–maybe even around the globe! I see how I can leverage my project management

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Twig Earrings with Picasso Czech Glass – New for Spring 2017

experience and my accounting education to set up scalable and sustainable business systems that will make my business run like a finely tuned machine. I see how I can tap into my web development and copy writing experience to build an engaging web presence for my jewelry, and I can’t wait to showcase the new collections I’m currently developing on the new website I’ll be building in February as I work through the Laying the Foundation course.

 

2017 is the year that I stop dreaming and start making those dreams my reality. I hope you’ll stay along for the ride because it’s going to be a lot of fun. A lot of work, yes, but it’s the kind of work that I can fully get behind because, for the first time in my working life, I’m totally free to do it my way.

Why should the shareholders of some nameless, faceless corporation be the ones to benefit from your blood, sweat, and tears? Life is much too short for that nonsense. Do something you love, and do it well so you’re the one who reaps those rewards.

 

 

Fly With Me

fly-with-meWhen it comes to jewelry, there are two kinds of people. There are those who see jewelry strictly as fashion accessories, and then there are those who see jewelry as deeply personal pieces of personal expression. I find that most of my customers tend to fall into the latter group, which is extremely fortunate for me because I learn so much from their stories and from working with them to create something that is uniquely their own.

Every now and then, I get a custom request that reminds me that I am ultimately in the business of helping people, and “Fly With Me” began with one such request. On December 3rd, I received an inquiry for a custom piece from a guy who is clearly head-over-heels in love with his girlfriend. He explained that his girlfriend lost her horse suddenly eight months ago, and she’s been grieving ever since.

I’ve had a life-long love affair with horses myself, and I’ve had some mystical experiences with them through the years. So, I completely understand the depth of the bonds that form between horses and the women who love them. The story broke my heart, but at first I declined the request because I’m unfamiliar with horsehair as an art medium. I referred the customer to a company that specializes in horse hair jewelry, but sadly, the lock of hair his girlfriend managed to keep from her horse was too short for that company to use. They’d already been turned away from there. At that point, I realized that I needed to take this commission, if for no other reason than to give a grieving young woman some peace.

Once I agreed to the commission, the design came together almost effortlessly. “Fly With Me” is one of those rare pieces that allowed me to get into that elusive flow that every artist lives for. Anyone who has ever galloped freely across an open field on the back of a beloved horse knows very well the sensation of flying just above the ground, and the horses we’ve loved and lost remain forever in our hearts. They’re angels with hooves. Wings seemed like the perfect theme for this piece, and I love the way the wings turned out. They’re subtle, and they frame the focal piece—a tassel, which is made with a lock of a beloved horse’s mane—perfectly.

Since this is the first time I’ve ever worked with horsehair, making the tassel was a bit nerve-wracking. The client provided precious little hair, so there was absolutely no room for error. Once I finally worked up the courage to give it a go, however, even that part of the process flowed effortlessly. “Fly With Me” is just one of those pieces that was meant to be, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it!

“Fly With Me” consists of .999 fine silver wings which frame a horsehair tassel capped in silver plated pewter and sterling silver wire. The pendant, which is approximately two inches wide by three inches long, is suspended from a patterned sterling silver chain. The chain is accented with pretty little gray and aqua blue Amazonite beads and finished with a hand forged sterling silver clasp.

Amazonite is a healing stone that is believed to help soothe emotional trauma, and I can think of few things more emotionally traumatic than suddenly losing a beloved horse. They’re such powerful creatures, yet their lives are startlingly fragile. That, of course, makes them all the more precious to those of us who know and love them.

If you’d like a special horse remembrance necklace of your own, please email your request. I plan to make this design, along with one or two other concepts currently in the works, available in my shop in 2017 as made-to-order semi-custom designs.

 

Six Weeks of Gratitude: Week Six

November is, for many of us I think, a time to be thankful. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that I naturally tend to retreat inward around the winter holidays. I don’t retreat from the outside world so much because I want to escape, but more because I feel a strong internal pull toward introspection.
 
