The Balancing Act by Suzanne of Solar Flare Creations

23 07 2008

In responding to this topic, I should start by saying that I am not a career beadmaker. It is definitely a hobby for me, even if it does border on obsession at times. So, I must balance life, career (as an educator) and glass, which at times can be a tricky juggling act.


It would seem likely, even obvious, that the balancing act would be easiest in the holidays, when it would be assumed I could be found ensconced behind my torch for hours at time.  Strangely, however, I seem to manage the balancing act best when I am more pressed for time – when beadmaking can become a great escape from my everyday life. I never seem to be as productive in the holidays as I would like.


Between my responsibilities at work, and my beadmaking, I also manage to squeeze in my family, performing in amateur musical theatre, and involvement in the SCA.  So, a busy life that frequently borders on hectic.  When I sit at the torch and melt glass though, everything else falls away.  I have found that it reduces my stress, gives me a few hours peace when things are getting on top of me.  Working with molten glass is not an occupation for the distracted.  You must be totally focused on what you are doing, for the sake of safety and control, and staring into the orange glow of molten glass and flame can be mesmerising.


I’m not sure I always manage the balancing act successfully – I know Solar Flare Creations would be more successful if I could be more prolific in the number of beads I have available. It has, however, provided a valued refuge for me from my day to day world and the stress of work, so it’s a balancing act I will continue to practice.

Spearmint Pastilles

Spearmint Pastilles

Balancing Career With Life Laura McCullough-DeLorme

7 07 2008

It’s no surprise this topic is posted about often…it’s a struggle for many of us.

I’m selfish when it comes to time I want to spend working.  In fact, I’m fairly selfish about my time in general, but I do recognize I need more in my life than just work and that it’s good for me to make room for other things. It’s funny how I see so many women’s magazines encouraging women to start saying no to invitations and to cut back, whereas, I have to make an effort to say yes to social engagements or else risk being a hermit.

In the past I loved to work all night when inspiration hit…or go for three day jags in the studio and tell my husband he was on his own for a week because I “had a lot to get done”.  I scoffed at the whole idea of making a work schedule.  It seemed boring and I feared it would stifle my creativity. I even referred to myself as having a “manic” style of creating and was proud of my all-nighters and subsequent need for four days off because I was tired and burned out.

The thing is, while my husband is extremely supportive, the bloom was starting to go off my rose as he grew tired of coming home after work to find me either holed up in the studio and resentful of his interruption or taking a break and resentful that I was expected to want to eat dinner with him or go to a movie.  I even tested friendships by canceling the same chai dates two or three times in a row because I was feeling “inspired”.

It isn’t as if I didn’t care about my husband and friends, but I felt I was being true to my inner artist/writer clock and that “they” needed to understand.

This all came to a head last year when I was preparing for my first art show.  I excitedly announced to a friend that I was going to have to work twenty-four hours a day for the “next two months” and she didn’t respond with much enthusiasm.  I commented to my husband about her lack of excitement and at the same time realized that actually, he didn’t seem too excited either.

I had one of those big moments where I realized everything had to change, but I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t like it and in fact, the only thing that motivated me was that I figured I could get more done if I set regular hours and went into disciplined mass “production”.

I made a detailed schedule that included time for life as well as time for work.  I was pretty impressed with myself and couldn’t wait until “Monday” to start my new routine.

I bombed out.  I couldn’t do it.

I did schedule time and sometimes I even managed to stick to my schedule, but I didn’t feel happy or particularly inspired to create.  My eight hours of work time would pass and I’d get a few pieces made (in-between checking my Yahoo horoscope, reading blogs, seeing “what’s doing” on Etsy and making some urgent phone calls to let friends know that a new bakery opened).  Then, I’d close up the studio for the day, head downstairs to have dinner and watch a movie with my husband…resentful and worried the whole time about how I didn’t get any work done earlier.

A girlfriend of mine gently asked if I could use some help with my schedule (this was after a teary call because I realized that I wasn’t going to have as many pieces as I needed for the show and because I still wasn’t pleasing my friends or myself either). I said yes…and this in itself was huge, I’m not wasn’t big on accepting help.

She knows me well and figured that my schedule was too rigid for a “beginner”.  She suggested that instead of blocking off time for various things, that I needed to look at what I wanted to accomplish on any given day.

Instead of blocking off eight hours as “Work”, we wrote “Twelve Wallets” or “Twenty Cardholders”.

