Are you excellent at something? Anything? Hard question to answer about oneself as it is rather subjective, but probably most of us have some idea. To become excellent at something most of us must have spent about 10 years or 10,000 hours doing it. And it can’t be just mindless repetition, it needs to be practice ‘in the zone’ when you are really engaged in the activity. (read: ‘The Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle)
To spend 10,000 hours doing anything would indicate you probably really enjoy, perhaps are even passionate about, that activity. Until recently I felt that eating was possibly the only passionate thing I had done for long enough to be excellent.
And then… I had the good fortune to awake from my 7,834th hour (estimate!) of something to find that, if not excellent, I’m getting pretty good at it. Nearly 20 years ago I got my first ‘tickle’ to make jewellery. I don’t know exactly why, but as far back as I can remember I have loved making things out of other things… recycling, really. When I was a teen I loved collage and still do. I have made dozens of different collages over the years, ranging from tile mosaics to computer collage, as well as traditional paper and found objects. Perhaps it is the process of taking something and making it into something else that I enjoy. Maybe it is that I get to completely make up my own rules, and thereby, my own choices in colour, shape, medium and style. As well, I have always loved working on things that require dexterity.
As with most things, in the beginning I knew nothing about jewellery making. Nor did I live somewhere easy to find lessons, the middle of Outback, Australia. But my passion was consistent. For a couple of years I played, learned and experimented in whatever spare time I could find. I read books (this was before online demonstration was easily accessible), and got tips from a few people, as well as observed at every opportunity.
As with most creative people I would take a break from jewellery and explore other expressive outlets. But every couple of years I would come back to jewellery making. When this happened, it was as if my brain had been working and learning the craft, even while I was doing other things. Each time I got a little better, and practiced with new materials and styles.
Eventually, I tried a silver smithing course. Not for me. I made costume jewellery for a small boutique, which honed my skills. As I sold things over the years, I poured the small profits back into better quality materials and tools. Fast forward to 18 months ago… I wanted to make earrings. I mean I CRAVED making earrings. Perhaps it was my own continuing search for the perfect earrings that inspired me. Spreading the materials out on the dining table, I created. Something had happened to my skills, the colour and shape combinations, and the finish were suddenly much better. Each pair was like a little work of art to me. At the end of 27 pair of earrings and a few necklaces, I put it all away again.
Every now and then someone would ask me if I was still making jewellery. “Yes”, I would answer, “but I’m not selling them, I just make them.” Strange looks were the reactions! I didn’t know what to do with them. Nothing felt quite right. I had learned from passed experience that sitting at the markets took a large time and energy commitment that diminished the time I had to create. I had also learned that selling things online took an equally large time commitment by the time one took the orders and packaged and posted the pieces. (A friend suggested I put them in a cupboard as a legacy to my daughter. She would not be nearly as amused as the person who made the suggestion!!)
And then, as the Universe would have it, a good friend happened to mention to a local gallery what nice jewellery her friend was making. The gallery manager’s ears perked up and she said she was looking for a local artist’s jewellery for Christmas sales. Well, you know the Universe never gets these things wrong. ‘Luck’ is preparation meeting opportunity, but the synchronicity of it all intrigues me.
In the first 6 weeks over 40 pieces sold. I couldn’t keep up the pace so we increased the prices, and still, they sell. They may not be excellent, but the people have spoken. I love making each and every piece. Come to think of it, in addition to the thousands of hours of practice, the love and intention put into each piece is probably just as important.