This is the time of year that I tend to take stock of my life. I review the previous ten months and consider whether I am pleased with the direction I am going, or if perhaps I need to adjust my course a bit. Or maybe a lot, as has often been the case in previous years.
 
This year as November rolled around and I felt that familiar pull to examine my life, I was pleased to discover that all is right in my world. It’s a wonderful thing to internally examine your life and find that everything is exactly as it should be.
 
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that my life is perfect. It’s far from perfection, as a matter of fact. It’s just that I feel for once that I am right where I need to be and that no major course corrections are necessary to get me back on the right track.
 
As I’m sure you can imagine, Door 44 Jewelry is a very big part of my life. Launching a business and taking the leap into self-employment is daunting, to say the least, but this has been an amazing year. So much so, that I wanted to express my gratitude to the many people—friends, family, fans, and customers—who helped make 2016 such a remarkable first year for me.
 
I am so grateful for the support of every person who has contributed to what has been a very successful first year in business, and there have been a lot of people involved. I’ve sold over 100 pieces of jewelry to customers all over the US, and just today I shipped my first international order. One of my wildly popular Trumpet Vine pendants, pictured below, is on its way to France as I type.
 
 
I realize that I can’t do what I do without the customers who buy what I create, so I decided to give away six pieces of jewelry over a period of six weeks to show my customers how much I appreciate them.
 
I’ve already shipped five of those pieces—the fifth one, a gorgeous Lepidolite Egyptian Moon pendant pictured below, went out today along with the order I shipped to France. So, I only have one piece left to gift to a member of the Door 44 community.
 
 
I’ll be giving a limited-edition silver and blue Winter Icicle pendant to one lucky winner on Saturday, December 17th. If you’d like to have your name thrown in the hat from which my husband will blindly pull one name next Saturday, just ‘like’ and share this Facebook post.
 
Follow Door 44 Jewelry while you’re there for exclusive savings and the latest news about what’s happening on my workbench. And if I haven’t already said it to you before, welcome to Door 44 Jewelry and thank you for shopping. Please come back again!
 
Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Four Blue Moons

One of the things I enjoy most about the work I do is that I get to meet some wonderful people. Since I opened Door 44 Jewelry for business exactly ten months ago today, I’ve corresponded with dozens of customers from all corners of the country (I’m still looking forward to my first international order), and I’ve grown to think of many of those customers as good friends.
 
Two of my new friends are a sweet young couple from California. I first met them when they purchased one of my all-time favorite pieces, Blue Moon Rising. They also happen to have a little girl who may very well be the most adorable toddler on the planet. She was about eighteen months old at the time her daddy started wearing his new choker, and she was thoroughly fascinated with it.
 
 
As toddlers are prone to do, she got a little excited one day and tugged a little too hard on Daddy’s choker, so it came back to me for repair. I’m completely smitten with this beautiful little girl, so I decided she needed a Baby Moon necklace of her own, which I included as a surprise for her when I returned Daddy’s repaired choker.
 
 
At that point, we all agreed that Mommy needed a coordinating necklace, too. So, along came Mother Moon.
 
 
Since baby #2 is expected arrive within a month, I just had to add a second Baby Moon necklace in that final shipment last week, bringing the L. Family collection to four Blue Moons.
 
 
It’s customers like these who’ve made me fall in love with making jewelry all over again. These are the people who give meaning to my work. I’ve done a lot of jobs through the years. Some of them paid well. Some of them were fun while others were challenging. All of them were educational, but this is the first job I’ve ever had that feeds my soul. Thank you for that, L. Family. Thank you to all my customers–my Door 44 family!

Laptops & Tablets & Smartphones, Oh My!

I spent nine years of my former life as a corporate drone working for a telecom company in Alaska. During that period, the company went on to become one of the first fully integrated telecom service providers in the country. Professionally, those were some of the best years of my career. Personally? Not so much.