I can’t tell you the difference this made. I’d get up in the morning and know that I had a real goal to work towards that day. Plus, she also realized I needed scheduled creativity time…so I scheduled a day to work on the new designs or play with the paper and see what new ideas were born.

I found it easy to pull myself away from the desk after completing my assigned number of pieces and in fact, this helped me to better price my work because I was able to better track how much time each wallet took to make.  It didn’t take long to realize I’d underpriced my work and could have been arrested for breaking minimum wage laws when it came to paying my one and only employee! 🙂

This has worked well for me, but I have to be honest…old habits die hard and it will probably continue to be a struggle. Especially at times when I feel as if I have to get more done in a day than is possible.  However, I’m learning that saying yes to invitations for midnight walks after the rain with a girlfriend or kicking back with my husband and having chips and dip while watching Tommy Boy (Who would ever imagine?) can be a lot of fun.

The passport holder pictured above is an example of an item that came out of the studio on one of my scheduled “free-days”.  As always, for more of what’s happening in the studio, I can always be found here:

Little Orange Kitchen Studio

Balancing Career with Life – Annette Piper

18 06 2008

It is so easy to get caught up with work. As often struggling artists/artisans we put 110% into our work – to creating, to promoting, to selling and we often fret when we are prevented from doing so. Sometimes we have to step back, take a breath and a good look around us and assess our lives.

The old saying that you should “work to live, not live to work” is true. Admittedly some amazing artists put their lives on hold while they worked and worked and worked. And the body of work they created has afforded them a measure of fame (often after their decease, however). But what was the quality of their lives as a consequence?

We mustn’t let our health suffer – we must take time to stop, to rest, to eat healthy foods and to get sufficient exercise. Our minds are important too – we need time to reflect, to refresh our perspective, to recharge our batteries. To let new ideas flow and new creations emerge without being forced.

What about our families? The love that our families can give us and the esteem in which they hold us will be for the type of person that we are, not just for the art we are able to create. Do you want to see your children grow and be a part of their lives? Do you want to be a valued and integral part of your family’s life?

When I started designing and creating jewellery, things accelerated incredibly fast. I found myself busier than I had ever been and surprisingly stressed at the success I was experiencing. But I was too busy to do things with my family and I also became very ill. Even though becoming ill was unpleasant, it made me stop and assess – and I realized that, for me at least, living my life and being enriched by my art, but not controlled by it, was the key to my lasting happiness. And years down the track, it is still working.


Garnet jade and peridot sterling silver necklace

Keep your work fresh and new with a balanced look at your life.

Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery
Under the Loupe

Fame, Fortune and Reality – Annette Piper

17 05 2008


Do you wish for your name to be linked with something incredibly desirable?  Do you wish for financial success? 


Whilst most of us would like both fame and fortune, we are well mired in the reality of working for a living.  It would be lovely to be so famous for my jewellery that people seek me out.  That my jewellery sold instantly, allowing me ample funds to purchase more desirable stones. 


In my case I must find the time to source stones, create, make, and sell my jewellery.  All whilst being a full time mother and assisting my husband with the family business.  


And instead of fame, I am slowly getting known outside of my immediate area (word of mouth is an excellent technique for promoting your business, but it is rather slow) and I have a sufficient turnover of pieces that I can purchase more supplies.   


I have had opportunities to expand my business and increase my profile.  However I had to look long and hard at what these opportunities would ‘cost’ me.   Did I want to go from having a creative outlet which I really enjoyed and with only the deadlines that I put in place, or was I desirous of working to other people’s schedules, having to get in extra help and putting a lot of pressure on myself?   After much consideration I realized that I was making jewellery for the pleasure it afforded.  I didn’t want an ever-increasing workload, even if that meant staying small (and the amount of work I could create and the sales necessarily stayed small too).


I guess I could always hope that one day I’ll be ‘discovered’ and made famous for my designs.  But till then I think I endeavour to enjoy each day as it comes, to keep creating jewellery for both my sake and those of my clients who relish it as much as I do.  All whilst being there for my children and having the flexibility to work and to take breaks according to my own, personal timetable.


Quartz and pyrite necklace by Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Balancing Career With Life – Starfish Designs

2 05 2008

For the last seven months I have been, in the traditional sense, career-less; last September after living in urban America for 11 years my family and I made a life change, packed our bags and headed for the sun. For assorted reasons I knew that I wouldn’t be working again for a while, and while attempting to enjoy my new found career-less freedom, and not knowing what it would lead to, I purchased my first sewing machine. I started out making a few things for our new home, and some gifts for family and friends mainly small pouches and coin purses, using a technique that I call Modern Patchwork. In early March, on an impulse, I signed up for my first craft show. The show was a complete success, and Starfish Designs became a concrete reality.

