It's a new year, and while I look at the cold reality of my post-Christmas bank account I also find myself reflecting on what it is that I do and why I do it.
Yesterday, while I worked (irresponsibly during work hours) on a leather purse I am making just for myself I was reminded how delightful I find crafting. I walked away from my studio with a happy glow that kept going all evening. I took great pleasure in showing the bag to my partner, asking his opinions and working out the final details.
Almost no day goes by in which I don't make something. If I am not at my bench making jewelry, I am sewing historical clothes for myself or my clients. I am embroidering something fun and interesting. I am leather-working in one of my two basement studios. In short, I am addicted to crafting. Hopelessly, completely, addicted. If I was not lucky enough to be able to (mostly) support myself crafting, I know I would spend every available moment that I wasn't working, making things.
Crafting is something I never have fight to motivate myself to do. Embroidery soothes, and delights me. Leather-working calms me. Jewelry and sewing challenge me and keep my mind busy. If I begin thinking about a project while I am trying to fall asleep I can keep myself awake for hours going over each detail. What will the materials be? Where will I get them? How will I form the piece? What colours will it be? How will I finish it? The best simile I can think of is one of a complex cake. Each layer and detail must be created in the correct order, in the right time, with the right tools and techniques. Rushing or inattention can be catastrophic. Some errors can be fixed, some can be incorporated into the piece, or if you have the flexibility on the project, you can find a new direction in which to go based on your mistakes. When I can, I love letting a piece grow organically, working each new unexpected detail or error into the piece in such a way that it is almost like the piece is making itself. Not only am I molding the piece to my will, but I'm also allowing it to flow into a final form that has as much to do with the complexity of the materials as it does with me. This was never a popular tactic with my teachers at college, but I learn so much this way, and it's one of my favorite ways to work.
I want to make things that will last. I want to make things that can be used, and cared for, and repaired and maintained for years. I think one of the reasons I was drawn to jewelry is that it can last indefinitely. A piece could be kept, and handed down through generations. It could develop a narrative, a character, a feeling of love and connection to someone special. A little part of me will get to take a journey though lives in that piece that I made, perhaps to be cherished long after I am dead.
I like to give people things that I think they will love. I have to stop myself sometimes from giving my work away, because if I think something I have made will please someone, that can seem so much more important than money. But I must eat and pay rent so I try to be judicious.
I have a lot to learn about business. I am slowly learning it (usually the hard way) but I know I am improving. I try to be patient with myself when I make mistakes and develop strategies not to make them again. I try to roll with the punches. Some days it's hard, but other days I get to create something wonderful for myself, or someone else, which I know will make them smile for years to come. And on those days, (most days) it all feels incredibly worth while.