Self-Care: Critical Advice For The Jewelry Designer
Balancing work and life is a challenge for everyone, but particularly for creatives. Designing pieces of jewelry involves a complicated process of finding inspiration and translating often-fuzzy images and ideas into aspirations and then finished designs. The designer usually creates each piece of jewelry over an extended period of time, often in solitude and isolation. Moreover, the designer, by the very nature of jewelry, must introduce their pieces to the public, opening the designer to feedback and critique. Balancing work and life can be very stressful, both mentally and physically. If in the business of selling jewelry, then there can be additional financial stresses. Suggested are a series of things the jewelry designer can do to manage the balancing act. These things have to do with acting, organizing, thinking, nourishing, and relating.
Finding Work-Life Balance
There is always one more thing to do. One more piece to make. One more component to buy. One more social media post. One more supplier to talk to. One more client to get. One more family’ or friend’s demands to deal with. It’s never-ending and can overwhelm you mentally, physically and financially. There is struggle. Slumps. Getting overwhelmed. Burn-out.
So the problems and resolutions depend on your ability to set boundaries. Limits on the use of your time. Allocations on the use your time. The places where you want to use any of your time. The people you want to interact with and share your time. Work-Life balance is never fully achieved; it’s a continual give and take. More a balancing, than a balance.
This requires a high degree of honesty with yourself. Some facing of the realities of limited resources. Some confronting of your fears to get them out of the way. Some feeding of your soul — your creative self.
We call this self-care. Self-care is a management strategy for managing the ever-present tensions between work and life. Everyone needs a plan and program of self-care for themselves. This can be very formal or informal. It means recognizing when the balance has tilted too far in one or the other direction. It requires a self-care tool box of strategies to employ to correct any imbalances. But you need that balance and a plan and program for maintaining it. You want joy from jewelry creation. You want productivity. You want people to want to wear your jewelry, perhaps buying it. Below I discuss some ideas that you might incorporate into your own self-care routines.
Because creatives love what they do, they may be especially vulnerable to putting in too many work hours. They may isolate themselves too freely or for too long. Yes, you might get a lot of projects finished, but you are also shortchanging yourself. It is not a positive thing to be unbalanced. You need enrichment. You need time to reflect and relax. You need to feel connected to others.
Self-Care Can Be Hard
Self-Care might feel like a long list of to-do’s. Eat. Take breaks. Phone calls, meetings and get-togethers. Time at the gym or salon. Adequate sleep. And so forth. This list might never get done to completion or satisfaction. It might feel burdensome. You might find yourself keep adding things to the list. This list, in and of itself, does not really resolved the tensions between work and life.
Knowing everything you need to do and should do is not the same as doing these. A more selective list where you can see the connections between your wellness and the activity will always make more sense.
Self-care takes work. It uses up time. It is one more thing to keep up with. Exerting effort can feel like a tall order — even when you know you will feel better after doing it. Again, a more realistic set of activities will be more manageable and effective.
For some people, taking time out for self-care generates a sense of guilt and shame. They feel they will be seen as avoiding work, instead of using self-care to enhance their work. Self-care should not be confused with an indulgence.
One of the greatest challenges jewelry designers have is handling stress. There is the stress of finding inspiration. The stress of translating that inspiration into a concrete design. The stress of finding and selecting beads and other components, as well as colors, patterns and textures. The stress of placing mass within a negative space. The stress of construction. The stress of showing your jewelry to others. If you are selling your pieces, the added stresses of promotion, marketing, pricing and selling. You do not want all these stresses to add up to the point you become paralyzed — unable to start your project, finish your project or introduce it into the creative marketplace.
Stress can be both mental and physical. You need self-care for both.
Mental stress is often associated with doubt and self-doubt. Doubt holds you back from seizing your opportunities. It makes getting started or finishing things harder than they need to be. It adds uncertainty. It makes you question yourself. It blocks your excitement, perhaps diminishing it. You begin to question how to measure your progress and success, perhaps unfairly comparing yourself to other jewelry designers. You begin to fear criticism and rejection, whether real or imagined. While sometimes doubt and self-doubt can be useful in forcing you to think about and question your choices, it mostly holds you back.
Mental stress can be associated with pain. It begins to build and amplify when you think that mental and/or physical pain means you no longer will be able to make jewelry, at least the designs you prefer to make. Put a stop to these thoughts. With tools, physical aids and ergonomic solutions, and a good self-care plan of operation, you will be able to continue to design and make any jewelry you want.
The creative process can result in our feeling vulnerable. Not everything is clear at first. More fuzzy. More experimental. The creative process is messy. Nonlinear. A lot of back and forth iteration. Eventually creative ideas coalesce within a completed piece of jewelry. But this creative process may extend for long periods of time. Living with vulnerabilities is part of any jewelry designer’s daily process. It is something to get used to. It makes having that good support system all that more important.
Making jewelry can take a physical toll on your body. Physical stresses begin as occasional pain, but eventually become major flare-ups. You might find yourself using your fingernails as tools, such as opening a split ring, or forcing a closure, or opening and closing a jump ring. After awhile, your fingernails start to split and crack and break. You might be do the same physical operation with your hands over and over again, slowing getting repetitive motion injuries, where your wrists hurt, the joints in your fingers hurt, your elbows hurt, your neck hurts. Your fingers may cramp up. You may be sitting in one position for a very long time, and over time, you begin to develop neck and back problems and knee problems and leg and foot problems. You may hate to wear your eyeglasses when you make jewelry. You forget the maxim: If you need glasses to read, you need glass to make jewelry.