I was wired to the hilt. Even back then when wireless technology was relatively new and still extremely limited in rural Alaska, I was virtually accessible to my employer around the clock. I worked from home. I worked from the office. I traveled to some of the most remote regions of the state, and I was always tethered to my job by technology.

To say my personal life suffered would be to imply that I actually had a personal life. I didn’t. I was married to my job, and not necessarily unhappily so. Not for the first seven or eight years, anyway; but as unbalanced marriages inevitably do, mine eventually crumbled. I was struck with the harsh realization on a redeye flight home to Alaska after visiting family in Colorado that, for someone so thoroughly connected through technology, I was woefully disconnected from the things that actually matter in life: friends, family, nature–the kinds of relationships that actually feed a spirit rather than isolate the spirit with the illusion of connectedness while slowly starving it to death.

That startling realization marked the beginning of the end of my marriage to my employer. I quit my job a few months later, and I spent most of the following year getting reacquainted with myself. I disconnected all but the most essential communication services, and I refocused all of my attention on things that actually mattered, like my hopes, dreams, and creative impulses. I also moved back to Colorado that year, and thank goodness I did because I’d have never met and married my husband had I not cut those cords.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my return to Colorado. Ten years of being mostly unplugged from technology, and now I find myself being steadily reeled back into that tangled web. I suppose that’s a hazard of starting an online business–or any business, for that matter. This time, though, I’m determined to maintain a much healthier work/life balance because this time I do have a personal life. And a pretty wonderful one at that.

 

 

You’ll Know Your Work is Getting Noticed When…

…the Internet trolls start hating on you. It’s one of those things you always half expect to happen as a working artist (or just as a healthy, functioning human being who interacts with the outside world, I suppose), but it’s no less shocking or upsetting when it finally does happen.

My initiation to the sad, twisted world of unhappy Etsy trolls happened today. Mere minutes after receiving a new order and while still riding the high I get when I’m preparing a shipment for a new customer, I opened my email to find this:

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Initially, I intended to show my sweet little troll’s user name to properly call her out as the shameful coward that she is, but a quick Bing search suggested that, although it’s likely this handle is used by one individual all over social media, it’s equally possible that there is more than one person going by that name. I don’t want to inadvertently disparage someone by that same name who does not run around the Internet verbally attacking people behind the guise of a nameless, faceless Etsy user profile. So, I’ll just refer to this individual as My Pet Troll or MPT from now on.

I replied immediately to MPT and invited her (I presume she’s female, based on her user name) to a very open and honest discussion about which pieces in my shop she feels are stolen. Needless to say, the response to my invitation has been deafening silence thus far. I’ll let you know if she does accept my invitation to hash things out.

Here’s the thing: an unfortunate reality of being a working artist and throwing your work out there for all the world to see is that people are going to knock off your designs. That’s just the nature of art as a business. If I had a dime for every one of my designs that I’ve seen pinned to someone’s “Projects to Try” board on Pinterest, I’d make way more money than I’ve made from sales of those same designs through my Etsy shop. The numbers aren’t even in the same ballpark, as a matter of fact. One of my most popular items on Pinterest, my Trumpet Vine Earrings (pictured below), has been pinned nearly 1000 times through multiple image sources to inspiration boards all over Pinterest. I’ve yet to sell the first pair of those earrings, which is a shame because they are truly lovely. Photos simply don’t do them justice, but I digress.

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Am I under any illusion that people aren’t already knocking off this lovely earring design? Nope!

Do I care? Honestly… a little, but not as much as you might think. For one thing, I know perfectly well that I’ve drawn inspiration from other wireworkers while honing my own wire work skills over the past several years. I still draw inspiration from other artists, to some degree, though the field of artists who inspire me narrows as quickly as my own design skills and confidence improve. I don’t believe I’ve ever overtly stolen another artist’s designs, but I’d be lying if I said I never got ideas from other people’s work. I don’t live in a bubble. I see all the same things on Pinterest as everyone else who shares my interest in wire jewelry, and with a nearly photographic memory for things that catch my eye, it’s virtually impossible to erase anything I’ve ever seen from my mind.

