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My Philosophy on Work

Before I started this business, I was lost as to what it was I wanted to do with my life. Being asked what you want to be when you grow up, is THE most often asked question of anyone’s life. It puts a lot of pressure on what you determine your career to be because it’s an extension of your identity.


I was willing to try anything from working at a children’s science museum to doing construction to moving to Spain to teach English. But nothing really felt right. I have an eclectic resume and it was hard for me to gather any genuine intel on what I was good at doing, so I had to have a serious sit-down with myself to understand what was most important to me.


Firstly, I had to change my mindset. “If the majority of our waking day is spent working,” I thought to myself, “then there has to be some part of the work experience that’s enjoyable.” From there, I went down the list of things I enjoyed doing. It came down to painting and jewelry-making, so it was obvious that I wanted to do something creative.


After deciding to pursue jewelry, it has taken me years to understand why doing something handmade is so important. In fact, it wasn’t until earlier this year when I re-discovered The Arts & Crafts Movement of the late 1800s, and the philosophy behind the reaction to the Industrial Revolution, that I began reflecting on the importance of creative work again.


This has not been an easy post to write because I’ve had to essentially lay out the foundation of my own creative path. It was difficult because for some reason it’s uncomfortable for me to open up about the principles that I believe in, but I have been practicing these concepts since I started this business.


I think it’s important to share because they are as a contradictory viewpoint to our general take on work, entrepreneurship, and creativity. So, here are the three principles I work with everyday:


Research

I do research because I love learning. I value knowledge over most things, and I feel that nurturing your curiosity is the secret to living a fulfilling life.


Curiosity and research keep you open, honest, it's a way of questioning what you think you know, and broadens your possibilities. It opens doors to the imagination, and you forever have a source of inspiration. It allows you to think critically, and analyze things with intention.


I've also found that you never feel alone. There’s a point when you realize you’re not the only one doing something. With a little research, you'll soon find that there are many people who view things the way you do. You become a part of something much bigger, and it becomes your contribution to a community, and the research helps you understand the greater whole.


Most artists begin by tapping into their ‘calling,’ but once you start researching, it becomes less about you and more about whatever external source that brought you there in the first place.


Design


I studied architecture in college, and one author who stuck out for me was Vitruvius, an Ancient Roman architect who wrote a book called The Ten Books on Architecture. I wrote a short post about him last year.


The first few chapters of the book are rich with design principles like how every building--this can be applied to many other creative paths--should be well-made, functional, and beautiful, or in Latin firmitatis, utilitatis, venustatis. I base every design off of these principles.


When I think of something that is well-made, I think of technical execution. Unless you are making a contemporary art statement, I believe that art or artisan jewelry should be made to last. I like to think of the jewelry as being worn for decades, something could outlast a lifetime, and be worn by someone else.


'Functional' is a rather unappealing word, so I've translated it to mean wearability. I tend towards big, statement jewelry, but that doesn't mean that a piece can't still be wearable. A piece of jewelry that feels too heavy, or irritates the skin can be nightmare, and the whole point of wearing jewelry is to feel comfortable in your own skin.


And of course, there's beauty. Obviously, this is subjective, but there are a multitude of ways to convey beauty. Color, harmony, form are just several of the ways to create something beautiful, but I also think originality combined with something thought-provoking or inspiring are important factors as well.


Practice


When I first started working with metal, every collection was based on a historical theme that was reflected within a technique that I would practice. I didn't practice the way many are taught to practice. I dove right into making the final piece. This did add a lot of pressure, but it forced me to make every attempt my one of my best attempts. This helped me find a rhythm with the making process and to evolve my technical execution.


Those first few years of intense practice, I was very determined but I also knew that not every piece was going to stand out. I thought a lot about the work of Pablo Picasso. He was an incredibly prolific artist who left behind tens of thousands of works of art, but if you ask anyone, many would only be able to name a handful of pieces off the top of our heads.


That's how I approached my work from the very beginning. I have made a lot of jewelry over the years, and I always knew that some pieces were going to be more of a showstopper than others. I realized from the start that those pieces only come out of a creative every once in a while. My goal was to make a lot of good work and go with the flow of making and every so often I'd produce something exceptional. In other words, I wasn't going to allow perfectionism get in the way of my making and practicing.


From those years, I learned to become my own mentor. I had to look at my technical flaws in both design and wearability and understand how I could improve. If it didn't pass a certain sets of standards, then I kept the piece for myself.


The photos that I'm showing for this post are from several years ago. I was testing out techniques with both beadwork and metalwork, and originally Aguja y Clavo (which translates to Needle and Nail) was where I tried to marry the two worlds. I quickly found that I wanted to expand my knowledge in metal-smithing, but beads, and especially their vibrant colors, hold an important place in how I make and design jewelry.


That's it for now. Thank you so much for reading this post.

Caitlin