Saturday, July 23, 2011

Building a support system.

In an earlier post I mentioned teammates. Yes, these can be the people who do your taxes and take photos of your work. Professionals like these are super important! They make life so much easier. But today I'd like to discuss a different type of support. Whether you've just decided to do what you love for a living or you've been doing it for a number of years, every step of the way, I strongly suggest surrounding yourself with fantastic people who will encourage you -- whether they're professionals or not.

It's difficult to divide these people up into groups. They may be friends, family, or other artists. They may be same in the field as you, or they may not. They might be seasoned professional craftspeople, or they might make cool things just for fun. Maybe you grew up with them, or maybe you just met them. Maybe you hardly know them!

Whoever they are, they'll take on varied or several roles in your life, and you'll do the same for them. It's different for everyone, which is why I'm going to be specific instead of general -- and list some of the important people in my creative life. That way, you'll see just what I mean without me having to get boring and didactic. ;)

(I'm also going to add a bit of eye candy! This is my Blue Fringe necklace, made with 10 millimeter paillette sequins and a section of chainmaille I made in a class with chainmaille expert Rebeca Mojica.)

1.) I wouldn't be the person I am today without the love and encouragement of Mr. Sequin. This man has a habit of supporting me in whatever crazy thing I do. When I wanted to learn hula hooping, he built me hoops and cleared out the basement. He helped me break down tougher tricks. When I wanted to learn metal clay, he paid for half of my class. When I decided to stop eating unhealthy food and start eating veggies and whole grains, he didn't bat an eyelid -- we now stock up on spinach and quinoa.

It's the same with jewelry. He's always available to check out a new piece or offer a critique. He's an artist, too, so I trust his opinion, even if I don't always follow his advice. He's my photographer, even though it drives him nuts, because he truly believes in my work and wants me to succeed. And finally, he gets the way my mind works. I can't stick with one form of jewelry making or one interest all my life. I'm always looking around for something else to try, and he appreciates it because he's the same way.

(This is Cool Jewels I, a stone I purchased at Cool Jewels in Montpelier, Vermont, and wrapped with copper wire embellished with those gorgeous BeadAlgo beads I bought this summer.)

2.) I thought I'd mention my father because he's not doing so well these days, and some things need to be said. Growing up, we had not one, but two generation gaps between us! He was also raised in the South during a time when they still had outhouses, while I grew up in New England in the 1980's -- so our upbringings were as different as could be. We have very different values and world views.

But one thing we have in common, besides being stubborn and bullheaded, is that we like to be good at things. OK, not just good -- great. When he retired from being a surgeon, he made up his own bread recipes, kicked some serious butt at golf, and took a watercolor painting class, only to be told by the instructor that there was nothing left to teach him. Oh, and there were his Bridge tournaments. And there was chess. He set the bar for me in a lot of ways, and I'm sure my perfectionism comes from him.

He also took me to just about every darn bead and craft shop in the area when I was a child and teenager and waited patiently in that car for hours, reading his newspaper, while I shopped for supplies. And did I mention he also persuaded friends and family to buy my work? He was one of my first customers. So while our relationship was often a challenging one, he deserves some major credit. When I was born he told my mother he didn't care what I did for a living as long as I was happy, and I think he's kept this attitude -- even if he doesn't say it outright.

3.) Last November I had the best luck ever. Mr. Sequin and I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo, and met two fabulous people. It was crazy (in a good way) the way we clicked right away, and ever since then, we've met once a week to chat, eat baked goods and sometimes even write. I love my writer's group. We give each other writing advice and talk each other through rough spots, but they're also always willing to ogle my latest jewelry pieces or listen to me talk about sequins. That day I had the sequin crisis? They helped me through it when I was still a little shaky. They're also hilarious and talented, and I have to say it again, fabulous. They're like... sequins personified.

(This is a fire agate stone I purchased in North Carolina almost four years ago. It's wrapped with copper wire, gold-filled beads and yet more sparkly BeadAlgo beads. It's so heavy, it's making the neck cable kink!)

4.) Angela, Vanessa and Rebecca. I've mentioned them before. These are three amazing ladies who work their tails off to make their dreams come true, and who succeed. I have a different relationship with each of them. Angela has no idea who I am -- I just read her blog. Vanessa and Rebecca both taught chainmaille classes. And on top of that, I find Vanessa's blog to be a source of inspiration. Rebecca has this incredible habit of taking time out her hectic day to see my latest chainmaille pieces whenever we meet at the Bead Show. For the past two years she's taken pictures of them and strongly encouraged me to enter my work in contests, and I have to say, coming from someone like her, that's an enormous compliment.

One thing all of them have in common is they show me that success is possible if you're good enough at what you do, work hard enough, and are creative about marketing yourself. They're role models.

There are so many more people who inspire me. The incredible artists I'm meeting via Flickr. My best friend in high school, who commissioned me to make her prom jewelry. Willis of Cool Jewels, and his friend/employee, Steve, who made my shopping experience the most fun and memorable ever by treating me not like a customer, but like a good friend. I wish I had the energy to devote to everyone! But the heat index is in the triple digits, and my digits feel like they're about to fall off. I'll just say that so many people have inspired me, challenged me, taught me and encouraged me, and every contribution is acknowledged, remembered, and appreciated.

Before I wrap this up, I have one last thing to say. The people in my support system make me want to be there for others. Someday I'd like to be a mentor, and hey, maybe even a role model to someone who's just starting out. I'm not quite in the place where I can do that; however, I'll always be in a place where I can tell people how great their work is and help them through tough spots with encouragement and kind words, and I think that's an important part of being an artist. It's something we should all be mindful of.

Thanks for reading! Have a sequintastic day, and for the love of all that is sparkly, stay cool!

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