…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|



To Be or Not To Be

"To be, or not to be?" -- that's the gnawing question.

To be a Jewelry Artist, or not to be?

What should I do? Will I succeed? How will I succeed? I'm afraid to change careers. I'm afraid no one will like my stuff. I'm too shy to get stores to sell my stuff. I haven't learned everything I need to learn. I don't make necklaces as well as so-and-so. I don't have enough money to start a business. I don't know how to start a business. I need to take more classes. There are four more books I want to read and work through before I get started. I don't have the supplies people want.

Ponderings, ponderings, ponderings. Thought paralzyes action. Your Rogue Elephant keeps charging at you, and you're too scared to even get out of the way. You're toe juice. You should have run away. But things happen too fast. Things are too much. Too difficult. Too unknown. Will that Rogue Elephant veer off to the right, or maybe, a bit to the left, or will that Elephant step right over you.


Do you see yourself in these posed dilemmas? Or are you too hesistant for even this shallow reflection? Do you find yourself in such an existential crisis that you are too blind or too tired or too scared or too angry to sense your Rogue Elephant on your horizon? Or find your Elephant on your beaten path? Or comtemplate him? Or even bead him?


Maybe there's too much Hamlet in you. The Hamlet Trap. Shakespeare's Hamlet, for most of the play, cannot make up his mind. Should he / Shouldn't he? Will he / Won't he? Could he / Can't he?


What's the Play About?

First Scene: Hamlet is sad, he is angry, he is revolted. His father has died, and he is sad. He thinks that his uncle, Claudius, has done the dirty deed, but doesn't have proof, and he is angry. His uncle marries Hamlet's mother (and, thus his father's wife), and he is revolted. Hamlet mopes. Should he avenge his father's death, and kill Claudius? What about his incestuous mother?

Second Scene: Hamlet's good friend Horatio comes to town. There are whispers that the ghost of Hamlet's father is wandering the castle. Hamlet wants to speak with this ghost.

Third Scene: The ghost tells Hamlet he was murdered by Claudius. The ghost wants vengeance against his brother and his wife.

Fourth Scene: Hamlet kills Claudius, but not Hamlet's mother.

Fifth Scene: Hamlet becomes King of Denmark.


Hamlet is a long play. He goes back and forth in his mind, unable to settle on a plan of action. He waits. He hesitates. He vacillates. He is melancholy. Depressed. In many respects, he is too cerebral. He keeps too much in thoughts and not enough in action. He knows what needs to be done from the get-go, but can't bring himself to act for a very long time.


Having The Wrong Thoughts, Making The Wrong Decisions

I see time and time again, whether with our students or our customers or with friends, an inability to act on their dreams. They fear making the wrong decision. Or they fear potential failure. Or they fear the unknown. They hide from their Rogue Elephant. Whatever it is, they fail to do all those things it takes to succeed as a jewelry making artist.

Henry Aaron bought a lot of beads. A lot. And even more than that. He hoped to make some money making necklaces, bracelets and earrings. But he never seemed to finish anything. He kept buying beads. Looking for the right one. The right color. The right size. The right shape. And when he found that one, he looked over all his current stash, and couldn't find the right one to go with it. So he bought more beads. And more beads. And he kept searching for the right clasp. And the right ear-wire. And the right head-pin. Don't get me wrong, it is fun to buy beads. And it is important to have things that work well together. But at some point, you have to put aside the buying of parts, and start putting the parts together.

In a similar way, Kady bought books. She bought books about bead stringing. She bought books about peyote stitching and ndebele'ing and brick stitching and right angle weave stitching. She bought books about braiding and knotting and kumihimo. And she bought book after book after book about color. As you probably suspected, Kady rarely read any of them. It was as if the possession of books with the proper and appropriate titles would somehow, through some magical osmosis, leach into her brain. Every year on her income taxes, she reported these as supply costs. One day, the IRS asked her, have you made and sold anything? Kady said No. She could not even put together some rudimentary documentation. And the IRS repaid her honesty with a hefty penalty and fine.

Ardell loved making jewelry. She made earrings in every color and length. She made bracelets and bangles and cuffs. She made necklaces and chokers and lariats and eyeglass leashes. She made, made, made. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Her intention was to sell it. And she tried to sell it. She tried to sell it to friends at work and friends at church and family all around. When no one bought anything, Ardell said, Oh, you can have this as a gift. Everyone sure loved their gifts. After awhile, Ardell got bored and gave up her dream.

Henry Aaron, Kady and Ardell all faced a disconnect between thought and action. They couldn't negotiate between the two and develop a plan. They were stuck - quagmire stuck. It's not that they could not act. Henry Aaron could buy beads, Kady could buy books and Ardell could make jewelry. But they could not act in a way that put them on the path towards becoming a successful jewelry artist. In a way, their actions were thoughtless. Their actions led to inaction and paralysis.

Ophelia, -- no relationship to Hamlet, -- sold her jewelry on consignment in over 20 stores in the metropolitan Nashville area. She had accumulated over $30,000 of credit card charges buying beads and other parts. And she did not buy smartly. After five years, she no longer had sufficient cash flow. To keep her operation going, she was forced to buy one bead at a time at her local bead store, and pay much higher prices. She also began substituting lower quality parts for the better parts she had begun with. Swarovski crystal became Chinese crystal. Flex wire became Tiger Tail. Sterling clasps became sterling plated clasps. Freshwater Pearls became Bohemia faux glass pearls. Her business was headed for the tank, and Ophelia was headed for bankruptcy.

