A few years ago a friend gave me a wonderful birthday gift: a pair of dainty, delicate and absolutely gorgeous jade drop earrings. And I, who until that very moment had never felt any compelling interest in jewellery, promptly fell in love with them. I wore them every day, everywhere.
One evening, as I was removing them before bed and idly admiring them for approximately the zillionth time, the thought suddenly slipped into my mind like one of those little thought bubbles rising above a cartoon character’s head: Earrings like these can’t be that hard to make. I could probably do it myself!
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that single casual thought was the start of a roller-coaster love affair with beads and colours and designs that lasted far too long. Oh, but what a ride it was!
In my usual willy-nilly fashion, I plunged into the craft, soaking up everything I could find on the internet about semi-precious stones. Jewellery books and magazines taught me how to work with beads and jump rings and French wire and all the other exotic bits that go into making good jewellery.
Haunting online bead shops for the best prices, I soon discovered which ones 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.
By frustrating trial and error, I learned the Golden Rule for naive newcomers looking to play in the world of semi-precious stones: caveat emptor!
Soon I was branching out and discovering just how much fun it is to build chain-maille jewellery with nothing more than pliers and jump rings. Creating patterns with the gorgeous Miyuki beads I played with led me deep into the intricate world of bead weaving, and this soon became one of my favourite ways of making jewellery.
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. I designed a business card to advertise Susannah Designs and then settled down to the business of selling off my output so I could afford to buy more materials.
To my surprise, however, in no time at all I discovered that, much as I loved making all this stuff, I absolutely despised the marketing and sales end of things!
Keeping track of inventory; deciding on pricing; setting up and taking down displays; searching out new sales venues; even such tasks as attaching the little price tags to the jewellery, were all too, too much. All this extra work, work that’s required to make a business like mine successful, were cutting into my design time – to the point where they were close to cutting my design time completely out!
Much as I hated to admit it, I had to accept that my wonderful love affair had degenerated into little more than drudgery. It was plain as the nose on my face: being the happy little jewellery-designer beavering away in the background was right up my alley. As for the rest of it… well, let me put it this way: if I never have to see another inventory sheet, I’ll die happy.
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.
What remains now 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]