One of the ways I strive to stay true to my own creativity is that I don’t keep any visual references within eyesight while I work. My laptop is not even in the same room while I am designing, and I have to get out of my chair and walk clear across the room to reach my bookshelves if I need to refer to a book or magazine article for technical reference. The only time I keep a visual reference in front of me is if I am consciously recreating a project from a purchased tutorial or book, and as of last year, I’ve stopped purchasing books or tutorials for wire wrapped jewelry, which is my primary discipline. I reserve browsing Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for times when I am away from my workbench and out of work mode, and then I consciously stay off the Internet and away from photographic images of jewelry when I sit down to work.

I’ve also been signing up for a few classes in other jewelry making disciplines, such as bead embroidery and micro macramé, for two reasons: First I feel it’s important to give myself a mental and physical break from wire wrapping now and then. Secondly, I’m interested in further setting my work apart from other wire artists by integrating other techniques and disciplines that interest me.

If you’ve been paying attention to the progression of my work, you’ve probably noticed that I’m starting to do a lot of multi-media pieces, like this Starfish Necklace, which I recently completed in response to a design challenge proposed by micro macramé artist extraordinaire, Sherri Stokey of Knot Just Macramé on the wonderful blog to which Sherri contributes, Love My Art Jewelry:

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My system for maintaining design integrity isn’t perfect. I don’t doubt that the work of certain artists I admire clearly influences my own work, and I openly address that fact in my product descriptions as well as in my Etsy profile. Short of properly crediting those artists when I do create something designed or inspired by them and continually policing the visuals available to me while I am in design mode, I don’t know what else I can do to ensure that my designs are purely and clearly my own.

Several hours after reaching out to her, I’m still waiting for MPT to tell me which of my designs she believes have been stolen from another artist, but I won’t be surprised if I never hear from her again. Not directly, anyway. If she stays true to the tried and true Internet troll formula, she may very well start anonymously bashing my work on every social media platform where I have a presence. And my response will remain the same. I’ll invite her to engage with me in a civil discussion about my work so we can get to the bottom of this “creative theft” nonsense.

Thankfully, I recently had a very different conversation with a happy repeat customer who sincerely admires my work. Had I not already been actively engaging in a discussion about the evolution of personal design style, my response to MPT might have been far less calm and rational, so I owe this wonderful customer a huge debt of gratitude for that as well as for her continued encouragement and support.

According to this lovely lady, who makes no effort at all to hide her true identity in her own Etsy profile by the way, my work has a certain recognizable style that she feels she could identify even if not clearly credited to me. That, of course, is the highest compliment any artist can ever hope to receive. That unique individual style is what every working artist strives to achieve because no one with even a modicum of integrity wants to be accused of creative theft.

Life is hard enough without hating on random strangers we encounter on the Internet, isn’t it? One of the things I told my lovely customer, who is also a jewelry maker, is that there’s more than enough room at the table for all of us because we all have something unique and special to offer the world. I hope to be the sort of artist who encourages up and coming artists to spread their wings and fly.

I’m on the fence as to whether or not I’ll start offering any of my designs for sale as tutorials or start formally teaching classes. Part of the challenge of that for me is that I’m left handed, so writing tutorials and taking photos that will make sense to everyone may be tricky. That said, I trust that those who admire my work will treat my designs as respectfully as they’d like me to treat their own designs. If we all do that, we’ll all thrive. Believe it or not, there are enough potential customers and admirers out there for all of us.

A message for MPT, on the offhand chance she’s reading this: There’s no reason to be so mean and spiteful. If you feel strongly that someone is stealing another artist’s work, it’s not unreasonable to confront her about it, but do it respectfully and don’t hide behind an anonymous user profile. Any artist who is worth her salt will welcome a respectful dialog about the origins of her designs, just as I have.

Life is short, people–much too short for petty nonsense from nameless, faceless trolls. Do what you love, do it with integrity, and never let the haters bring you down.

