It seems to have taken me years to figure out that by getting started and involved opens up doors for opportunity to present itself.
Now that I’ve firmly learnt this lesson it seems like the most obvious statement in the world to be making. It is one that I’ve heard since a child but I think, like all things, it takes your own real life experience for it to become a personal truth.
Last year I had one of the most rewarding experiences in my creative life with the successful launch of my own paintings on the porcelain jewellery that I make and sell through my long term business, Creatively Belle
I’ve been wanting to paint for years but had been too scared to do it. What I was scared of I don’t really know, being crap at it probably. I realised in a Turner exhibition that I was never going to be as good as one of the Masters and that’s perfectly fine, what matters is the doing. I can be crap at painting. I’d love to be good at it but that takes time, effort and practice.
So I got some watercolour paints and set to it. I didn’t even know how to test out the different effects of a paint brush, but with some guidance of a successful Tasmanian artist, Mel Hills, and reading some books and magazines I started to build courage by doing. Mel broke through my fears with conversations about playing with the paints and the brushes.
To keep it going I got started with Make a Mark a Day where what matters is putting pencil, paint or pen to paper every day. The doing opened up doors for opportunity.
From these daily practices I came up with a series of paintings and drawings that were to become my first range of my work to be fired into my porcelain pendant and brooches range.
It took months, I grew a lot through the acts of doing and I became braver. I became a different woman. I grew again. And I love growing, it feels wonderful once you get through the awkward stages.
The feeling of deep personal satisfaction I have from seeing my paintings on my artisan porcelain jewellery is one of the best experiences of my life. That would have been enough really. But from there I have had new opportunities arise, I’ve got into my first artist gallery with them, they have been given as client and employee thank you gifts, they’re selling well and their originality means that others have a really hard time copying me.
Starting working in porcelain was a big change for me with my jewellery designs and by starting with this change I’ve gone in a completely new direction. All businesses need to work on new designs, new products and all artisans and artists need to develop new creative skills and techniques. I’ve just been lucky enough to combine the two.
It is the exploring and starting with something new, testing it and developing it that opens the doors. Usually it involves scaring the crap out of yourself and having to make the decision to push through that mess. But that’s when the good stuff happens. It’s where you make your ideas and designs work and take the risks to grow both you and the business.
I knew that even with the market testing with customers, family and friends that I would make mistakes with this new range. I knew that I would find out about these mistakes once the designs were out in the world. Even through I was testing the paintings before the financial commitment stage I knew I had to accept the reality that I’ll learn a lot from near misses and successes with this first range. And I was completely right!
Fortunately I got more right than wrong and I think that had a lot to do with the testing. This process itself created more opportunities through the conversations I had with customers. I learnt about what art galleries are looking for with their artisans.
When I first had the idea of making porcelain jewellery I wanted to get my own photographs onto the pieces. I had to start with learning how to work with clay and porcelain, how it fired and whether I could come up with designs that people would like and buy. While I was doing this I was researching what it would take to get my photos onto the porcelain and then I hit road blocks. The process is with decals that require a separate firing and are very smelly during the fire - so bad that it’s really horrible being in the studio with the kiln at the same time. It meant that the studio I was firing out of wasn’t going to do decal firings.
It was back to the design board then for the original work going on the porcelain. I kept working and testing design ideas and came up with a consistent range of loved pieces and testing new ideas and techniques as I kept learning.
It ended up taking a further 18 months before I had in my hands my own original designs fired into the porcelain I’d shaped myself.
Through this whole process of learning and doing, starting and following through (usually with a healthy dose of determination) I kept making room for opportunity to turn up and walk through the door. It wasn’t easy, often frustrating and I took a few teaspoons of concrete but it worked out.
I’ve survived the GFC and the economic impact it had on micro creative businesses like mine and have been able to recoup well enough to develop new ranges. I am now having the best sales results I’ve had in years.
If I’d stayed doing the same as I was before the GFC I would not have survived, my business would have been ruined. It takes a very short time to create a money problem and a very long time to turn it around (just look at the UK and USA economies). But to make good I’ve learnt that you need to be brave, do different things, test and listen and create. Open those doors and opportunity for good stuff will walk straight through and greet you warmly.