Coral Sunset Zippered Pouch

In two weeks from now the balancing act will become more complicated; as it stands now I am juggling my home and family, craft business, and an attempt at self-sufficiency gardening, soon added to the pot will be a return to my former career as an Architect. I would love for my craft business to be my only business, but for now, well…you know. Now I am starting to wonder how I will do it all: checklists, calendars, schedules, time frames, and self imposed deadlines all seem like a tremendous amount of pressure and after all those were the very stresses of the life that we consciously left behind. So instead I have decided to set a series of suggested, small, manageable, evolving, and no pressure, goals for Starfish Designs:

Production Creation:

There is something very rewarding about creating one piece at a time start to finish, for one no two bags are alike, and the excitement of seeing each one completed keeps me interested in what I am doing as well. Unfortunately the “one at time” strategy, albeit the most creative, doesn’t really fit with my no pressure business goals. Selecting and combining fabrics is one aspect of my design process that I have elected not to push into production mode. Therefore in the interest of creativity I am committed to hand selecting and coordinating my fabrics, no two will be alike, and in the interest of production…well, I will have to be very, very, very disciplined and resort to good old efficient assembly line production: cutting, pinning, zippers, stitch, press…repeat.


The internet is a sea of networking and marketing opportunities for design businesses of all types and sizes, most anyone you encounter in the online world of handmade will, of course nicely, head you in endless directions all leading to the most effective channels for promoting your craft. As I am floating about on an island in the Caribbean, dedicating a measure of my time to marketing is particularly important. I must admit that I have created an informal no pressure checklist outlining my concentrated marketing efforts for the week, most of which I hope to achieve, very early, every Sunday morning. What all of this means is that is that if on Wednesday a fellow designer tells me about a fantastic marketing opportunity or two it will have to wait until Sunday and until there is room for it to become part of my no pressure checklist. Again this will require discipline…

Time MisManagement:

Now that 8 hours of my day will be dedicated to being what I was originally intended to be, some attention will have to be given to finding a few extra hours here and there to conduct the business of Starfish Designs, here’s my list so far:

  • 2 hours per day commuting to work (with my husband driving) = 10 Hours/week. This time could easily be used for combining and coordinating fabrics, sketching, pinning, and preparing orders. Due to the way that my husband drives I have ruled out both cutting and pressing ;)!
  • 1 hour per day eating lunch which takes 1/2 an hour to eat, so 1/2 an hour per day = 2.5 Hours/week This time will be dedicated to responding to emails, processing orders, editing product photos and other computer based work on my laptop.
  • 1 hour per day waking up earlier = 5 Hours/week. This time will be dedicated toward sourcing my materials and supplies on the internet. Nearly 75% of my materials and supplies come from wonderful Ebay sellers; a few weeks ago I spent a bit of time developing a spreadsheet for use in conjunction with Ebay. The spreadsheet is complete with formulas that determine my maximum bid based on the required profit margin for a particular design. This really saves me time and money, and puts an end to countless hours of unfocused surfing on Ebay.

Zippered PouchesSo that works out to be (approximately) 17.5 hours per week, that plus my 2 hours of scheduled actual Production Creation time per day which is limited, for now, to Monday through Friday totals 27.5 hours per week. Well there you have it, a by no means no complete, no pressure approach to balancing all of the above. I must say that after putting all of this down on paper I know that I can only allow my self a bit of latitude for those times when I lose my balance.


