Thank you all so much for your kind words about my jewellery! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have the support of this little community behind me. You guys are the best.
I mentioned in my last post that this project is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and promised to tell you more about that soon. Today I wanted to share the story of my creative journey and take this opportunity to discuss something that, unfortunately, has played rather a large role in it. That’s fear.
More specifically, the fear of failure.
Do Small Things with Great Love necklace, made by me 2013.
Like a lot of kids, I grew up making things. I made “aquariums” out of shoeboxes and tissue paper, handsewed (very dodgy) clothes for my Barbies and spent hours creating little bracelets for my friends. I continued making jewellery right through high school and always wore a collection of handmade beaded necklaces. When I was at uni I went through a stage of embellishing singlets with sequins, beads, buttons, lace and ribbon. I even fantasised about making enough of them to have a stall at the local markets, but the idea seemed pretty far-fetched and silly, and I never imagined a person could make any real income off making things.
It wasn’t until I started reading Frankie magazine and subsequently discovered the handmade community, blog world and Etsy during my last last semester of uni (in 2009), that I realised that indeed you could. There were people making a legitimate living off making stuff. Handmade was a movement! I felt like I had found my tribe.
I started reading blogs and flirted with the idea of starting on of my own. I spent hours trawling Etsy, looking at the lovely things people had made and all the supplies I could use to make things of my own. I decided it might be fun to try and supplement the income from my day job by making and selling jewellery on Etsy. I got really excited, bought a bunch of supplies and made a little pile of necklaces… Then I lost my nerve. Suddenly the things I was making seemed like utter rubbish compared to what everyone else was doing. I convinced myself that my shop would flop, so I gave up before I ever really began.
Love birds diorama, made by me 2012.
Midyear 2009 I finished my journalism degree and applied for the position of editorial assistant on three craft magazines. Somehow I got an interview. I wore one of my necklaces to the interview and much to my surprise the girl who interviewed me, Sarah (who is now a good friend) commented on how much she loved it. I got the job. I decided that now I had a “grown up” job I definitely didn’t have time for stuff like Etsy shops and I put my small business dream out of my mind.
While I was working on the craft magazines I discovered more inspiring crafters and amazing bloggers. I decided I really needed to start a blog of my own. It was the perfect way to combine my passion for writing and documenting, my love of handmade and my growing interest in photography. I talked about starting a blog a lot. I talked to Reuben about it. I talked to my friends about it. I thought about it all the time. But I didn’t do it. Because all the bloggers that I was reading were already doing it so well, I decided I couldn’t possibly keep up with them. I imagined my blog being a sad, lonely space with with no readers, and I convinced myself that it wouldn’t work out so there was simply no point in trying. (Are you sensing a pattern yet?!)
Dress made of vintage sheets, made by me 2012.
Then I moved to a government job. Though I hadn’t been doing much creating of my own while I worked on the craft magazines, I think just being involved in the industry kept me feeling somewhat artistically fulfilled. Without that, I suddenly felt creatively starved. I started thinking about an Etsy shop again. I dug out my jewellery supplies and half-heartedly made a few necklaces and brooches, but I was convinced the pieces I was making were no good. I wondered what other things I could make instead. Around this time Reubs and I also started learning about simple living and thinking about making changes to our lifestyle. We decided it would be a good idea to start a blog together, in order to document our journey, but I doubted myself every inch of the way. Who would want to read a blog about a couple of nobodies interested in craft and cooking and gardening? Why would anyone care about our pursuit of a simpler, more sustainable life? What was the point? Why should we bother?! I think if Reubs hadn’t convinced me that it would help us stay on track with our goals and might allow us to connect with other likeminded people, I never would have clicked “publish” on that first post.
Thankfully I did, and blogging was good for me. The more involved with the blog world I became, and the more I saw other people creating things and making a living doing what made them happy, the more my inspiration to create and desire to start a little business grew. When we moved to Bendigo I was sure that with more time on my side, I would finally be able to get an Etsy shop going, but by this time I had abandoned jewellery making because I was so sure my creations were awful. I started sewing and came up with lots of designs for things I could make with the intention of selling them, but eventually realised sewing just isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Though I enjoy doing it here and there, I would go crazy if I had to sew all day, every day. I dabbled with the idea of collecting vintage pieces to resell but soon realised it wouldnt fulfill my urge to create. I had a million ideas for lovely handmade things (some of which I still hope to pursue in the future) but lacked the skills to realise many of them. I just felt creatively lost.
Liberty of London sweetheart pins, made by me 2012.
Then, while the purchase of our house was going through and we were staying with my mum, I started making little heart pins. Doing so reminded me of how much I enjoy making small things. How much happiness I get from working with my hands to create tiny details. I made about about eleventy million hearts and thought about putting them in an Etsy shop, but then decided that they weren’t quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with them, but they weren’t exactly what I wanted to be making. At least not on their own. I once again convinced myself that they weren’t good enough to put up for sale.
When we finally moved into our house, I found myself desperately wondering what to do next. I so badly wanted to be making things and was still dreaming of that elusive Etsy shop, but nothing I had been doing felt like a good fit. I was lying in bed one night, silently fretting about what I was going to do, when suddenly it hit me. Jewellery. It was so obvious. I wanted to make jewellery. I had always wanted to make jewellery.
I just had to stop convincing myself that everything I made was rubbish and quit admitting defeat before I’d even begun!
Glitter globe necklace, made by me 2013.
I spent the next few weeks obsessively searching for supplies, designing pieces in my head, then when my bits and pieces started trickling in, making, making, making… Which leads me to where I am right now. On the brink of finally opening my shop. I’ve come full circle and am back at that place where my small business dreams began, back in 2009. Making jewellery. Only this time I know I’m going to follow through!
Looking back on the past few years, I realise that what has prevented me from opening an Etsy store before now, has not been my lack of skill, my inability to make cute things, or my innate suckiness, but simply my lack of confidence and fear of failure. The very same thing that almost stopped me from starting this blog (and likely held me back from countless other things I can’t even remember!)
So I am trying to change the way I think about “failure”. It’s not that my self-doubt has miraculously dissolved, but simply that I am now choosing to do things in spite of it. I know that in the scheme of things opening an Etsy shop isn’t really a big deal, but the combination of my fear of disappointing myself (and everyone else) and my tendency to set ridiculous standards for myself, has made it much harder than it should be. I now understand that in order to get anywhere I have to cut myself a little slack. Rather than seeing the potential for failure, I must try to see the opportunity to learn and grow.
I’m slowly realising that there are no failures. Only lessons.
Have you ever let the fear of failure stand in the way of what you wanted? I’d love to hear what you do to overcome that creeping feeling of self-doubt.