The immediate solution to physical stresses is to stop making jewelry. Give yourself a rest. Take time off. I know you want to be making jewelry, but you need to listen to your body. It is telling you it needs some time for healing.
The long term solution is to rely on tools and ergonomic furnishings. Tools are an extension of your hands (and other parts of your body). They reduce the stress on your hands (and other parts of your body). Ergonomic designs reduce the stresses and strains placed on your body and channel the negative energy elsewhere. There are ergonomic chairs, arm rests, arm rest and pulley systems, and the like. Also be sure seating is comfortable and lighting is good.
When returning to jewelry making, pace yourself. Take breaks. Do finger, arm and leg stretching exercises. Wear braces to support the wrist, thumb and elbow.
Solutions and Resolutions
How You Act
Work-life balance is really a balancing act.
Look for places to pause your work.
Train yourself to be able to put down your work before it is completed without the stress of leaving it unfinished or undone.
Leave the house. Change locations. Take a walk or a drive. Take the day off.
Take time off to relax and disconnect.
How You Organize
Good organization leads to more efficiency and effectiveness and better work-life balance.
Designate one area of your house for your creative work, a different area for business work, and yet another area for thinking, meditating, reflecting and relaxing.
Schedule sufficient times for creativity, times for business, and times for reflection.
Keep your work area neat and generally organized, but not necessarily perfectly organized. Remember: Perfection is the enemy of the Good.
Budget for things to go wrong. Don’t put yourself on such a tight financial rope that any mistake or any supply issue or other business related issue creates panic.
Plan for enough time in your schedule to acquire materials and supplies, learn a new technique if necessary, and communicate and work with clients, if this is part of your practice.
Keep your website (and other promotional venues) up-to-date.
How You Think
Applying your creativity and finding work-life balance are actually sets of thinking routines where you explore choices, narrow them down, and make selections.
Remember that creativity involves more than staying seated in front of beads and other jewelry components in your work space. Creativity also involves looking for inspirations. It involves thinking through all the options for translating those inspirations into aspirations and then into specific design.
Recognize that taking time away from work for self-care is a positive reflection on you. It is not something to hide or be ashamed of.
It is not hard to set yourself up for failure. Set your expectations that are reasonable and realistic for you.
Set attainable goals and objectives. Revisit these often as you work on any project.
Remind yourself periodically why you like to create and make jewelry.
Make sure you have something to get excited about — an activity or event, a book or movie, an exploration about jewelry design, exercising, yoga, whatever.
How You Nourish Mind and Body
A healthy mind and body will keep your creative juices flowing and make that work-life balance easier to maintain.
Don’t skip meals or avoid satisfying any hungry feelings when they occur.
It is difficult to make good jewelry design choices when you are tired. Be aware of times when you are overextended.
Exercise. Take frequent breaks to move around a bit.
Do some focused breathing exercises.
Go somewhere where you can let out your primal scream.
Take a nap.
Do something out of the ordinary for you. Make jewelry using your non-dominant hand. Stick your hands into a bowl of mud.
How You Relate
Most jewelry is created in solitude. Feelings of isolation may build up. If not careful, this can negatively affect your work-life balance.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Avoid people who are negative and toxic. Don’t isolate yourself for too long a period.
Spend time with real friends. Build up and maintain a supportive social network.
Don’t compare yourself and compete with others. Keep the focus on yourself.
Talk things out. With others as sounding boards and informers, help each other see what matters and what does not.
Attach yourself to a group, say an online jewelry making group, or a local artist community group. But don’t take up residence there. Moderation, moderation.
Detach yourself from the online world for awhile, if you are spending too much time living there.
Don’t take criticisms personally.
If in business, evaluate your pricing, selling and marketing strategies. Is the price you are getting for your jewelry reflective of your worth as a designer? Are your target markets in line with the styles and prices of your pieces?
If in business, keep your clients aware of your progress.
Turn some of your projects into collaborations.
Attend classes and workshops.
Enter juried exhibitions and competitions.
Take part in group art critiques.
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Artwork Archive. 7 Counterintuitive Self Care Habit For Artists. As reference in:
Branch, Allan and Steven Bristol. Chapter 16, Entrepreneur-Work Life Balance. Business Guide: Run Your Business, Don’t Let Your Business Run You. LessEverything, 2018. As referenced in:
Clark, Alicia H., Psy.D. Why Does Self-Care Sometimes Feel So Hard? These 6 common pitfalls could be holding you back. 2/15/20. As referenced in:
Feld, Warren. Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Major Pitfalls For Designers…And What To Do About Them. 9/5/2020. As referenced in:
Hammond, Lee. Artists and Self-Esteem: 4 Tips To Overcome Insecurity. Artists Network, n.d. As referenced in:
Horejs, Jason. Working Alone | Breaking the Isolation that Can Surround the Pursuit of Art. Xanadu Gallery, 9/2/21. As referenced in:
Mayher, Miguel, Director of Education, Professional Artist Institute. How To Handle Stress.
Mindful Art Studio. Overcoming Creativity Block. What Is Creative Self-Care? June, 2016. As referenced in:
Tartakovski, Margarita, MS. 10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s №1 Crusher. Psychcentral.com, 3/3/2013. As referenced in:
Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.
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