Definition of TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT:
A great commotion over an unimportant matter.
A few years ago I received a wonderful gift from a friend: a pair of gorgeous jade drop earrings. Dainty and delicate they were, and oh so beautiful!
And I, who had never felt any compelling interest in jewellery prior to that moment, was completely taken with them. I wore them all the time, everywhere.
One evening, admiring them for the thousandth time as I was removing them before bed, the thought suddenly occurred to me (appearing in my mind like one of those little thought bubbles rising above a cartoon character’s head): earrings like these couldn’t be that hard to make. I could probably do it myself!
In my usual extravagant fashion, I plunged willy-nilly into this fascinating craft, soaking up everything I could find on the internet about semi-precious stones, their characteristics and how they should be treated.
I learned from jewellery books and magazines how to work with beads and jump rings and French wire and all the bits and pieces that go into making jewellery.
I signed up for a weekend workshop to learn how lampwork beads are made; and I haunted online jewellery stores to see what other folks were doing.
My hands fell effortlessly into the patterns of wire-working, and the stones and beads I worked with felt like silk under my fingers as I planned the designs I wanted.
I sourced online bead shops for the best prices, learning which could be trusted to provide accurate information about the quality of the stones they offered, and which were less than forthcoming about the authenticity of their wares.
I learned – the hard way – the Golden Rule for playing in the world of semi-precious stones: caveat emptor!
When stringing beads and necklaces grew a bit boring, I branched out and discovered, to my great excitement, just how much fun it is to explore the intricacies of building chain-maille jewellery with nothing more than pliers and jump rings.
Creating patterns with the gorgeous Miyuki beads I played with took me into the world of bead weaving, experimenting with my own patterns and colours carefully picked from among the myriad Miyuki seed bead colours out there in the world.
African beads, Venetian glass, Swarovski crystals….everything I could lay my hands on became grist for my little jewellery mill.
I discovered the difference between rolled gold and gold-plate, why sterling silver is called sterling, what vermeil is and how argentium silver is made. I learned how to darken silver when I needed to, and which jewellery made with semi-precious stones could withstand a journey through my tumbler – a journey that magically turned yellowed silver into the gorgeous, gleaming, almost-white metal that I loved.
And night after night, kaleidoscopic images of jewellery designs featured in my dreams. It was glorious!
In the end, I wound up making jewellery that I myself would have worn; simple designs that allowed the beauty of the materials to shine through.
[Do you remember Disney’s wonderful original 1940 movie, “Fantasia”?
One of the segments that I remember from my childhood is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – where the Sorcerer leaves Mickey Mouse, his apprentice, in charge of a small clean-up job. Mickey has the brilliant idea of using one of the sorcerer’s spells to charm a broom and bucket into reproducing themselves many times over to help him get this unpleasant cleaning project out of the way as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for Mickey, however, he can’t remember the spell that stops them from reproducing, and he winds up battling an army of brooms carrying endless buckets of water into the room until it’s completely awash!
Well, that was me, happily churning out jewellery as though my life depended on it; until it eventually began to dawn on me that I was going to have to find some kind of outlet for this new-found passion or risk being drowned myself – in product!]
The next step, of course, was to sell some of my wares: thus began Susannah Designs, my small jewellery business.
So I designed a business card (oh, how I love to do graphic design!), found a good accountant to look after filing my yearly income tax, and settled down to the business of selling jewellery.
However, it took me no time at all to discover, much to my surprise and disappointment, that as much as I loved making all this jewellery, I absolutely despised the marketing and sales end of things!
Keeping constant track of inventory; deciding on pricing; designing, setting up and taking down displays; searching out sales venues; even such inconsequential tasks as attaching the little price tags to the jewellery seemed to take forever to do.
In short, all the myriad tasks that are required to make a business like this work were cutting into my design/fun time – to the point where they were close to cutting my design time completely out.
So there it was, plain as the nose on my face: being the happy little jewellery-maker beavering away in the background was right up my alley; however, as for the rest, well…who would ever have thought that it all would be so incredibly time-consuming and stressful!
I kept on keeping on for months, thinking that somehow it would all fall into place; but eventually, much as I hated to admit it, I had to accept that my wonderful hobby had degenerated into little more than drudgery — and I certainly hadn’t retired from a busy and stressful working life with the intention of adding yet another, brand-new set of stresses to my life!
It was time for the “Susannah Designs” enterprise to come to a screeching halt.
Luckily for me, a friend offered to host a huge jewellery party, which went a long way to reducing my inventory. Then my accountant did whatever it is that accountants do to officially close a business. Finally, the remaining inventory went to beading friends.
What remains of that tumultuous time is only my small collection of beads and findings that I particularly loved – enough to keep me in jewellery (and the females in my family in gifts) for quite some time.
Nowadays, I slip into my craft room now and again and ply my former trade for a pair of earrings to wear with a particular outfit, or perhaps to design a bracelet for a gift. The passion that blew into my life back then has since ripened into a fond and quite manageable hobby — one that I now pursue with a modicum of decorum, as befits an old love affair.
And that suits me just fine, thank you very much!
[Unless linked to a website, the photographs are mine]