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2021 Reflections

I saw that my friend, Nicky Ovitt, had written a blog post about how her year (2021) had shaped up and I was inspired to do something similar. It's always fun to reflect on what worked and what didn't, and last year I did a lot of experimentation that needed to happen. I think I stayed true to what my new year's goals were last year so I'm excited to do a little reflection.


Illuminated Letter Pendants

This was an incredibly fun series to create but I did make a few mistakes when it came to marketing the work. It was right at the beginning of the year and I was having a hard time being on social media and I went totally dark for the entire time of working. I've now realized that I do need to bring my audience into my process a little bit so that they connect with the piece. What was wonderful though was how excited my dad was to see each pendant finished. One Letter would take me an entire day to complete and he'd come home from work eager to see what I had done. We really connected over this series and for me that was the most important part. I also learned a ton about enameling and painting and it revived something in me that I didn't know was missing. I'd love to recreate this series again in the future but I have other ideas for how it can unfold.


Rebranding and Meltdown

After my Letter series, I did a rebranding of all of my older work. This meant updating my photographs and also taking the time to polish and fix any flaws that might have been on the piece. I had pulled all of my work out of galleries in 2020 and I was on a mission to find my true calling in terms of style, technique, and searching for a way to give my work a unique AyC aesthetic.


Some work just didn't make the cut, so I ended up taking apart a lot of the old work and melting the silver down to be reused for new projects and salvaging any gemstones that may have been in the piece. This really felt like I was hitting restart. I was forced to critique my own work and understand what I didn't like about a piece. What I saw was that some of my designs were rushed, or designed to be made quickly, so there was no substance to the piece and I realized that I needed to drastically slow down my production. I realized a lot about myself by doing this and while it was sad to think that some of my designs weren't as appreciated as others, I saw that I needed to stop obsessing about my bottom dollar and create the art that came from my heart.


A Year of Earrings

After going through that process of taking apart older work, I really needed a direction. I thought that maybe if I tried to just focus on a type of jewelry, that maybe something would become of the process and I'd find my true calling. I knew that a year was a long time, but that it'd give me enough time to dig deep into a new direction and I hoped that eventually I'd find my path.


Why earrings? Well, because I love wearing earrings more than any type of jewelry. It's an item that you can never get enough of, it doesn't have to be an heirloom piece, and you can just have fun wearing them. The most wonderful thing to have come from my Year of Earrings was my love for miniature oil paintings which I'll get into later.


Pregnancy

We all know a lot can happen in a year and I was fully aware that my Year of Earrings was going to face its own set of challenges. I had to basically stop as soon as I got pregnant. My first trimester was very difficult. I was extremely tired for those first three months and practically stuck in bed from lack of energy.


But, something incredible happened. I kept having flashes of how I wanted my future to unfold with AyC and never before had my path seemed so clear. I feel a sudden sense of purpose and drive, I know that I'll more than be able to balance motherhood with my business, and I also can see how I'd like to carve out my own niche.


Rings Inspired by New Mexico

Before I got back into earrings, I thought I'd try my hand at rings again. This was an experiment with a few variables: I wanted to see if I could manage semi-customizable orders and how my work would look with gold.


If I'm honest, this was not easy. I think the hardest lesson I learned was that the wearer has to be there in person to try on the rings. Ring bands can fit very differently depending on the design and even though I was sending ring sizers, the band would still either be too big or too tight. I pride myself on getting something right and this felt like I was putting my reputation on the line. For a small business like mine, I couldn't afford or risk making mistakes. Since I'm an online-only business, I realized that something so personal like rings can no longer be available. I've decided to stick with earrings and pendants for the indefinite future and it's no secret that I'm relieved to let go of some of the jewelry types that no longer work for my business.


The good news is that I fell in love with gold, but I don't know yet how I'll be using it.


Miniature Oil Paintings

Sometime in March, I thought that it'd be cool to incorporate oil painting into my work. I made a few pairs of oil-painted earrings in August and it brought me so much joy that I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had a ton of hurdles to overcome like finding the perfect wood to paint on that could be lightweight and thin enough to become wearable; the correct oil paints that would meet my standards of being high-quality but also manufactured in the US; how to properly finish and protect my oil painting so that these could be worn for years to come.


But I had no idea what to paint so I decided to draw inspiration from Old Masters. I'd select a work and pick a little portion of the painting so that you were getting a detail of the work rather a miniature version of that painting. In the process, it was like I was in a crash course on art history and it has been fascinating to learn about art and painting and pigments and canvases and art preservation and symbolism and design and brushes and about famous painters and museums and art collectors and genres and painting styles. I mean this world is truly endless with inspiration and the best part is that I get combine it with jewelry. For me, this means that life is good. I have a long road ahead of me before I begin to really get into the swing of things, but it's exciting and fun and incredibly satisfying to make.


Avoiding the Holiday Rush

One of the last big decisions I made this year was to not participate in anything related to the holidays. I had been told by many of my mentors and fellow jewelers that the holidays was when they made the majority of their income and so other years I'd hustle to put myself out there, do markets, release a collection, organize a sale, etc, etc. But I crunched some numbers in 2020, and realized that my work was something that sold consistently all year but not so much during Christmas-time.


Why was that? The main reason is that many of my customers actually purchase my work for themselves. Come Christmas-time and they're focused on gifting to others and let's be honest, my work is too extravagant to be gifted. I decided to back off and enjoy the holidays with my family, to relax when I needed, and to focus on a new collection for 2022. This is the first time in my years of running this business that I was happy and completely present during the holidays. And it's a relief to have something to look forward to in terms of work for the Spring, whereas other years I was so burnt out, I could barely walk into my studio for the months of January and February. I also really love not joining the crowd and having my own schedule. I hated the prospect of being lost to all the noise and I kept imagining my audience drowning in Christmas marketing. So you guessed it, I might not contribute to the Christmas frenzy in the future.


Anyway, thank you for another year of AyC and for supporting me in any way you can. It truly means the world to me that anyone would enjoy my work and I appreciate you following my creative journey. For another post I will talk a little bit about what the future holds and how I imagine this year unfolding since this post is getting long. Have a wonderful week and thank you for reading.


Much love,

Caitlin


Here is my most popular post from 2021 and it was one of the last pieces I made for the year. It will be a part of my upcoming Vanitas Collection which will become available in March.