When I read Elizabeth Gilbert's EAT PRAY LOVE, my life changed. It didn't change overnight, but it changed and radically so. After reading that book, I realized I was stuck. I wasn't unhappy: I just wasn't growing and that doesn't work for me. So I left a long relationship, quit my long publishing career, and embarked on a journey that would take me to a new profession, that of a jewelry designer/maker and entrepreneur.
My version of EAT PRAY LOVE would have been titled LEAP STUDY EMBRACE: I took a huge and scary leap to walk away from my comfortable career; I studied like a maniac in my jewelry design program; and I fully embraced my new career--and self--as a jewelry designer. And every day I feel some degree of fear: of success, of failure, of lack of energy, of lack of inspiration and originality, of so many things!
When a friend recently gave me a copy of Liz's latest book BIG MAGIC, I felt the universe give me a big hug. Like EAT PRAY LOVE, BIG MAGIC is a game changer. What I'm learning is that it's okay to embrace and acknowledge all of those fears I have, and in knowing they're there, allowing them to be my companion rather than my roadblock. I love this quote from BIG MAGIC: "It isn't always comfortable or easy--carrying your fear around with you...--but it's always worth it, because if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting." She continues: "And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you're still here. I know that's what you want for yourself, because that's what I want for myself, too." WOW. Yes. EXACTLY!
What I'm also learning is that in order to be creative (or fill in the thing that you're most focused on right now) you have to really be open to it, welcome it, and appreciate it. Ideas come and go, like so many things in life. But it's in truly appreciating them that creativity blossoms. That's when big magic happens.
When I think back on the weeks since I wrote my last blog post, it's impossible to fathom that nearly two months have passed. 2016 is shaping up to be the most exciting year of my life, and we're only in March! Sometimes, I feel a little like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
February and March have been filled with so many joyful moments in both my professional and personal life. Having visual reminders of those special experiences and the friends with whom I've shared them is a treat beyond words so this blog post is heavily reliant on images because they speak more eloquently than I do.
Next month, one of my childhood fantasies will be come a reality when I travel to Kenya. I'll definitely be writing a blog post or two about my experiences there. In the meantime, I'll be finding joy in every day along the way. Here's wishing you joy, too!
There are few things as satisfying to me as a productive day on my bench. I love the process of taking fresh, powdery castings and cleaning, sanding, filing, and polishing them into finished pieces of jewelry. These are special pieces for me: My mentor, who passed away earlier this week, had encouraged me to create more pieces based on my Pebble ring and I'm so glad I listened to her advice. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a mentor who understands you, your aesthetic and inspiration, and the marketplace: My mentor did and I'm so appreciative for everything I learned from her.
"Everything changes and nothing remains still ... and ... you cannot step twice into the same stream." For me, the same can be said of joy. The first time I experience the things I delight in are always magical--the first bicycle ride of spring, the first ocean swim of summer, the first leaves changing in autumn, the first scent of fir trees in winter, the first kiss.
First are always exciting because, well, they're firsts. But there's something special about a second, third, fourth, or hundredth time: it's informed by experience, the comfort of familiarity, and the hope for something enduring, if not permanent. After the first anything, the start of a foundation begins and foundations are where I find the real magic to be.
My friends are my greatest joy and my greatest treasure. We have the same foundation, or river bed to Heraclitus's analogy, if you will, but the waters or life situations that flow over it are always changing and teaching us new things about life, love, and--ultimately--truth. Sometimes the stream is beautiful, exciting, and wonderful; other times it's destructive, menacing, and cruel. And, sometimes, it's all of those things at once.
T.S. Eliot actually wrote that April was the cruelest month but January, you've been hard. Really, really hard. And during difficult times I struggle to write about joy. It's not that I don't experience joy alongside tough times: It's that writing about joy feels trite when people close to me are struggling and when situations as unfathomable as the Syrian refugee crisis exist. But that's a judgement I make for fear of seeming silly, stupid, or--worse--insensitive in the eyes of others, and it's a shame because in the face of hardship, no matter how small or grand, celebrating joy is never a bad thing.
