Art & Business 101: When Shit Hits The Fan

I make jewelry. I have been making jewelry for over two years. I love every second of the creative process, but you know what?  Sometimes, shit hits the fan. Today I talk about why it’s ok to make mistakes and what you can do about it. 

So, you’re a jeweler. Maybe you’re not. Either way, you’re here either for entertainment, advice, or self torture. I kid. Honestly though, we’re in a weird place of an exploding handmade movement and an ever-changing social media market. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been elated, confused, and downright depressed by the ebbs and flows of algorithms and analytics. Today, I’m here to provide you an escape from that part of your business and talk about something more tangible. Fucking up your own art.

If you’re a true artist, you love the grind of creating art. The process gets in your veins and not even a hot bath and a long nap can get your wheels to stop turning. If you’re a true artist, you’re also your worst critic. An hour of sketching designs with a glass of wine and relaxing music to get the creative juices flowing can easily turn into an entire night of rethinking your art, downing the whole bottle, and cursing the person that thought adding whale sounds to a contemporary piano rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” was a great way to relax. What was supposed to be a kick start to your new product line can easily end up feeling like self torture.

On the execution end of the process, a hard day at the workbench can also go south at the setting bench. The amount of times I have watched an intricate piece come to life only to completely wreck the stone while setting it would make any sane person want to give up. Because I love my art, I keep going. The amount of times I’ve sawed into my fingers despite being what I deem to be “careful” is enough to turn off Pinterest crazed DIYers who ask me how they can get started. It’s not that I don’t want them to become successful creative entrepreneurs. I just want everyone to have a realistic view of what it takes to create quality handmade jewelry on a micro level. So what do I do when shit hits the fan while I’m neck deep in the creative process?

I keep going. Three words that are both simple and complex depending on the day and how you look at it. When I first started silversmithing and building up my muscle memory, I put too much pressure on a file when doing some refining. The file slipped, and I got the knuckle on my left hand almost down to the bone. Instead of calling it a night, I let myself get pissed. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I shouted and cursed. I also took a step back, washed my wound, bandaged it up, and got back to work. That’s probably the first time I realized silversmithing isn’t just about making cute silver rings worthy of gaggles of “oohs” and “ahs”. Literal blood, sweat, and tears go into my craft. I haven’t regretted a single drop.

So, your social media engagement isn’t garnering the numbers you expected after putting countless hours into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Bummer. Here’s what you should do: keep going. I’m not a marathon content creator. I’m not even a social marketing strategist. In fact, many of my friends have a following that is ten times the size of mine. Why would anyone listen to me? Well, while many people are commiserating over a loss of followers and engagement, my little following keeps slowly growing. Not just any kind of growth. Organic growth. Social media is a FREE tool artists can utilize to pull potential customers in and create a fanbase. When dips in engagement happen, it can be easy to blame platform changes, but just as times change so must our strategy. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Pay attention to other growing accounts who are also serving your target market and start modeling your strategy after yours. Find what works for you and stick with it until it doesn’t anymore. Keep going.

My words might come off as harsh, and it is not my intent to insult anyone or pick fights. My goal is to empower people to stop making excuses to quit and to keep going. In order to succeed, we need to build momentum. When we become overwhelmed and allow ourselves to stop, it is ten times harder to build ourselves back up. When we keep going despite criticism and change, and when we start to see mistakes as growth, that’s when we succeed. When we stop seeing likes and comments as numbers and remind ourselves that the individual people represented by those numbers are what we need to start nurturing, that’s when success starts to happen.

It’s easy and it isn’t. When shit hits the fan, sometimes a bottle of wine and a movie marathon is just what the doctor ordered. The important part is getting back to the grind when the end credits roll. Success happens when we pick ourselves back up and just keep going.