Monthly Archives: August 2010

Tool Time Tuesday – Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I know today is Monday, but since I actually feel good right now and there is no guarantee that I will tomorrow, I thought I would just get this done.  So it is a bit early. Better early than never…. like the past few weeks eh?

A few months ago I presented a topic to the Ohio Jewelry and Metal Arts Guild . It went over very well and the ideas and concepts are some that I have been thinking about sharing here on my blog. Since I haven’t been in the studio in ages and at the rate things are going, it looks like it will be a little while longer, this seemed the perfect time to share.

Most of you know, even though you don’t believe me, that I am VERY new to the artistic field, specifically jewelry. I took my very first jewelry class just 5 short years ago. I really didn’t do anything with the skills I learned until about 3 1/2 years ago. I have been very fortunate to have found a hidden talent. Because it is new, I constantly struggle with that “voice” in my head that belittles my work, makes me feel inferior (especially when looking upon the creations of my colleagues,) and basically tells me that I am not good enough. That little voice really holds me back, because all too often, I listen to it. So at some point you have to say, ENOUGH. But how do you do that?

Sometimes, it isn’t the little voice that gets us. Sometimes is just a comfort zone that we fall into. Sometimes, we have a hard time taking the next step. I am pretty sure that most of my colleagues started out tinkering and found that they too, had a talent for this line of work. How did they take it from a hobby, or passive art outlet to a business?

Getting outside of our comfort zone is one of the hardest things you can do. Before I made jewelry, I wore very small “quiet” pieces. Anything as big as a dime would be considered HUGE. Earrings that were more than an inch long wouldn’t be found on my body. A bracelet more than just a simple chain would never grace my wrist and the largest stone I had ever worn was when my hubby splurged and bought me a 1/2 carat diamond for my wedding ring. As I began making jewelry, I quickly became aware that if I ever wanted anyone to see what I was making, I had probably better start wearing it myself. At first, it was very uncomfortable to have something on me that drew in attention. I wasn’t comfortable with it at all. But little by little it became more comfortable. My comfort zone had expended.

That is just a very simple example. These concepts can be applied to any area of your life. Whether you are getting bored with a type of work, you want to move to the next level in your skills, or even take the step to make a business more successful, hopefully you will find some of the following information helpful.

Take a workshop
At first, I “taught myself ” by reading blogs, books, and asking questions on forums. Then I began to experiment. My skills grew quickly, but soon, I found that I had taken myself as far as I could. It was time to take a workshop or class.
Even if you are proficient in a particular medium, you will be amazed at what you can learn by taking  a workshop with a “master” in that particular medium.

Get rid of your best work
Sell it, Gift it, Donate it, but don’t let it hang out in your studio or jewelry box. This will give you some incentive to make another “best” piece to replace the one that is no longer in your collection.

Don’t show your bad or mediocre work.
Did you know that Ansel Adams would routinely burn prints and negatives that he felt weren’t his “best” work? He would do it so that people only saw his best work. That is why his work is so valuable. Nobody knew he wasn’t ALWAYS brilliant.

Commit to making something everyday
This doesn’t mean you have to make a finished piece every day, just SOMETHING. It could be a sketch, a prototype, a piece of junk, but do something to keep your juices flowing. Sometimes it is the best thing to get you out of a non-creative funk.

Have your work critiqued – NOT BY FAMILY OR FRIENDS!
*Did I just write that? GASP!  If you want a really truly honest opinion get a critique from someone that will tell you what they really think. It is really hard to do this. You also have to take this with a grain of salt as everyone has their tastes. So if someone says that the piece “just doesn’t speak to them,” ask them why. Sometimes I have a piece that just isn’t flowing right and I am not sure why, but they can put into words what they think is “off.” Can they help you with technical aspects of your piece? Can they help you follow a creative flow that has hit a bump in the road? Can they help you with ideas with your design? There area  number of areas where critiques are valuable.

Connect with your Passion
This can sometimes be easy and other times hard. I find it so fun and interesting how some of my colleagues have combined their love of food with jewelry. They will name their pieces after their favorite dishes. Some will write fictional short stories about the piece. Some will make their jewelry a piece of art that can be displayed on the wall when not being worn. There are a number of ways to connect with your passions, but how you do it is up to you and a personal journey.

Stand out from the crowd – FIND YOUR VOICE
This can be one of the most difficult things to do in an art where there are so many people working in the same mediums. As you are first learning, your work will tend to emulate those that inspire you the most. That is good while you are learning the technical skills necessary. As you become more precise in your work, add your touch and make the piece yours!

Work in a new medium
When you find that your creative juices are weaning, try something completely different. If you are a wire worker, pull out some polymer clay, try fold forming something or perhaps work with alternative materials such as plastic or hardware pieces.

Take a trip with someone “better”” than you
Go on a shop hop, museum or trade show with someone that has more experience or a better technical aptitude than you. Try to see the show or trip through their eyes. What inspires them, how do they think, what piques their interest?