I learned that lesson this week when my mentor and friend--someone who was a treasure to me and to so many people in the jewelry community--suddenly died. Her passing reminded me of how much joy she brought to so many people. In remembering her life everyone recalled her fantastic sense of humor, her warm and wonderful hugs, her keen intelligence, and her gift for creating community. It is because she gave and created so much joy for so many people that we all felt such profound sorrow at her passing.
So I'm casting aside that negative self judgement and getting back to joy. I will find it on the best days, and on the most challenging days, because even the smallest joys are worth celebrating.
When I fall, I fall hard. It's been 5 days since I've posted in what was supposed to be a daily blog about joy. Five. Whole. Days. And they went by in such a blur. I know some parts of the day were great, peppered with moments of joy, while others were less great. And on those less-than-happy days I was always mindful that without challenges and setbacks, it's easy to take joy or joyful moments for granted. But I wasn't finding that special piece of joy about which to write until today.
If you attended F.I.T. with me and were in my Fashion Jewelry Design class, you may recall that I made a collection inspired by David Bowie and some of the utterly gorgeous clothing he wore on tour in the 1970s. David Bowie's Young Americans was the first album I owned and I listened to it over, and over and over... I was a lifelong fan, not just of his music, but of his artistry, his intellectual curiosity, and his grace. So, while it is with great sadness that he's no longer here to delight my ears with music he took with him, I feel immeasurable joy and gratitude for the artistic gifts he left for us to enjoy.
So it's back into the saddle I climb to continue talking about joy. It's always there: Sometimes it's just a little harder to find than others.
If you worked with me in my past career, you know that I love brainstorming*. It is a HUGE honor and great source of joy to have built a smart, generous, and engaged group of friend-advisors in the fine jewelry business. I've got a small group of trusted go-to women and I get a huge thrill out of running new ideas by them, hearing their feedback, and sharing both our triumphs and defeats. We took this photo today during a brainstorming session about our collections--mine, specifically--and I see this and am reminded of how fortunate I am to have a second career that I love so much.
*SCB friends might remember a certain special reference here.
2016 is starting out as an unexpectedly introspective year. I've been spending most of my days thinking about what new pieces I will make, what new collections I will build, and what journey my jewelry will take me on in the months, weeks, and days ahead.
Tonight I turned to one of my favorite books, an autobiography by jeweler Alex Monroe, for some inspiration, some guidance, and a few laughs (if you have read "Two Turtle Doves" you will understand why I find him so clever.) I love Alex's explanations of his creative and technical processes, of his tools, and of the inspiration behind his work.
I was having so much fun reading that I completely lost track of writing my daily blog post until now. It is a great joy indeed to get lost in a good book.
Having spent the better part of the day with some super smart and super talented women, I feel like I should be writing a deep and probing post about the joy of shared knowledge, constructive feedback, and entrepreneurial endeavor. But on this very cold day in Brooklyn, a day that has been filled with immeasurable professional satisfaction and fulfillment, my greatest joy was walking through the door of my warm home and getting countless excited kisses from my dog. If you ever get the chance to meet my dog, you'll understand the joy that comes from her giving you unbridled love. But watch out for that tongue--she might get you right in the kisser!
Sometime last year I bought these three beautiful tourmaline cabochons. I was drawn to their watery blue-green hues, the way they bounced light back out, and their simple shapes. I had no clue about what designs I'd create for them: That would come later. I just knew I had to have them.
For me, ideation is a huge source of joy. When I'm drafting design ideas, I sit down with a giant mug of tea, a collection of things to inspire design form (shells, leaves, books), a sketchpad and loads of colored pencils, and I play music that's equal parts melancholic and uplifting to keep me focused.
When I work with beautiful materials such as these three stones, I feel more than a little bit of pressure to do well by them. I want to show off these exquisite tourmalines but I don't want to distract from them with unnecessary clutter or detail. I want to securely set the gems without obscuring them within too much metal. And I want to create pieces that are at once simple and elegant and that will give the future wearer decades of joy.
So tonight, on this chilliest day we've had all winter, I'm sitting down with that mug of tea, pencils and paper, and the music of Bon Iver. And, I imagine my dog will be close by keeping both of us warm.
My name is Judi and I make sustainable fine jewelry. I wake up happy every day because I'm able to do what I love for a living.