What seems like a hundred years ago, even though it’s more like twenty, I used to work as a phlebotomist in a satellite lab. It was there, while I was supposed to be doing my job, that I stumbled on how to make my own jewelry from a catalogue of work-at-home projects I’d purchased in the mail.
Actually, I started practicing my new craft at home with the directions provided by the company, it was just that I had so much down time while working the satellite by myself, I used to literally lay out all the supplies, tools and directions, toiling away for hours at a time, teaching myself how to weave string and beads into beautiful, fringe style earrings and other pieces of jewelry. Back then my eyes were sharp and my fingers nimble, not to mention I had a lot more patience than I do these days. These were seed beads I was working with at the time, tiny little things, some of them no bigger than the head of a pin.
I would lay everything out on the empty counter and work, and when a patient came in to have their blood drawn, I’d get up and go do it. That’s how slow business was back in the day and I took advantage since I got all my work done, processed and sent out in a timely manner. My supervisor didn’t mind, as long as I got my work done efficiently. I wish I could remember the name of the company that I made those first pieces for, unfortunately, it was a scam but at least, I learned a new craft and began to make and try to sell them myself. This lead to more how-to manuals and magazines and I had the bug. I couldn’t pass Michael’s or Hobby Lobby or any craft show that sold beads for that matter, without buying more. I have enough beads, buttons and tools to open my own small store, yet now I rarely have the time for making jewelry anymore.
I took the knowledge that the experience of that first company gave me and honed my craft, perfecting it over twenty years but never really getting the marketing of it down pat. Oh, I tried to sell a few pieces here and there, I placed it in craft shows and antique stores where you rent a little booth, yet no one else wanted to pay what they were worth to me. By then, there was way too much competition from the many discount jewelry stores, and honestly, my work was better than some artists but not as polished as many. I made earrings, and bracelets, rings and necklaces-I still have many of my finished pieces today. None were as special as those first ones I taught myself how to make, when I discovered I actually had a knack for stringing and weaving beads into something beautiful.
Had I really believed in myself, I might have been better at marketing, but I told myself it would take the fun out of it if I had to mass produce my stock. I gave most of my jewelry away as gifts and kept some for myself, I can still make it when I want to give someone a heartfelt gift. It turns out I was doing it more for the love of the craft than something to make a profit on. Maybe I learned something more valuable than how to make jewelry that year. I learned how precious it is to be able to make something beautiful with your own two hands, how you share that gift is up to you.