 

Jeanne’s Jewelry

Sometimes you just know. It’s the perfect fit. The perfect color. You’ve finally met the right guy (after dating far too many of the wrong guys for more years than you care to admit). Whatever it is, the knowledge that it’s right rings through me like a bell–it’s an unmistakable sensation of vibration that I feel in my gut.

This sort of sensation doesn’t happen often when it comes to jewelry, but it did happen with this particular piece. By the time I made this necklace, I’d known my best friend Jenn for a few years, and I’d had the good fortune to meet her wonderful parents, Jim and Jeanne Snyder, a few times. I never got to know the Snyders as well as I’d have liked, but I always enjoyed spending time with them when they came to visit their daughter and grandson in Colorado.

303347_3671647671495_1559578393_nWhen I finished this particular necklace, I knew immediately that Jeanne was its rightful owner. That unmistakable hum rang through my body and Jeanne’s name popped into my head. She’d wanted me to make something for her for a while by this point, but I hadn’t been able to come up with anything that I felt suited her. When I started making this necklace, I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind. The moment it was finished, though, it basically told me it was for Jeanne. It’s funny how intuition works. It’s impossible to explain, and it always sort of surprises me when I get such strong intuitive kicks in the gut, but I’ve learned to simply accept them as the divine guidance they’ll inevitably reveal themselves to be in hindsight at some point down the road.

In addition to being my best friend, Jenn is also my muse when it comes to jewelry design. We have similar styles and interests, which certainly helps, but it’s more than that. There’s just something about her that inspires me to create some pretty fabulous designs. Three of my all-time favorite pieces of jewelry happen to be pieces I made for her. It’s also through jewelry that I formed an important connection with Jenn’s mom. Jeanne always admired my jewelry and encouraged me to sell my work. As she had a strong design background, I appreciated her support and encouragement more than she’d ever know.

Sadly, Jeanne passed away last year, so I never got the chance to properly thank her for encouraging me to pursue jewelry making full time. When I finally decided to get off the fence and open Door 44 Jewelry a couple of months ago, however, I did so with a strong sense that Jeanne would approve. It may be too late to personally thank Jeanne Snyder for her support and encouragement where my craft is concerned, but it’s never too late to honor our guiding angels.

I never made this design again after I made Jeanne’s necklace because I felt so strongly that it was her design. In talking with Jenn, though, I realized that Jeanne would want me to share her design. And then it happened again–that intuitive kick in the gut–I knew immediately how I could share Jeanne’s design and honor her memory in a meaningful way: Jeanne’s Jewelry!

I’ve created a special section at Door 44 Jewelry called Jeanne’s Jewelry. This section will be regularly stocked with pieces based on Jeanne’s original necklace design along with a selection of other pieces of my work that I know Jeanne would have loved. 25% of the purchase price of all Jeanne’s jewelry will be donated to her favorite charity: the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Ann Arbor. All donations will be made in loving memory of Dr. James C. Snyder and Jeanne Snyder, beloved parents, grandparents, friends, and life-long patrons of the arts.

Ask Not What My Child Can Do For You…

My daughter is a talented cellist. I knew from the moment she first held a bow that she’d found her instrument. She started playing two years ago, but to hear her play, you’d think she’s been studying music for much, much longer. She’s talented, yes. More importantly, she’s passionately committed to mastering her instrument. She practices for at least an hour every day after school, and she works with her private teacher every Saturday. I occasionally have to remind her to clean the cat’s litter box, but I never have to remind her to practice her cello.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’re probably aware that I am new to parenting. I’ve been a stepmom for about three years, and I’ve only been a full-time mom for a little over a year and a half. Although it’s been quite a challenge to get a handle on being a parent, one major advantage I think I have is that I’ve not been completely desensitized to the dysfunction of our public education system. Most parents I know are resigned to the fact that their children aren’t getting a solid education. Those who are fully engaged in parenting try to fill in the gaps where they can, but so many more parents just send their kids off to school and hope for the best.

