I'm a jewelry maker, instructor, webmaster, and business owner.
And a work-at-home mom with two kids, Zoe and Edgar.
Maybe that should have come first, because they seem to be the boss of me a lot of the time (or so they'd like to think :)
The Quick Artist's Bio Synopsis
I know, I talk way too much.
Let me give you the gist of my professional bio if you're just skimming:
I'm a lifelong compulsive "maker" type
I love to experiment rather than design, I'm a maker rather than an artist.... and I love new and exciting better than tried and true (although I do know that you need to learn tried and true first before you can really know how to experiment :)
I went to art school in the early '90's, and worked as an artist for the rest of that decade. For those who care about such things, I went to the University of Ottawa, Bachelor of Fine Arts Program, and did a concentration in Sociology too during my 4 year stint.
As an artist, I did shows and wholesaled, and worked the buyer end of the corporate world too. Then I got bored with it and went back to school.
Went back to school and became a mental health counsellor and worked in that field for years. That's where I learned that I had a flair for skills training. I discovered a natural capacity for simplifying complex and overwhelming tasks into granular easy to follow steps. (Maybe because with my own busy head I need steps broken down to super manageable levels myself :)
That's why my tutorials and classes are so darned good. I don't know where my modesty comes from. Maybe the ether.
My expertise includes knowing wire, wire work, and wire wrapping pretty darn well, I can knot and macrame like a fiend, and metal and beads are very good friends. Fire and torches like me too, and I really like them. A lot. As of this writing, I'm currently obsessed with fire patinas on metal, saw cutting metal sheet, fold forming, and torch enameling. Riveting is big with me right now too. And hitting metal with hammers (or forging if you prefer), but that's not a new thing.
Where do I sell my work? Primarily I sell only when someone asks locally, and I feel like making what they want me to make.
My Posh Gallery Showings and International Fame. Nay, Infamy.
You'll likely want to hear that I sell a lot of my work in galleries or shops or do the craft show circuit. Maybe you want to hear that I travel the continent teaching workshops and hob knob with the movers and shakers in the jewelry crafting world.
If that's what you're looking for, you'll be disappointed. I do none of that.
I don't show in galleries, and I don't wholesale or do shows, and I rarely even sell anything physical at all anymore.
Instead, I have set up my business purposely to fit to my lifestyle, personal likes, dislikes, and priorities.
I used to work at a regular job. I was a mental health counsellor in a small grass-roots agency. I wasn't making six-figures, but I was making a good income.
I was doing OK going to work everyday, making a regular living, driving to work in rush-hour traffic, going to an office, working 9-5. I was pretty happy living my boring little life. Nothing much went on, but nothing really bad happened either. There were things I loved about my job, and things I hated.
And I could have gone on and on like that.
But something big happened. Something HUGE in fact.
We got pregnant. We were so happy and so excited! After a difficult birth (it seemed this little baby did NOT want to come out into the cold world), we had our first perfect little baby. She was supposed to be an Isabel, but we knew she was a stubborn one. We named her Zoe, which means "life".
Chris and I are kind of old school. We wanted Zoe to have her mommy home with her, at least for the preschool and kindergarten years. We knew it would be a struggle, living on one income, but we'd saved some money, and we could live pretty cheaply if I didn't need a car or work clothes or transportation.
I started getting into the groove of being a mommy. At first I couldn't believe that they'd let us take this little thing home with us. I stared into Zoe's face so much that my husbands face looked MASSIVE to me. If you're a parent, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.
When Zoe was two-and-a-half we popped out number two. This time we had a baby boy. We named him Edgar. He was a dream! So perfect and this one was sleepy. You don't know how much this was a relief to me after having a high-needs toddler. We were out and about together the next day. Zoe had proven to be as filled with life as we thought she would be, and needed to be socializing ALL the TIME. So at age 32, I had a super active two-and-a-half year-old, and a sleepy newborn baby.
I wanted so badly to continue to stay at home with my kids...
Yes, I know kids are exhausting. Sometimes I wished I was back at work just so I could use the bathroom with no one following me.
What would I do when they went to school? When I was 29, working, and pregnant I calculated that I'd be working again at 37 when number two would be in full time school.
At the time that seemed impossibly far away, but with my two kids already in existence now, time seemed to be speeding up impossibly fast. Before I knew it I'd be back at work and my kids would be picked up by a baby sitter if I didn't do something about it!
Zoe was two-and-a-half. I figured the time was now to start building a business I could do part-time from home. By the time they went to school, I'd be running a successful business from home.
The Year Was 2006....
In 2006 I was home with my second baby, Edgar, who was about 6 months, and my daughter who was 3 years old.