Ophelia tried to maintain what could not be maintained. Her response to the question To Be or Not?, was Let It Be! However, she had made some poor choices, and boxed herself into a corner. Over these five years, she had not developed a more self-reflective and self-critical thought process to better bridge her thoughts with her actions. She let her actions annul the possibility of different thoughts. The cost to her was a pending bankruptcy.

When I switched careers and jumped off my professional career ladder into beading and jewelry making, I was faced with my own major To Be, or Not moment? I had worked hard to get to the top of the ladder in the healthcare and hospital field. I made the big bucks. I had national prominence and a resume out the whazoo. I had accomplished much. But I was not happy. I was introduced to the world of beads and jewelry, and it sparked something inside me. Art. Design. A one-ness with color and light. It felt so good and so right.

Yet, how could I give up a high salary? and a prominent status? and a track record of successes in the health care and hospital fields? What would my friends think? my family? Did I really want to start my life, now in my late 30's, all over again? I let these and similar thoughts resound over and over and over again in my head for a little more than a year. One minute I was resigned to stay in healthcare; the next, I eagerly wanted to sell beads and make jewelry. Back and forth. I couldn't make up my own mind. My family was unsupportive, even somewhat horrified. My friends were encouraging, but I have to say, they faded into the background after I took my plunge into my new world. My friendships had their basis in our professional roles, and were difficult to retain. And I've never made as much money as I did then.

During this year of reflection, I was not comfortable in my paralysis. So I switched gears in my brain. I formulated a course of action. I prepared myself for a gradual transition into jewelry-making-dom. And I lined up some healthcare consulting and teaching jobs, as contingencies -- just in case. I researched. I identified what a sufficient inventory would be. I learned about quality concerns. I found suppliers. I pre-tested, and pre-tested, and pre-tested my ideas, my designs, my merchandise. I started small and kept trying larger and bigger things. Garage sale and home show. Flea market and craft show. Consignment. Small boutique. Larger boutique. Online catalog. I evaluated what worked and did not, and tried to figure out explanations why. I leveraged my ideas. I leveraged my experiences. And success came. And I never had to fall back on healthcare jobs or consulting or teaching again.


All too often, as budding jewelry artists, we let ourselves fall into the Hamlet-Trap. We moan and groan and bitch and cry and debate with our inner selves unceasingly whether To Be, or Not. A Jewelry Artist, or Not. A Bead Artist, or Not. A Jewelry Designer, or Not.

We set ourselves up with some god-like, idealized image of what it means to be a Jewelry Artist, -- an image very few, if any people attain -- , and we get in our own ways of enjoying what it means to play and design with light and shadow, and line and shape and contour against the human form. There really is no such thing as the ultimate, consummate, perfect Jewelry Artist. There is only a continual process of becoming a better and more accomplished Jewelry Artist.

There is no way that we can predict with any accuracy anything about our future selves. This is unknowable. It can never truly be fixed and perfectly defined. We must, instead, focus on things about attitude and disposition. What attitudes and dispositions should the successful jewelry artist have? Such as,

o Readiness
o Skeptical Openness
o Willingness to try things we are not comfortable with
o Expectation that things will always change

We must be Ready and Prepared to be a Jewelry Artist. This means having a sufficient palette of beads and parts to work with, the tools to accomplish what we want to make, goals and objectives and timeframes for what we want to accomplish when. When opportunities to create and/or sell arise, we must be Ready to take advantage of these.

The Jewelry Artist should be open to new thoughts, and critical and skeptical of current thoughts. You can genuflect, in a servile way, with your same self-reflective thoughts over and over again every day. You can flog yourself with these thoughts until your back is bleeding forth. Or you can evaluate your self-reflective thoughts and ask yourself, honestly, if these are leading you towards your dream. This means, that every day -- not just occasionally or annually or bi-annual -- you inventory your thoughts, and make a judgement -- right, bad or indifferent?

In a job interview, a company posed a simple situation and asked the applicant: what would you do? You are scheduled for a critical meeting with a potential buyer. He has given you directions to get to his office in the building he's in. You've taken the elevator, walked down the hallway, turned right, and you confront a door that says "No Entrance." What would you do next?

This particular company was looking for someone who would go through the door anyway, without any hesitation. Most people would hesitate, or not ever violate the "RULE" posted on the door -- No Entrance. Their successful candidate would be someone who was willing to try something that might not be psychologically comfortable. And that person would know that going through that door would not kill him. It would not maim him. It might ring an alarm. Someone might say, don't do this again. But this successful candidate would survive no matter what. And he would have a chance to fulfill his dream of getting the job.

Things always change, and Jewelry Artists know this especially well. Seasonal interests change. Fashions and color preferences change. Styles change. The economy changes. The successful Jewelry Artist develops strategies and ideas for anticipating change and adapting to change. Otherwise they are out of a job, a career, an avocation and a dream.

While most of us are not fictional wacky Danish princes and princesses, the story of Hamlet can be a cautionary, as well as an instructive, tale. Hamlet is not a lot of psychobable over absolutely nothing. The play shows a man, first paralyzed by thought, willing to agonize and whine almost to death, and then have a major attitude adjustment.

With better attitudes come power. Anyone can give themselves the title Jewelry Artist. Not everyone with that title, however, is prepared to deliver the goods in a world that wants them, when they want them. Lots of people have great ideas and inspirations and visions. Not everyone, however, can implement these. Lots of people can tell you the kinds of things that need to get done. Not everyone, though, is willing to do all those things. And everyone will tell you things always change. But few people alter their thoughts and behaviors, as if they believed this.











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