Balancing Career with Life – Lisa Liddy

23 02 2008

I’ve procrastinated on this one for long enough. The whole balance thing is not my strong suit, as anyone who knows me well knows.
I’ve had my own book design business for 17 years and added the Joolz jewely design side about 3 or 4 years ago (in an effort to maintain my sanity…jury is still out on that one!). Building the book design business has been successful enough that I no longer fear having to go back to corporate America (good thing as I no longer have the shoes for it!). However, it has taken most of that 17 years to learn to “try” to enjoy the valleys that come with the peaks in business. And I’m still learning how to carve out time for Joolz, when the reality is that The Printed Page still pays half the bills around here.
And somewhere in there, you’ve got to make room for Life. I’ve been fairly lucky in that regard. Owning the business means I can determine the hours the work gets done (and often time those hours are when most of the country is sleeping). It has meant that I can take my daughter to and from school and until recently (she’s 14) use the drive time to find out how her day went. I can plan my schedule for the day and adjust it for unexpected things like a sick child, chaperoning field trips, and helping with last minute assignments that crop up. It means I can take a day in the middle of the week and call it a mini-weekend (especially if I’ve worked a weekend to make a deadline).
I am most productive late in the day and evening. I am never a bundle of energy first thing in the morning and since my DH is out of town 5 days a week, I don’t have to deal with that morning energy that he brought to our marriage! My work day is broken down into chunks. The morning to early afternoon chunk that is often interrupted with client calls and emails, a couple of hours some days when my daughter is at tutoring in the early evening, and the “night shift” (from 9pm to midnight or later) when I can really get cranking on production work.
So where does the jewelry design fit into this? That’s a question that has been such a struggle this last year. The desire is there. I certainly have the materials oozing out of whole sections of the office. I have beads for all seasons and occasions. Finding time in the course of a day hasn’t worked regularly.
Depending on the stresses of the day, when the time is there, the creativity and desire is not. And so the frustration builds. Couple that with not yet finding the proper niche for regular sales of somewhat eclectic jewelry and I’ve hit some major walls this year.
I have a plan, though. Not sure why it didn’t occur to me sooner but sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. Briefly (as I’m sure I’ll use this topic as another blog entry) when I work on jewelry I have a “method”. I have multiple projects going at any time…laying out beads and pushing them around into bracelets and necklaces. Earrings come later and rings are a process unto themselves. Once I have an assortment of items laid out to my satisfaction (over several sessions usually), I spend time stringing or wiring all of them. Not finishing them with toggles and clasps. Just assembling, if you will. Another session is devoted to finishing work and earrings that match. Photos and web work is last (and often where the process breaks down since I’m on the computer hours at time for the book design work…spending more of it that isn’t chatting with forum friends is not my strong suit).
So my latest “brilliant” idea for fitting more Joolz time (and therefore more ME time!) is blocking several hours first thing in the morning several days a week. Before anyone else is up if I can pull it off, otherwise after the school run. Before the business of books heats up and I wonder where the day has gone. Given the way I like to work on my Joolz, I think it makes sense.
Stay tuned for an update on how it’s going!

Balancing Career with Life – Connie Wyatt

12 11 2007

I have never really had a “career” in my life!  I am one of those women born at a time when women stayed home for the most part and raised their children, when there was only one car, which dad took to work, and there were many types of home delivery services that catered to mothers in this situation.  So, growing up, my ambition in life was to marry and have children of my own.  I did grow up, and I married my High School sweetheart who also happened to be the cute boy next door!  Alas, the children never came along and we traveled around for so many years that I never really had to get a job, never mind having a career. 

  Life for women has changed a great deal over the decades.  I think there are pros and cons of women being out in the work force.  I know so many women that have felt forced to leave their babies behind and go get a job.  There is sadness because they do not get to properly raise their children the way they might like.  On the other hand, the job field has opened up so much that there are fortunate women who really love their jobs and they then find they have a real career and not just a job.  And, joyfully, due to technology women have even greater opportunities to work from home and are then on hand to watch over the goings on of their household, which must bring a greater satisfaction and contentment. 

For me, having a business of my own, a career, if you will, was something that just sort of happened when I wasn’t looking!  I have found such a deep sense of satisfaction from working with my hands, creating such delightful handcrafted jewelry that I wonder how I ever lived without this purpose in my life.  For me, the biggest problem I have been dealing with is inventing structure for myself to be at my most productive.  There are many hats that one has to wear when you have an internet business.  You have to be the web master, the book keeper, the photographer and the artist.  Oh, I almost forgot shipping and receiving!  I think that the most difficult thing to achieve when you work at home as your own boss and task master is to have a structured schedule or routine that you force yourself to adhere to.  It is too dangerously easy to flip on the TV in the morning over your cup of coffee and fuzzy slippers and settle in and watch Good Morning America, and then get so comfortable that you follow that up with Regis and Kelly, then dare to stick around and watch the fireworks on The View.  Now it is nearly noon and not one bead has been strung, or bill been paid or picture been taken.  I need a boss!  LOL!   

I am still learning about running a business a year after having opened Crystal Daydreams.  I am having a wonderful time, and I am growing in self confidence in a way I never dreamed of before.  I think that the internet has given women so many opportunities.  Trying to figure out how to balance your real life with your virtual one is a nice dilemma to have.  It is wonderful to wake up each day knowing that your career is all about playing with beads in every color of the rainbow and that someone might actually pay to have something you designed and crafted with your own two hands.  That is satisfaction, indeed!