My husband and I have taken a more proactive approach to our daughter’s education. We’ve gone so far as to relocate to another city just to get her into a particular school that we feel will give her the best opportunity to achieve her full potential. It’s a charter school with a classical approach to education and a rigorous curriculum. Unlike our current public school system where the bar is set so low that no child can possibly be left behind, the standards at our daughter’s new school are set so high that even the best and brightest will have to stretch to hit the mark.

I may be new to parenting, but I am certainly not new to teaching or learning. I’ve trained dogs and people for decades. I’m also a self-taught jewelry artisan and a life-long learner. It’s been my observation that, whether you set the bar high or set it low, any student (quadruped or biped) will almost always hit the mark. So, why not set the bar high?

That said, I’ll get back to my original point about my daughter’s musical ability. We had an unusual experience at her recent solo and ensemble competition, and it’s been bothering me for weeks. This was her second solo and ensemble competition, and (just as we expected) she did extremely well. She received a superior rating for her solo. Last year she also achieved a superior score for her first solo, and we were able to collect her blue medal on site after her score was posted.

Being in a different school district this year, we weren’t sure how or where she would get her medal as there were no vendors present at the competition. So, we stopped one of the district orchestra conductors in the hallway and asked him how our daughter could get her medal. He explained that the district buys the blue medals for those students who received superior scores, and that parents could purchase medals online from the vendor for lower scores. I mentioned that our daughter achieved a superior score, and then I watched the man transform, right before my eyes, from helpful educator to hard-core recruiter. He immediately started grilling my daughter with questions about where she planned to go to high school, and then he pitched his high school to us.

I could sense his frustration when I informed him that our daughter would be transferring to a charter school next year, and as that she would be completing her secondary education there (the charter school serves students from sixth through twelfth grade). I get it. Public school teachers hate seeing their best and brightest transfer out of the public education system into charter schools and private schools.

It must be incredibly disheartening for those teachers who love to teach to lose the few students in their classrooms who love to learn. But as a parent, my only concern is for my daughter’s best interests. She’s a straight-A student at her current school. She’s in advanced classes across the board, yet she’s not being challenged academically. Frankly, the bar at her current public middle school isn’t set high enough to stretch our daughter’s mind or her imagination. She readily admits that she’s not challenged, and this is where I think the public education system is truly failing our children. The commitment to leaving no child behind is admirable and well-intentioned, I’m sure, but it comes at the expense of smart kids like my daughter.

The talents and intellects of our best and brightest aren’t being challenged in public schools because of a bizarre national obsession with leveling the playing field. As parents with an obligation to prepare our daughter to face the real world, where the playing field is most certainly not level, we’ve opted to raise the bar considerably when it comes to her education. I’d much rather see her struggle to get Bs and Cs in calculus and Socratic seminars than watch her get straight As in her current school’s curriculum with little to no effort.

My daughter already has a strong work ethic. I see it every day in her commitment to cello practice. Her work ethic alone will take her far in life, but imagine how much further she can go with a strong work ethic and a great education. Our public education system is irretrievably broken, and I understand that that’s not the fault of the teachers alone. I’m weary, though, of seeing teachers greedily eyeing my daughter as if she’s some sort of solution to the deficiencies in their classrooms. The same education system that is failing to challenge my daughter desperately wants her to remain in that system–not so she can be educated, but so she can elevate test scores and win awards and scholarships that will reflect positively on the school.

Again, I get it. But my job as a parent is to make sure my daughter is adequately prepared for a future that, frankly, is looking pretty bleak given the current political state of this country. I’m not at all interested in boosting the ego of a high school orchestra conductor by allowing him to lay claim to her musical talent and prodigious ability. Nor am I interested in boosting the test scores of a public school by allowing my daughter to languish in an unstimulating environment for the next six years.

Education is not supposed to be about what our kids can do for the system. It’s about what the system can do for our kids. My daughter’s new school understands the difference, and it’s committed to doing precisely what public schools have failed to do: educate the best and brightest by providing a challenging environment and maintaining high academic standards.