I did it!
I made a ring. To anyone who makes jewelry, this might not seem like a big deal. But to me it's huge. For years I tried to avoid techniques like soldering that I thought were too hard or too complicated. (Soldering is essential to silver ring making.) I convinced myself that I did just fine selling earrings and pendants. I created the belief that I needed to be taught how to solder by an expert, rather than trusting that I could teach myself. And there's all those tools to buy, and the smell... But the biggest enemy of my progress was the eternally present question, what if I fail? What if I invest the time, tools, energy, money and take the risk, only to find out I'm really bad at it? This line of thinking is directly related to the fact that I live with depression. It rears its head in a myriad of ways on a daily basis. Perfectionism being the most subversive. It can make grocery shopping decisions that should take seconds feel like life-or-death moral dilemmas. It tricks me into believing that I have to do everything perfectly on the first try... I could say a lot more about my version of depression, but let's get back to the ring.
I've been making jewelry for over 14 years. And just last month was the first time I branched out into soldering. Fourteen Years. During that time I attended several different workshops and classes where I tried soldering, successfully in fact. I'd bring home well made sample pieces I had finished in someone else's studio. But nothing ever translated into a practice-worthy confidence that I felt I could bring home to my own studio. I don't know where I got the idea that soldering was such a scary, failure prone process, but I was most certainly limiting myself so I didn't have to face even the possibility of failure. Then last December something interesting happened. I sold my first encaustic painting.
I paint, too. Sorry, forgot to mention that. Acrylic, encaustic, water color. I love it. It's one of the ways I lose time. By this I mean that I get so deep into a painting that time doesn't matter, I'm one with the creative flow of the universe and it feels exquisite. Then inevitably I have to stop for something important like sleep or feeding my family. But when I'm in it, I'm in it deep. My cheeks flush pink. Hunger doesn't register. Time flows by like a lazy river. I feel fully alive, productive and like I am living my purpose. Making jewelry is also like that for me, but not in quite the same way painting is. Don't get me wrong, I love making jewelry. Especially the pieces that hold deep personal meaning for my customers. I love the designing, carving, hammering, firing pieces with my torch and liberating shiny treasures from my tumbler barrel... However, making jewelry is physically demanding for me in a way that painting simply is not.
So, after being curious about it for years, I learned how do do encaustic painting and collage from a lovely friend of mine, Jenny. She is the real deal. A very talented professional painter and visual artist, and altogether awesome human. She generously taught me how to paint with encaustics and I fell in love with the medium. The very first encaustic painting I made was a collage including a tree of life design I created with layers of cobalt blue and gold colored wax. I never intended to sell this painting. There isn't even a photo of it. It was the first one of its kind I had ever made, and I was going to keep it. I'm kind of sentimental that way. But somehow it got grouped in with the rest of my encaustic paintings one day and put on display in my booth behind my jewelry at a holiday gift fair. Later that afternoon, this little painting became the first meaningful painting I have ever sold. Someone else saw something in that painting and decided that it was worth her hard earned money to purchase it from me. In fact, she was so taken with it, she said, "It speaks to me." Now it lives in her home. I didn't realize how important that one interaction was to me until much later, when I found myself at my computer this March ordering the supplies I needed to solder a ring together.
Staring at my shopping cart on the computer screen, it hit me that the success of the encaustic painting experience had somehow unlocked something inside me, allowing me to break a 14 year cycle of avoidance and fear. Here I was doing something I had made excuse after excuse after freaking excuse to avoid doing. So before the old messages of fear and doubt started up again, I quickly ordered the paste solder, a third hand and a fancy new soldering board with newfound determination. When the Rio Grande box arrived, I gave myself permission to play with the materials. I watched YouTube videos about soldering fine silver to Sterling. I put joyful music on in my studio. I sang along. I tried soldering on my own. I gave myself the freedom to explore a new technique and materials, and let go of the outcome. And guess what?
The world didn't end.
Quite the opposite, really, for a creative entrepreneur like myself. I made a ring. It isn't perfect, and it wasn't easy, but I love it. Soldering has opened up a whole new direction in my jewelry making. I have to admit that my treasured first soldered ring is not for sale, but I'm excited to create more rings. I'm excited about painting and creating jewelry in a way I haven't been in a long time. And all because I (finally) let myself try something new.