I was looking at working during naptime and after the kids were asleep at night. I had chosen to stay home when my first child was born, and I had left my job as a mental health counsellor and life skills trainer at a community mental health agency.
I had been home more than 3 years already, and I don't really do well without creative endeavors being a large focus of my life. (With my first baby I obsessively designed cloth diaper wraps and baby slings, and before that I spent all my non-work hours making art quilts, painting, and woodworking).
Now with my second, I was starting to think, how can I continue to stay home and still bring in money?
"Making" Was my Go To Activity. Could I Turn it Into Money?
Years before I had been a working artist and I wanted to earn my living from creating again.
From experience I knew the show circuit and travel was not for me.
I knew that I didn't want to make the same products over and over again, and I knew the hours and hours of work involved in building inventory for selling.
To top it off, what I chose had to be easily packed up and be relatively kid friendly. That meant no toxins or messy cleanup that couldn't be done quickly.
To my mind it was either sewing or jewelry making -- small, portable, and easily put out of reach of tiny fingers.
Wrassling the Internet Molding it To My Will...
At that time Etsy had just opened its doors online, and I tried my hand at selling online.
It was a long road. I sold jewelry and supplies, and after a slow start, I found SBI! (this website platform/ training angel) and started studying selling online and internet marketing, and a whole world of creative business ideas opened up for me.
Long story short, I learned about marketing online from there and through online market research learned that teaching jewelry making would likely be the most lucrative form of creating for me as an online business.
Few people at that time would buy jewelry online, but plenty of people were looking for instruction, so I became an information publisher and creative educator.
I created How-to-Make-Jewelry.com from scratch, and it became a large information website that attracted jewelry making enthusiasts searching for great quality instruction.
I kept them coming back by encouraging them to join my newsletter list to receive my goofy but informative ramblings along with low key promotions about my online courses and digital products.
At first my goal was to break even. Then it was $100 a month. Over time, it grew and grew until I now enjoy a greater income than I had working full time; I work less hours, and I love what I do.
Why I Run My Business the Way I Do...
I Love My Family, I Love Creating, and I Love the Flexibilty and Freedom to Do Both.
I'm a mother and spouse first, and a businessperson second.
I want to take my kids to school in the morning, and walk them home at 3:30, not drop them at daycare bleary eyed at 7 am.
I want to enjoy hearing about their day as I make dinner at 4, not pick them up at 6 and only have time to feed them and bathe them and put them to bed.
At the same time, I want to enjoy creating and fabricating and generating a good income from my efforts.
In my case, I like being alone and can't concentrate with others around. I like writing. I like computers. I like experimenting and playing with different materials. I don't have much need for fame (although I do like fortune).
I love being creative, but not at the expense of everything else.
I definitely do not think being a starving artist is romantic.
Neither does my daughter Zoe (right).
I don't think working 80 hours a week is romantic either, so I tried diff
erent ways of running my business so that I could maximize revenue while at the same time be creative and make fun things.
On the home front, I decided daycare was not for me. I think lots of time with your parents when you're little is important, and role modeling is paramount. I had afternoon caregivers for my son when when he was 3 and 4, but I decided that an 8 hour workday was too much for me if I wanted to have enough energy and time for my kids and husband too.
As I watch my kids getting older, I think the role modeling becomes even more important. I don't want my kids to think that my work is more important than they are, and I want them to see that planning and accountability are important, and can even be fun.
Websites and Marketing Know-How + Love of Crafting and Teaching = Happy Christine
All this is why I'm not a "successful artisan". Instead, I took my love of craft and created an information website and turned it into an online business as founder, writer, and webmaster at How-to-Make-Jewelry.com.
Over time as I became really proficient as an online marketer, I started to teach other jewelry makers how to navigate the world of search engines and online marketing via my courses and guides on HandmadeResults.com.
Now that my kids are becoming more independent (and photo and video technology has become less of a time pit for me) I find myself being drawn back to making and experimenting more and more.
Maybe I'll even start actively selling physical wares again now that I have enough income to really put together a kick-ass metal working and enamelling studio, and enough saved to carry me while I create a product line and samples to take to market.
For now though, I'm concentrating on experimenting, exploring, and helping others explore jewelry making. I love teaching, and I love the opportunity to learn from students as they discover and experiement too.
You know, back when I was mental health counsellor, my favorite part was doing skills training with them. I really miss that. Life skills coaching taught me how to simplify complex and overwhelming tasks into granular easy to follow steps.
People tell me that's why they keep coming back to me -- because I can tell them the "how" in a way that they can understand.
I love that.
Share a Love of "Making" with Me
Thanks for reading my story. I am so thrilled to share this wonderful creative outlet with you.