Saying Good-bye! To Your Jewelry:
A Rite Of Passage
One of the most difficult things I have to do as a designer is say Good-Bye! to my pieces. I make something. I put it out there for sale. Someone buys it. I will probably never see it again. Yes, I can make another one, but that’s not the same thing. That’s not the point.
I submitted the necklace piece pictured above to a Swarovski Create Your Style Contest in 2008. The theme was be naturally inspired. My inspiration was this sunrise image of the Grand Canyon.
I was selected as a Finalist. I was invited to their offices in New York City to attend the awards ceremony. I was so excited.
I had poured my all into this piece. Hours upon hours upon hours perfecting the stitching. Experimenting with using the stitching in a 3-dimensional way. Creating a curvature along the upper sides where normally it would be a sharp edge. Selecting a 5-color scheme and figuring out how to create sharper boundaries between colors when using Swarovski crystal beads. Varying the shape, size and type of beads used within the stitch. Designing a clasp assembly which I hoped looked like a mirror of the rising sun. None of these were easy tasks. Because the fully completed piece took about 100 hours to do and contained over $1500 worth of parts, I did all this experimentation and trial and error using 3" long samples.
I had to send off my piece to New York prior to the ceremony. And from there, my piece would be flown to Innsbruck, Austria to reside in their Swarovski Museum.
I was proud. Got the big head and paraded it around. Shared my news widely, of course.
But when the day came to pack my piece up, … not a good day.
This day actually dragged on for a week.
First, I started with one jewelry box to place the piece in. Not satisfied. So another box. Not satisfied. And another box. Still not satisfied. I combed my jewelry packaging catalogs, and found 3 more choices I thought would work. I ordered these and had them shipped overnight.
Success. One of the three was perfect.
Next, I had to put this jewelry box into a larger shipping box. Easy to find a box. But my stupid brain could not come to grips with how I wanted to place the jewelry box into the shipping box. How much filler would I need? What type — paper, styrofoam, bubble wrap. Normally, I do not have difficulty making these kinds of choices. But not this time.
I would line the shipping box, sit the jewelry box in one direction, then stop. I would remove the jewelry box, change how I lined the shipping box, replace the jewelry box in another direction, then stop. I would remove the jewelry box, again decide differently how it was to lay in the shipping box, then try to line the box, cover the jewelry box, add some paper work, and seal the shipping box. Plastic tape or paper tape? Another delay while I decided.
I did not want to let go of my beautifully designed piece of jewelry. I let my next choice create a particularly high barrier. Which shipper?
The postal service was less expensive, but less reliable.
UPS was very expensive, more reliable, but what if they weren’t? It was going to New York City. How does any shipper reliability ship to New York City?
FedEx? Maybe, but I was not familiar enough with them.
Insure the package? For how much?
Certified? Signature required?
I struggled considerably over each choice. And I never struggle over these kinds of choices.
Well, at this point, my piece was in its jewelry box. My jewelry box was in its shipping box. My shipping box was sealed. I took my jewelry cum jewelry box cum sealed shipping box to UPS. The clerk had to pull it out of my hand.
And there it went.
Don’t worry, it arrived safely.
I traveled to New York City for the ceremony. There was champagne and hor d’oeuvres. There were the other finalists mostly from America, but from other parts of the world, as well. There was even the Brazilian consulate general there to represent an artist from Brazil. We were all packed in the very, very bright and sparkly offices of Swarovski.
There was my piece. My Canyon Sunrise. Sitting pretty among the other pieces. Reassuring it was still there. It was in good company. I enjoyed listening to the comments of people as they admired it. I learned a lot from speaking and sharing with the other jewelry designers.
Canyon Sunrise won 4th place.
And, I had a chance to say Good-bye! one more time.
When I returned home, I immediately went to work on recreating my piece, but this time with another challenge. I took the same 5 colors I used in the original piece, and shifted the proportions around. I did not add a pendant drop in the center, nor did I recreate the elaborate clasp assembly in the back. But I had a physical piece — a cousin — to put on display with my other jewelry pieces. I could show people more than a photograph of the original piece. This was very satisfying. I was ready to move on to other projects.
Relinquishing Your Jewelry Design To Others: A Rite of Passage
One of the most emotionally difficult things designers do is saying Good-bye! to their designs as they hand them over to their client or otherwise expose their work publicly. The designer has contributed so much thinking and has spent so much time (and sometimes so much money) to the project that it is like ripping away an integral part of your being.
This is the moment where you want to maintain the conversation and engage with your audience, but look at this from a different perspective. Your relationship with your design is evolving and you need to evolve with it. Its innate intimacy is shifting away from you and getting taken over by someone else.
But you still have needs here. You want that client to ask you to design something else for them. You want the client to share your design with others, expanding your audience, your potential clients, your validation and legitimacy as a designer. And you want to prepare yourself emotionally to take on the next project.
Relinquishing control over your design is a rite of passage. At the heart of this rite of passage are shared understandings and how they must shift in content and perspective. Rites of passage are ceremonies of sorts. Marking the passage from one status to another. There are three stages:
You pass your design to others. You become an orphan. You have made a sacrifice and want something emotionally powerful and equal to happen to you in return. Things feel incomplete or missing. There is a void wanting to be fulfilled. You realize you are no longer sure about and confident in the shared understandings under which you had been operating .
(2) Transition (a betwixt and between)
There is a separation, a journey, a sacrifice. The designer is somewhat removed from the object or project, but not fully. The shared understandings constructed around the original project become fuzzy. Something to be questioned. Wondering whether to hold on to them or let go. Pondering what to do next. Playing out in your head different variations in or changes to these shared understandings. Attempting to assess the implications and consequences for any change.
These original shared understandings must undergo some type of symbolic ritual death if the designer is to move on. Leverage the experience. Start again. As simple as putting all the project papers in a box to be filed away. Or having a launch party. Or deleting files and images on a computer. Or accepting payment. Or getting a compliment. Or having a closure-meeting with the client to review the process after it has been completed.
The designer redefines him- or her-self vis-à-vis the designed object or project. The designer acquires new knowledge and new shared understandings. There is some reaffirmation. Triumph. This usually involves a new resolve, confidence and strategy for starting new projects, attracting new clients, and seeking wider acceptance of that designer’s skills and fluency in design.
The designer has passed through the rite of passage. The jewelry or other designed object or project has been relinquished. The designer is ready to start again.
But as a designer, you will always be managing shared understandings. These most likely will have shifted or changed after the design is gone. And new ones will have to be constructed as you take on new assignments.
Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.
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Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:
SO YOU WANT TO BE A JEWELRY DESIGNER
Merging Your Voice With Form
PEARL KNOTTING…Warren’s Way
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