Have a “work day” with a friend.
When I was getting ready for an open house last year one of my friends came over to help me make “stocking stuffer earrings.” She came up with all sorts of ideas that I would have never thought of. She just threw them all together and it was amazing to see how her mind worked with the materials that I have sitting in my studio. Talk about inspiring.

This next little bit I found on another website, but for the life of me I can’t find where. So if it came from you, thank you! There are five things to identify to really help you be successful in stepping out of that comfort zone.

  1. Desire
    • You need to have a deep need or desire to change and grow. Without it where will you find your motivation?
  2. Tangible
    • Have a real world, concrete reason for doing this. For instance;
      • Perhaps you just want your work to have a more finished quality
      • You want to be able to sell your work
      • You want to submit to a magazine
  3. Accountability
    • Tell someone else, or involve someone else.
      • This blog and the Tool Time Tuesday feature is a prime example of this. I needed to have a way to make myself get into my studio, learn about and use my tools. I also wanted to have something that would make me post on my blog regularly.
      • The comments that people leave and tell me that they read the posts and look forward to them make me aware the people are actually reading and waiting for me. There is a little fire there that keeps me motivated. What is your motivation for staying on task and finishing the project on hand?
  4. Preparation
    • Plan ahead, decide what you need to make it easier, get organized.
      • Make a list of what you want to accomplish. Figure out what you need to make it happen and gather your items then get to work.
  5. Reward
    • In addition to the satisfaction from the accomplishment, give yourself a small reward and celebrate.
      • A good reward for me is a new tool. If I accomplish such and such, then I get such and such tool. I usually make it a good one too.
      • Rewards are a HUGE motivator. Find one that makes your heart flutter and get to work.

In preparing my presentation I came across a site about financial investments. There author was talking about a book he had just read where the author of the book compared making investments to being a zebra in a herd.

Zebras hang out in groups or herds. When they feed, some of them are on the inside of the pack, while some must be on the outside. Those on the inside are low risk takers and are generally more “safe.” They also tend to be more weak and not as well nourished as the food they have available to them has been stepped on by the others and they also have to compete a little more to get to it as there are so many others inside the safety zone.

Those that are on the outside are the risk takers. They have the greatest chance of being attacked by other predators, but they are the stronger of the herd. They have the the freshest and most variety of the food available.

If you really want to step outside of your comfort zone: BE THE ZEBRA ON THE OUTSIDE.

If you want to grow and have a more exciting future, you MUST do SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Take a chance and step outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be a huge step. Baby steps will get you there too, but take the step.

With that said, I am going to go back to my comfort zone and relax.  I Love my comfy couch.

Starting to Feel Human

Well, I am now into the second trimester and sporting a nice belly too. Thank you so much for the continued well wishes and prayers. So far our little bean is hanging in there. I had an appointment last week with an ultrasound and our little baby wouldn’t hold still at all. It was so much fun to watch the baby jump around and clap its hands. We got a picture of the baby looking right at us, poor little thing looks way beyond evil in that particular shot. The girls are getting more and more excited about having a new baby. I am beginning to warm up to the idea again as well. I am seriously missing my torch though. However I did pull it out for a really quick project the other day. I will post photos below.

One of my local friends here in the Akron area did the 3-day breast cancer walk in Cleveland last weekend. She asked me to make her a necklace with the 3-day logo. So, this piece I made is completely unauthorized, but it turned out great! It was the first time I had even stepped foot into my studio in over a month. It was LOVELY to pull out my hammer and 12 gauge sterling silver wire and pound away. I paired the necklace with some pretty fresh water pearls and various sizes of pink rose quartz. I am so happy to say that she loved it. I am also told she wore it for the walk and others loved it too. Compliments just don’t get any better than that.


I taught a class this last week in wire wrapped pendants. I love teaching classes and it was so fun to get back into it again. I can’t wait to feel better and teach even more. I have a handful of classes scheduled for this month, I just need to get my website updated with the classes. Hopefully I can get that done by tomorrow. Every time I have come down to be on my computer, I just don’t feel well enough to spend the kind of time to get it all posted. In this past wire wrapping class I actually had some very young students. Three of them were ages 9, 10 and 11. They were amazing. My 10-year-old made the copper piece. I will bet you will never be able to pick the piece I made.


Today, my oldest went to a birthday party for another girl her age. We decided to make her a special one-of-a-kind custom piece. So last night we made the following necklace. Today Riley also made matching bracelets for the two girls. It was fun to watch her put them all together. I don’t have pictures of the bracelets though. Riley helped with the stamping on the necklace.


I am looking forward to getting back to my studio and blogging a bit more. I am hoping to have another etching tutorial here pretty quickly. I just have to get a hold of a particular chemical so I can try a few things out and then I hope to have something posted about that soon. In the mean time, I will be putting up another studio/artist feature in the next day or two.