While I realize that nothing much really changes from one day to another, just because we move into a new year, I have always enjoyed revisiting the previous 12 months. Living day to day, it may not be apparent how many changes have actually taken place, but I find looking back on an entire year is enlightening.
1.If you fail to plan you plan to fail.
My new mantra.
There comes a time when “winging it” just won’t do. A casual, fly by the seat of your pants mindset, will certainly move you along, but probably not as far as you might go with a more concrete plan at hand.
Taking the time to actually put pen to paper, old school, and writing down what it is you truly aspire to do is a simple first step anyone can accomplish. Start by “dreaming” on paper, making lists, prioritizing and begin formulating a plan, a road map for what it is you actually aspire to achieve.
Following a plan, a written, deliberate outline saves time, money and frees you up to create without taking up valuable brain matter trying to remember what it is you wanted to achieve next.
Having a concrete plan not only provides you with a road map, but will also give you a measure to look back and assess what works, what doesn’t and how to proceed.
2. Trust your instincts
Ever have a gut feeling that something will not work properly, needs more tweaking, is not a good fit? Listen to yourself! Even if it means turning a project down, as a result, you will not regret it down the line.
Taking the extra time and effort it takes to ensure that no creation leaves the shop unless you know it to be the very best ensures that you will be proud of it for a long time to come. ‘Nuff said.
3. Buy the best tools and materials you can afford
Have you battled with a cheaply made, sub-par tool? Then you know how frustrating it can be.
Not only will good quality tools make tasks easier and allow you to create professional-looking results, but they can also save you time and aggravation and may even prevent injuries. And if you take all of the aforementioned into account it actually works out to be cheaper, in the long run, to invest in better quality tools right away. Having worked with both I can report that the feeling of holding a well-made tool in your hand alone is worth the investment.
Do your research and pay close attention to reviews whenever available. Impulse buys are usually ill-advised when it comes to purchasing equipment. Unless you want to keep returning items to the craft store stick to your guns and purchase wisely.
Don’t buy tools that don’t match your current skill level. As you become more proficient you will know which items are next on your list. I may or may not have an expensive jump ring cutting contraption sitting around in my workshop when all I truly needed was the much more affordable jewelers saw:)
4. Connect with other artists/crafters
This was a year of meeting some fantastic people for me and I am so glad I put an effort into finding like-minded individuals. Aside from being able to communicate with someone who is on the same creative wavelength as you, it is a wonderful avenue to network, share ideas, techniques, exchange experiences, and even expand your business. Don’t know where to start? You could research online boards like jewelartisans.proboards.com.
If you have your own Etsy shop, look into joining a team that suits your needs and goals, or find local artists through the Etsy local feature. (Just go to Etsy.com and enter “shop local” in the search bar – from there you will be able to specify the area you are interested in and bring up a list of local shops) See someone’s shop you admire? Drop them a line! This is how friendships and collaborations get their start.
5. Keep learning new skills and practice old ones
I find myself dreaming of ever new, fresh and exciting designs. And frequently I just flat out lack the skills needed to bring those ideas to life. Even if you have to watch every dime, you can find tons of useful information.
My jewelry learning journey began at our local library. You can learn a great deal about design and technique by taking advantage of what your library has to offer.
Several free online resources like YouTube videos, as well as some produced by jewelry supply companies like RioGrande, Fire Mountain Gems, Beadaholique etc., are filled with useful information and tips to move you along further on your creative journey.
Living in the boonies without access to jewelry-making classes? Web sites like Craftsy.com are beginning to fill the void, by offering reasonable classes, complete with video modules, class materials, well-qualified instructors. I am particularly fond of the Craftsy format because I can watch any part of any class at any time I like, for as long as I want. Once you purchase a class, it is yours. You have access to your instructor online and can share your finished projects for others to admire.
6. Divide and Conquer
Recently I came across an accounting principle called “The Theory of Constraints”. Without going into too much detail, it is the theory of bottlenecks, or rather how to deal with them. The basic premise to take each task and split it up into its individual steps to identify a problem to find a solution just makes sense. If you have a tendency to get stuck in a certain area as I often find myself, give this approach a try.
7. Clutter kills Creativity
And when I say clutter, I am referring to both mental and physical clutter. Do you ever sit down and start work on a piece only to find yourself mulling over what housework needs to be done, bills paid, shopping, errands, etc.? How about a cluttered workspace in which it is nearly impossible to find what you are looking for?
Build time to clean and complete tasks every day. Use a timer to make sure you remain within a specific time frame to stay on task. Thankfully the internet comes to your rescue with a number of wonderful organizing blogs. Some of my favorites are iheartorganizing.com, livingwellspendingless.com, or this Pinterest board.
So I have finally come to terms with the fact that I can be much more productive as a creative person if I invest some of my time each day upfront in accomplishing household tasks, getting errands, appointments, phone calls, and e-mails out of the way early.
Establishing a routine in my workshop that includes putting tools and supplies away at the end of each day has not been difficult to incorporate and gives me a feeling of accomplishment that is well worth the effort.
8. Nobody will treat your business seriously if you don’t
That can be particularly tough if you start out as a hobbyist and then move on to sell your creations. Making a conscious effort to identify how I would like my brand to be perceived in the business world is beginning to pay off.
By presenting yourself and your creative business in a more serious, professional manner you lend credibility to yourself as an artist that is sure to make a positive impression on your potential customers. Your clients want to know that you take your craft seriously and that you will be around for a long time. By determining business guidelines from the beginning you are protecting the dream you have worked for so hard to achieve.
What have you learned this year? Do you make New Year’s resolutions?
From my family to yours I wish you health, prosperity, abundance, and joy for the New Year and as we say in my native Germany: