Tips and Tricks for the Tucson Gem Show

How are all of the things? Life over here has been groovy and full and sometimes tricky and difficult but a whole heck of a lot of good stuff too. So, it’s been pretty normal, am I right?!

Lately I’ve been engaging MUCH MORE with Instagram. And if you follow me over there you probably already know this. I did a fun series in my IG stories where I shared my thoughts and reflections each day on my trip to the Tucson Gem show. That was what really got me started. I discovered I LOVE sharing what’s going on with Tangleweeds and me via this more organic venue.

But that brings me to the point of this blog post! I wanted to share some pics and thoughts about the Tucson Gem Show and overall how it went for me. I know there's many of you out there who are curious about checking it out for themselves, and I say if you want to go you should! And I’m here to help out with a few (hopefully) helpful pointers. 

Overall, it’s an amazing event where you can load up on supplies for all of your jewelry making needs. But there’s also loads of other stuff - lots of businesses and folks selling finished jewelry, whole shows dedicated to just selling rocks and minerals and even dinosaur bones (crazy!), and more. The Tucson Gem Show is actually a conglomeration of many, many smaller shows that are spread out all over the city that come together to create the big event. Some shows last a couple of weeks, some for only a few days, and some run for the entire month of the Tucson Gem Show. 

Without further ado, on to my tips and tricks for attending the Tucson Gem show! This will be a mix of practical suggestions paired with some more personal takes on things.

1. The first thing I’d recommend is to REGISTER ahead of time for the shows you want to attend. This will make for a much more seamless and quick entry to any shows that require registration. It would make for a blog post unto itself if I were to go into all of the details about the various shows, but you can find a list of the shows here

2. Book your lodging well in advance. Whether you’re going to stay at a hotel or Air BnB it, this shows draws many many people from all over the world and a lot of lodging gets booked up well in advance. I’m already considering booking my hotel for next year NOW.

3. There are some things to consider too, if you’re flying or driving in to Tucson. Gems and beads and all that good stuff can get pretty heavy. I know a lot of folks who fly to Tucson and then have the supplies they buy shipped back home. They find it easier and then there’s less worry about something getting stolen, etc. If you’re driving, obviously you don’t have to be as concerned with things like weight. I made a road trip out of it, but I was only coming form the SF bay area. 

4. With the above said, if you decide to fly, you’ll need to consider how you’ll get around the city, because the show is spread out ALL over Tucson. Many shows are grouped very close to each other, but unless all the shows you want to go to are walking distance from your hotel, you’ll probably want another mode of transport. Obviously, you can rent a car. Your other option: the city of Tucson provides a shuttle for gem show attendees. Since I drove I didn’t use the shuttle. I considered it, but given the heavy weight of what I was buying, and the fact I was getting over my back injury, I wanted to have somewhere to set my things down between shows.

5. The previous point naturally leads into this point of mine: If your goal when you go is to see as many shows as possible, and you’re there to buy for your business, you’ll probably be pretty exhausted by day’s end. I found it very helpful to sort of plan out my show schedule before I left for my trip, and then I made adjustments to that schedule as each day went on. Overall I ended up being able to see MORE than I thought I’d have time for. The point of this point: know what your goal is on the trip. Are you simply there to check things out and scout around? Are you seeking out new stones you’ve never seen before? Or are you there to try to buy most of your supplies for there entire year? Having a focus will pay off in dividends when you’re tired at the end of the day and not sure how much oomph you’ve got left in you!

6. Don’t compare your goals to the goals of others you may run into and have conversations with. There are many folks there who are buying for large companies, or for their own bead store. These folks are buying TONS compared to what I was buying. But I’m buying TONS compared to what a new-to-jewelry making hobbyist will probably buy. Know your goals and focus on that.

7. If you’re not too rushed, and you’re open to it, you’ll have many rad conversations with both vendors and fellow buyers alike. I think the tip in this tidbit is simply to engage with the experience and you’ll enjoy your time so much more.

8. And, lastly, relating back to #6: set a buying budget for your trip. This will help to keep you on track and keep you from buying things that aren’t really right for your work. I would add this though: have a back up plan for going over budget, whether that’s a low-interest credit card, or simply some money you can pull out of savings. I know this might sound like  the least sound money advice. . . and it may very well be =). But I offer this advice because if you find something that is so perfect for your work and it’s at a great price, but you weren’t planning on it so you don’t have room in your budget for it so you don’t get it, you’ll despair later. Think of it this way: you’re paying all of these other expenses to go on the trip: lodging, transportation, food, etc - the more you can stock up on supplies the more worth while the trip is!

That’s all for now. I could easily write a whole blog series on this trip and show. Overall I had so much fun. And I’m sure you’re wondering - did I go over budget? And I will say, hell yes I did! But I had a plan (low interest credit card that I’m paying back as quickly as I can) and just knew at the time that it was the right thing to do. The only thing I regretted, upon arriving back home and assessing my loot, were the items I decided not to get even though they were great for my designs.

But there’s always the San Mateo Gem Show to fill in the gaps throughout the year. . . 

P.S. If you want to hear more of my thoughts and see more images and videos from my Tucson Gem Show trip, then head on over to my Instagram and check out my stories highlights titled “Tucson.”

Creative Tenacity in 2019

Back in 2017 I created a series I called “Creative Tenacity.” It was a series of blog posts I wrote inspired by my experiences running Tangleweeds for 7+ (at the time) years. Last year I had plans to continue with this series, but as I wrote about a bit in my first blog post of 2019, I found myself busier than I’ve ever been, and many smaller goals fell to the back burner.

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But this year finds me reinvigorated with ideas for the Creative Tenacity series. Some of these ideas are going to help fuel my dream of starting a podcast this year, but some of these ideas are going to find their resting spot over here: in the form of a good old-fashioned blog post.

Lately this thought keeps popping up in my mind: there are so many things that have surprised me about running a handmade business. Some things have surprised me in good ways and other things have been more complex and have required some soul searching to really understand. Overall I’d say the surprises all have one thing in common: they’ve all taught me SO MUCH about myself. Sometimes I think creating and running Tangleweeds has been the best form of therapy. . . more on that as you read on!

I thought I’d dive into some of these “surprises”. I give you my top three surprises, in no particular order. . .

1. The first surprise that’s currently on my mind has been how many opportunities there have been for business related travel. From out-of-town craft fairs, exhibiting at wholesale tradeshows, big buying events (for raw materials/supplies), and more, I didn’t realize getting into this business that I would have numerous opportunities for travel.

Initially, as the work trips began to present themselves, I was excited. I thought that I could see myself eventually buying an RV or a large van and traveling all over the country for craft fairs for part of the year. But I wasn’t thinking about my true self and what I desire: a cozy homefront to come back to most days, cats at my heals, my creature comforts surrounding me. I’d grown up rarely traveling anywhere (my family wasn’t big on taking trips or vacations together.) Because of this I didn’t really know how any of this was done, and I found much of the planning and prep for trips overwhelming. As I booked more and more Tangleweeds related trips I found myself stressing out BIG TIME every time another trip was looming on my calendar. To my credit, I never cancelled a trip once the plans were in motion, but the stress leading up to it would unsteady me and upset my days in ways that were difficult to manage. These warring feelings: the reality that I don’t LOVE to travel vs. the romanticized vision I had of traveling in a van for Tangleweeds culminated in 2017 with more out-of-town events than I’ve ever done in one calendar year. In a way 2017 became my “travel anxiety de-sensitization” year. I was often a wreck preparing to leave (my worst fear was that something would happen to the cats while I was gone.) Slowly though, each consecutive trip got just a little bit easier.

I’m now at a point where I look forward to trips, be they personal or business. I’ve learned that forgetting to pack something does not equal the end of the world (unless it’s a craft fair and it’s your inventory - I’ve never done that!). Overall my travel anxiety is much more manageable than pre-2017. Tangleweeds trips really pushed me to grow in a way that I don’t know I would have without the added incentive.

Now though, I am much choosier about the trips I take for work. This has more to do with balancing the finances of running a handmade business and less to do with my anxiety - which, as I mentioned, doesn’t keep me from taking trips as it would have years ago. Currently I have a road trip to the big gem show in Tucson planned for early February. Something I’ve wanted to do for years but just have never prioritized. I can honestly say I’m more excited than anxious about this trip!

2. My second big surprise: This handmade business life sometimes gets lonelier than I feel I can handle. In some ways I think this “surprise” is pretty self-explanatory to fellow handmade business owners out there. In other ways it’s more nuanced and complex than it may seem on the surface. This surprise almost completely side-lined me at first. I thought I was an introvert who didn’t know that such a thing as too much alone time existed. But let me explain. . .

On the surface: I mostly work by myself on any given work day. That means I’m mostly at home working by myself five days a week. That’s the obvious. The less obvious: it can be lonely being the only person making decisions and executing plans for the future of my business. If I come up with a great idea there’s no one to high-five me and say “awesome, I can’t wait to see what you do!” There’s no one to give me a little pep talk if I’m feeling down. In my previous jobs I’d always prided myself in working hard and going above and beyond the requirements of the job. Now, if I do that, I have to find the encouragement, satisfaction, and motivation internally. Once again, this is what I mean about my business being the best form of therapy. Working primarily by myself has taught me to find satisfaction, happiness, and joy internally more than anything else in my life has - even more than meditating!

Now, that’s not to say I don’t still sometimes wish for co-workers in the more traditional sense - because I do! In my own ways I’ve worked to build a community of artists and crafters and makers around me - even if we’re not literally working in the same space (or even in the same city.) I’ve written about the small handmade business group, the Creative Pursuit Collective, that I formed almost four years ago alongside Kyla of Impressed By Nature. This group helps me steer the ship, so to speak, when the weather of running a handmade business gets rough. But more than that, I push myself to find other ways to connect with makers - whether that’s simply having lunch with a friend or going to a craft fair and chatting with the vendors. I’m also finding that there are ways I can more naturally build in community to what I do. Teaching workshops is definitely one of those tools too! (My next workshop is coming up and you can get more details here.)

3. Lastly, something that surprised me to learn about myself: I thrive on routine. (But not too much routine!) Early on, when I first quit my day job and went full time with Tangleweeds, I would wake up in the morning thrilled that a whole un-scheduled day stretched forth in front of me and all I had to do was whatever I needed to do for Tangleweeds. (I’m laughing hysterically in my head as I type this.) That thrill quickly gave way to dread. Why? Because I quickly realized that no matter how much time I had in a day, there was always going to be more to do for the business and there was no such thing as “all done.” My mornings and work days quickly became uber stressful because I had no plan for my days and just figured there was enough time to get it all done if I just worked hard enough. (Once again, complete laughter over this lack of foresight.)

You’d think I would have learned rather quickly that I needed to schedule my work days in order to not wake up every morning feeling such a sense of doom and gloom. No, it took me about two years of blundering through this way to realize I needed to start creating a schedule for myself. Why did I resist it for so long? Because part of quitting my day job and working for myself was me seeking real freedom. And in my head real freedom did not look like a schedule of any sort. Even if the schedule was full of things I wanted to be doing. A schedule equaled no freedom which equaled misery - in my head.

Honestly, I don’t think I would have come around to scheduling things if it hadn’t been for other makers sharing their struggles with time and scheduling. It also helped that I started to read blogs and sign up for newsletters that were geared towards helping makers become successful. As I dipped my toe in the world of scheduling I realized I liked it and that I even thrived on it.

Since sorting out this internal struggle of mine, I’ve played with many different ways of scheduling. Ultimately I’ve naturally fallen into a place where I schedule my work days about a week out, with a loose outline for what the month will look like, along with long-term (1 year+) goals factoring into the big picture. But I don’t tether myself to the the schedules I create. There’s room for flexibility. THAT is a relatively new part and has come out of a recognition that I need to give myself more room to take care of myself and go with the flow sometimes. I guess you could say I’ve found a lot of joy in having the FREEDOM to throw my self-created schedule out the window when it feels like the right thing to do.

And that’s it folks! Three of my biggest surprises about creating and running a handmade business. I think, to be noted, there’s an overriding theme too, maybe the 4th surprise - How this journey has been my therapy in so many ways, how it’s taught me so so so much about myself and made me stronger. Helped me overcome challenges, develop a better sense of myself, and shone a light on my strengths and weaknesses.

I can’t say starting my own handmade business has been cheaper than therapy but I can say it’s been an experience like none other - one that has brought joy, growth, pain, and a sense of purpose.

This is obviously just my personal experience in my business - I’d love to hear about what’s surprised you in the comments!

Looking Back Looking Forward

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Before starting this post, I felt compelled to look over my posts form 2018. And one thing I noticed was last year found me struggling with finding better ways to work and better ways to balance life and work. I wrote about taking a 10-day staycation and explored my thoughts about the need for social media as a small business. Which naturally led to taking a social media fast for one month. I also shared with you my conflicted thoughts about where I live and my desire to settle somewhere else in the near future. It was a year full of challenges and growth - growth that could only come out of struggle. When I look back over these posts I know one thing that many of you don’t: most of last year I was working harder than I ever have and dancing with burnout in the process.

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Last year could have only led me to where I am now. All of our choices are always taking us one step at a time to the next place we need to be. And last year was bound to throw something at me to slow me down:

Welcome in back problems like I’ve never had - sciatica pain, a herniated disc, tingling, numbness, pain so bad it takes an elephant’s worth of will power just to get out of bed in the morning.

I think one of the only reasons I can write about this in any way where I’m even remotely grateful for what I’m dealing with is because a few days ago it seems like I may have passed the worst of the pain. As I begin physical therapy I’m trying to reconfigure my life around a slower pace. Around a TRUE acceptance in my head that to be less busy is OKAY, that relaxation does not equal being lazy.

I always like to take some time at the beginning of a new year to write about what I hope to realize and bring into being in the new year AND what I would like to let go of. The things I wrote about this year are less things and more ways of thinking:

  1. To be more accepting of what I am capable of doing in a given span of time (be that an hour, a day, a month, a year, heck, even a lifetime.)

  2. To let go of guilt. Whether that’s guilt for taking time off or guilt because I actually do love my work and sometimes, when it feels right, I WANT to work all day (now, the caveat is, so long as I’m not overworking my body.) To realize that all of the pieces and parts are necessary and not anything to feel guilty about.

  3. To run with the things that spark my excitement and imagination and let go of many of the things that drag me down.

  4. To better embrace the “middle” and transitional times in life. Whether that’s when I’m in the middle of a work-related goal and don’t know when the dream will be realized, or just in the middle of a big closet clean out. I tend to be bad with “middle” energy. I’m all excited when I’m getting a project started and feel very proud once I’ve realized the goal/dream/clean closet, but overall I just end up trying to rush through the middle. The middle is where a lot of the good stuff is, and I know that when I’m rushing through it I’m missing a lot of life.

And so, I move forward, one foot in front of the other, seeing quite clearly that slowing down is the only REAL way to enact REAL change in my life.

This year is off to a bit of a muddled start. I had a tradeshow very early in the month, that I had to be prepared for. And so I put on my big girl pants and I got it done, even while dealing with an immense amount of pain. I will report: the show went well. And I can happily say there are some new stores that will be receiving Tangleweeds goods for their shop in the weeks to come. But as soon as that show was over I slowed the train down. I’ve mostly taken the last week off and it’s felt great. I even took some time to really clean up my workshop and it now feels like a space I am excited to (carefully) get back to work in. Maybe I’ll even offer up some more mini-tutorials on Instagram like I did last year.

Overall though, Tangleweeds isn’t going anywhere. There are some significant changes ahead, but given that I’m not quite sure how quickly things will happen around here for now, I’m not going to offer up any timelines.

What you can expect to see from Tangleweeds this year:

  1. A remodel and pairing down of the online shop. Many designs will be discontinued and overall the shop will have a new, more shopper friendly look. (I will of course announce the re-model and design discontinuation with plenty of notice in case there’s something you’d like to get while you still can.)

  2. A new series of limited edition pieces. These will be released on Instagram on a schedule that I have yet to set. I will announce all of this on IG as I refine this way of releasing designs.

  3. A PODCAST!!!! I’m beyond excited about this idea. It’s my way of continuing to further the building of the handmade/maker/artisan community, especially as I consider moving out of the bay area this year.

  4. More workshops. Definitely my Metalwork Made Easy class, along with some other ideas in the works.

  5. A more paired down craft fair schedule. I most likely won’t do any events at all until April or May of this year. This is both to give my back time to heal and to focus on other areas of Tangleweeds.

  6. A different focus on my newsletter - I want to grow the arm of Tangleweeds that is about finding the beauty in the everyday. And I want to share it with all of you!

That about wraps up my thoughts for 2019. I could write an equally long post reflecting on 2018, but I’ll just leave it at this: I realized a lot of my goals. Now the challenge: continuing that journey towards new goals while incorporating more mindfulness, more self-care, and heaps more “living in the moment” types of energy!!!

Tell me about your new year goals. Or conversely, how do you feel about the way 2018 went? I love the practice of looking back/looking forward.

My Very First Jewelry Making Workshop!

You guys! I’m finally doing it, I’m teaching my very first jewelry making workshop at Mischief in Oakland. I’m excited and nervous (as you can imagine!) I wanted to share about the class here and tell a little bit more about what you can expect. This is a great class for anyone who’s looking to start making metal jewelry. It’s beginner level and I promise you’ll have fun! =)

If you already know this sounds like something for you, then just head on over to the Mischief website to register. There’s only 5 spots left as of typing this! Otherwise, read on for more info about the class. . .

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Making metal jewelry can sometimes seem intimidating. In this 3-hour class I’ll show you that it doesn’t have to be! You’ll learn how to make your own metalwork jewelry using basic techniques with tools that are easy and affordable to come by. You’ll learn the basics of manipulating brass or copper wire into a variety of different shapes (or components), from geometric to more organic. We will then use these shapes to create our own earrings, necklaces, and even bracelets (if you like!) We’ll also go over everything you need to create your own at-home metalwork shop (no torch needed!)

This is an intro level class and no previous experience is needed. We will not be working with a torch.

You will learn:

  • -  how to cut, shape, and hammer out various gauges of wire to create shapes for your jewelry

  • -  different techniques for texturing your work

  • -  a variety of techniques for connecting components together that does not include a torch (this is called “cold connections” in the jewelry making world)

  • -  how to create holes in your designs (for those cold connections!)

  • -  all of the details that will allow you to create a finished piece of jewelry

  • -  a handy way to create your own ear-wires out of basic materials

  • -  AND, lastly, we will go over the tools and equipment you’ll need if you’re looking to set up a jewelry metal workplace of your own at home. (With as little pressure on your wallet as possible!)

You’ll leave this class with your choice of:
- 1 pair of finished earrings and 2 necklaces
OR
- 1 pair of finished earrings, 1 bracelet, and 1 necklace

AND
- your own jewelry polishing cloth

All materials and tools are provided.
Must be at least 18 years of age to take this class.

While it is not absolutely necessary, it is a good idea to tie long hair back and wear closed-toe shoes for this class. Also, clothes that aren’t too precious and are comfortable for working in, are ideal.

That about sums it all up! Feel free to leave a comment here if you have any questions for me. Sign up for the class on the Mischief website. Otherwise I look forward to working with you on November 11th!

Taking A "Stay-cation"

Last month I gave myself 10 days off from work. I write it that way because it really did feel like a gift to myself. Ten whole days to focus on other things in my life other than work. I made plans to see friends I rarely have time to see, projects around my house, to finish up a current weaving project, and I carved out lots and lots of down-time, with nothing scheduled and nothing planned. I decided, a few months ago when I was laying out my game plan as to how-in-the-heck I was going to take 10 days off from work, that it would be a “stay-cation.” That was for many reasons: Over the previous three months I had gone on about 7 or 8 short trips that were either work related or family related and I was missing being at home, like really being able to sink into that good-cozy-wearing-my-slippers-around-the-house-feeling. I also had a bunch of regular ‘ole life stuff to catch up on that kept getting back-burnered because Tangleweeds in general keeps me very busy most of the time. So a stay-cation sounded divine!

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I feel like I can probably guess what you must be thinking “Oh, isn’t that nice. She runs a handmade business AND she can afford to take 10 days off from work and just laze about her house? Great, but I just can’t relate!” And I understand! I’ve been running Tangleweeds for almost nine years at this point (THIS month is actually Tangleweeds’ 9-year anniversary!) and for most of those nine years taking any amount of time off felt next to impossible. I would even say that during the years of my biggest growth with Tangleweeds that it quite frankly was impossible. And not because the business would have ground to a halt or the money would have just all evaporated overnight, but because I just couldn’t get my head around the thought of stepping away from my business for 10 whole days. Getting to a place where I could take this time off was as much about changing my frame of mind as it was the logistics of how to keep Tangleweeds running smoothly while I stepped away.

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This isn’t intended to be a blog post about how to take time off from your handmade business if you’re a solopreneur as I am. I write this more to share my experience and to encourage you to do the same for yourself if and when you can. Especially if you’re feeling burned out or exhausted all of the time.

It’s funny how the way we define success for ourselves changes as we live our lives, grow older, and gain more real-life-lived experiences. Some of the ways I define success for myself are more elusive - “I want to feel relaxed and calm as I move about my day”, but then others are more concrete. For the longest time, honestly, since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to live a life that allowed me to take ONE WHOLE MONTH off from work every summer. Crazy, right? (Well, it wouldn’t be crazy in some other countries. . . or if I was a teacher. . . ) Summer is my favorite season of the year. Swimming in lakes and rivers, eating fruit picked right off a tree, lying riverside with a book and a beverage, soaking up as much sun as possible (safely!) - these are the things that this Aries’s dreams are made of. And for the last four or five years of running Tangleweeds it has felt like I blinked and summer was gone.

Shortly before I made this commitment to myself to take these 10 days off from Tangleweeds I had a conversation within my small business group (Creative Pursuit Collective) about how we define success for ourselves. I mentioned this dream of mine to take one whole month off in the summer and one of my fellow CPC’rs, Kyla, piped up and suggested that why don’t I start with at least a week? It was an obvious statement, but somehow I’d never considered it that way before. The idea to slowly build up to it - a whole month off in the summer - just never crossed my mind.

From that day the seed was planted and I began to make plans to make 10 days off in the summer happen. I started planning for this time off about a month and a half before I was going to actually take the days off, and I have to say it felt crazy and rushed. But the thought of ten whole days off started to just sound too delicious to pass up - even if it was a kind of crazy thing to consider.

My timing (to be exact, I took August 27th to September 5th off from work) felt insane. As the summer starts to come to an end I am usually still gearing up for a couple of my biggest fairs of the year: one in September and one in October. I’m also starting to create and refine my game plan for surviving the holiday season. (I really wanted to put the word “thriving” in there in place of “surviving” but that just wouldn’t be truthful or even close to my reality around the holidays.) I was also finishing up the final touches on my collection for fall/winter and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get the collection out as soon as I liked if I took this time off. But I was VERY focused on this goal of mine: take 10 days off while it’s still the summer. Make few plans. Use the time as I like to see family and friends and work on creative projects and home projects unrelated to Tangleweeds.

So I sat down with my Tangleweeds day planner and just started outlining how I could make this goal a reality. I scrunched A LOT of work into the week before this time off, and I scooched a bunch of work into the couple of days when I would be back from work. I assessed my inventory on hand and realized I was pretty much set for my September event and that I would have plenty of time to prep for my October event when I was back. I also took a long hard look at any self-imposed deadlines. In doing that I decided to push back the launch date of my next collection. It’s now launching right around the fall equinox instead of the beginning of September as I originally intended.

Eventually my first day off rolled around and I have to admit, I spent the first two days off wondering how I was going to take SO MUCH time off. I am so conditioned at this point to work long days for Tangleweeds - sometimes even seven days a week (no exaggeration) that I think my muscles for relaxing and being lazy had atrophied. I made an agreement with myself that I could end the time off early if I decided I needed to. But the other half of the agreement was that I had to at least give this a try for a few days before anything was decided.

Slowly, I found it easier to have lazy days - or, my personal favorite, a half-lazy-half-creative-project-with-no-pressure day. I also think making lots of plans with friends and family helped too. Too much lazy time I think might have made me a bit crazy and ruined my little stay-cation experience. I checked out an exhibit at a local gallery, I saw a matinee at the local movie theatre ON A MONDAY. I did all the little things I often don’t have time for during my work week: I relaxed on my front steps in the evening with a glass of wine and enjoyed the stars, I curled up with a book in the sunshine in the middle of the day. I napped!

As I mentioned already though, at first it was hard to relax so much (yes, I realize the ludicrousness of that statement!). This is two fold: one, I am naturally a person who is happiest doing things. My natural state is one of taking action towards goals I have set for myself. But two: I am so conditioned at this point to work hard, and make the most out of a day, that I’ve almost forgotten how to rest, relax, lounge, etc. I had a conversation with my boyfriend recently about how the only time of the day I really am comfortable sitting down to read a book is in the evening, in bed, just before I go to sleep. Otherwise I’m generally so revved up going about my day it feels impossible to slow down that much and just sit and read.

Taking this time off really made me realize that if I want to savor all of life more I’m going to need to take the time to slow down more often. Not just once every nine years when I can squeeze in a little “stay-cation.” The whole experience of planning, taking and enjoying a “stay-cation” was one big experiment that I ultimately learned a lot from.

My biggest take-aways from it all were:

  1. It’s hard to slow down when I’m used to a “go, go, go” lifestyle. But If I don’t take the time to slow down every now and then I’m not as able to enjoy the “go, go, go” part too.

  2. Naturally coming out of the first conclusion: I need to incorporate periods of downtime into my life regularly. As in every single day. This is easier said than done, but as I continue to prioritize and streamline how I run Tangleweeds, it becomes more and more possible.

  3. When I’m having trouble getting out of my own head and relaxing, getting out of the house, even if it’s just for a short walk, helps immensely.

  4. Over the many years of running Tangleweeds I have conditioned myself to work long and busy hours. Just as I have conditioned myself to do this, so too can I condition myself to relax and take time off from work.

  5. It took nearly the entire ten days of my stay-cation to actually start to feel like relaxing and slowing down really felt good. Rather than being an indicator that I shouldn’t be slowing down, I take this as an indicator that I am simply out of practice and need to re-learn how to slow down.

  6. Accomplishing anything is easier when you break it up into smaller, more manageable steps. (As in, working towards my goal of taking a whole month off in the summer feels more like a possible dream after taking this little step towards that.)

  7. If I do eventually take a whole month off, I will probably need to have someone hired by then who can do some of the work of shipping off orders, etc. The kind of work that can’t wait for a whole month. Unless, I decide to close my shops for the duration. . . Future thoughts/goals.

Overall I’m immensely glad I gave myself this time and learned a lot from it along the way. In the near-isn future my main goal is to work towards taking real weekends off as often as possible. In the past, with a craft-fair schedule that would make most folks lay down in exhaustion, taking weekends off was an impossibility. But as I move towards more of an online+wholesale model for me business, I am finding that weekends off are a valuable way to re-charge not just my worker-bee batteries, but my creative ones as well.

Have you ever taken a “stay-cation” while running a business? Or, for that matter, even if you don’t run a business! What were your biggest challenges and what did you get out of it? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

A Social Media "Fast" + Lots of Insights ensue. . .

I’ve been on a self-imposed social media break since July 21st. For me that means I’m not engaging with or using Instagram or Facebook except when absolutely necessary. Trust me, in today’s day and age there are times when I HAVE to use social media - especially since I’m running a small business that at least partially relies on some social media use. Any other social media that I use is either so minimal it’s not a factor, or is simply me pushing content over from IG or FB. 

   at the Alameda Point Antiques fair earlier this year

   at the Alameda Point Antiques fair earlier this year

So. I just checked the calendar and I see that it’s been a two week break so far. And all I can think is “It hasn’t been long enough.” My intention when I started this break was to go for a month. At this point, I don’t think a month long break will be a problem. I’m also not being strident or absolute about it. I plan to pop into both IG and FB tomorrow or Monday to post about this blogpost. I want you all to know what’s going on with me. I want to share my thoughts on this social media break as I’ve seen other folks do because I think that the insights I’ve gleaned are important.

It’s been, and this is without hyperbole or exaggeration, quite startling to see how much stepping away from social media engagement is changing things for me. (And two weeks in, all I can think is, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.”) My time feels more expansive. I am accomplishing what I want to in the course of a day more easily. I’m feeling more focused. I pick up books to read more often. I’m finding it easier to read a whole email from start to finish without going into “oh I’ll just skim it” mode. I am less distracted. 

Although I should probably stop right there. For while I am less distracted, this little experiment has shone a very bright light on one little yet big distraction: my phone. It beckons to me when it need not. I can be in the middle of a very good lunch, reading a very good book and I will need to “check my phone.” In the middle of conversations I have the urge. I will be at my workbench, in the middle of drilling holes in several handmade components and I’ll think “just need to check my email.” Do I need to check anything in these moments? Probably not. Almost certainly not. I’m starting to think that in many ways our phones are the newest addictive substance we’re consuming on a daily basis as a culture.

That is to say over the last two weeks, one things has become abundantly apparent: I want more of this using my phone less. I have no desire to go back to how I was doing things. I want to watch one of my favorite shows on Hulu or Netflix and not “distract” myself by checking IG every 5 minutes or so. I want to see and feel and hear and taste the details in my life again in a way I have stopped doing. I plan on taking my email app off of my phone. I don’t want to be able to check email unless I am at work or at home sitting in front of my laptop and intentionally sitting down to work. I will definitely return to social media engagement once my month-long break is over, but I plan to set guidelines for myself. I want to make it work for me. And I think, the minute it starts to feel like an addictive substance that I can’t live without, well, I think that will usher in another social media break. 

I know I just wrote about some unintentional social media breaks that I took earlier this summer in my last blog post. I’m almost certain that those small breaks helped fuel my desire for a longer break. Also a break that is taken while living my regular ‘ol day-to-day life. The other, smaller breaks, were both taken while I was on trips. (One work related and one mostly for fun.) I wanted to see what it would feel like to live my life, my as I already stated “regular ‘ol life”, that can sometimes get boring and sometimes feel like drudgery (honesty here). There’s so much to say here, it almost makes me cry with the profundity of it all. I need the boredom. I need the drudgery. It fuels my creativity. It fuels my drive. It gives me beautiful little moments where I’m able to slow down. 

Does anyone else ever feel really strange and sort of “buzzy” after a few too many minutes spent scrolling through IG? I’ve always felt like that afterwards. Spending time on social, unless I handle that time with great care and purposeful intention, always leaves me feeling drained. Disconnected. Spacey. What it hasn’t been is a moment to slow down. Usually, after “falling down the IG hole” I am appalled by how much time has gone by. My phone feels truly capable of stealing my time away. . . if I give it the power to. It’s like a cryptic, modern day fairytale. 

I think maybe the most sobering part of all of this is that we all know that we need these things: that we need boredom in our lives. That if we really want to be connected in conversation with someone we can’t “just check in” with our email during conversational lags. That if I actually want to enjoy my favorite show on Netflix I can’t interrupt the viewing every 5 to 10 minutes with a quick IG scroll. That if I want the colors in the sky to truly thrill me, the smell of the fresh baked pizza to actually intoxicate me, if I wan to sincerely lose myself in moments - in moments that add up to my life - to a lifetime, I have to be engaged most of the time. 

And I haven’t been. 

Now, this isn’t meant to put all of the blame on my social media use. I am human and therefore I am innately an expert at distracting myself from what is directly in front of me. But I want to change that. In that desire I believe lies the real root of my decision to take this social media break. I want to examine all of the ways I am taking myself out of the present moment, and I’d like to work towards putting myself back there. 

I used to think that the documenting of my life was adding to it. That it was putting more color and flavor into my day. When I think about the roots of it all (um, hello, My Space?) I do think that initially it did all ADD to my life. But the newness and the notoriety of it all has worn off. I’m seeking a more intentional and useful way of using social media; not one that has me falling too easily into comparison traps. And I’m seeking a more minimal and pared down way of using my phone.

Regarding some practical matters: to keep all of my Tangleweeds collectors, fans, friends and family up-to-date I’m going to make an effort to keep this website much more up-to-date. I know this year I have not always posted about my events on my Events page, and I certainly haven’t blogged much. But given that I haven’t decided to go 100% off the technological grid, I do want to make an effort to keep the folks who care about Tangleweeds informed. I suggest bookmarking my website as a way of staying up-to-date with my goings-ons (both professional and otherwise) if you like. I will also continue to send out at least monthly newsletters. If you prefer staying up-to-date that way you can sign up for my newsletter here.

A year ago I couldn’t have imagined doing this, but now that I am I’m so grateful I took the leap and made the decision to take a break from social media. It’s shinning a light on my life in ways I could have never anticipated. 

Lastly, I’m incredibly curious: what have been your experiences with social media use? The good the bad and the in-between. Have you ever taken a self-imposed break? If so, what did you get out of it? If you haven’t taken one, are you considering it? Leave a comment below if you like. 

Life’s a crazy journey and really just one big experiment if we all let it be that.

Thoughts on Social Media and Running a Business

I’m back! And only one month since my last post on this blog. Feels not-too-shabby ;-). How has everyone been?!

Social media and social media tools are such funny things. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use these tools in my business and the rest of my life a lot lately. Honestly, it can be difficult balancing it and not getting sucked into 101 different social media channels. And then, those channels come up with ingenious new ways to hook you! (I’m looking at you right now, Instagram.)

this is what my home life looks like most days when I sit down to write 

this is what my home life looks like most days when I sit down to write 

I’m going to stop for a moment, before this starts to sound like a totally anti-social media blog post, which it’s not. I’m grateful to social media and the many doors it’s opened for me: from meeting fellow creatives, to gaining new wholesale accounts, to finding out about new and exciting arts and crafts festivals to sell at. It’s a fantastic resource, one that I want in my life.

Here comes the BUT. But, after I took two unintentional breaks from social media this year (for four days while I went to the Women’s Herbal Symposium and for 6 whole days while I was vending at the Kate Wolf Music Festival), I could clearly see how the less I engage with social media the less anxious I feel and the less I find myself falling into the sticky and icky comparison trap game. 

a nearly full moon at the Women's Herbal Symposium

a nearly full moon at the Women's Herbal Symposium

Sometimes it can feel to me like there’s no middle ground with social media. Like it’s either abandon ship and go back to snail mail (j/k) or I’m all in, losing vast swaths of time everyday to mindlessly perusing beautiful IG feeds and the like. In light of my two “digital detoxes” and the light it shed on my social media use, I had to get really honest with myself about how I use it and how I want to use it. . . 

For now that’s going to look like this: Getting back to blogging, but mostly in this very organic, very journal-y type way, and continuing to share my day in pictures and stories on Instagram. I want to be intentional with my FB engagement, but for now I don’t think I’ll be producing any original content for that platform. And regarding my ideas about starting a You-Tube channel, as I had announced via IG stories a while back, I’m putting that on hold for now while I consider what that would look like and how I would fold that into my life in a way that feels good to me. In the meantime I’ll continue to post the occasional tutorial or “how-to” mini-segment in my IG stories. . . and maybe give IGTV a try. . . 

Well! I honestly didn’t realize I could write that much about my social media use. I think it’s tricky for all of us, even those of us who don’t need to engage with it for work and can more or less choose to simply set all social media use aside without any work-related anxieties. ’Tis the times we’re living in. If any of you feel called to leave your own thoughts/comments about your social media use and how you manage it all I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments below =). 

some OOAk River Rock earrings I made for the Kate Wolf Music Festival - these sold at the event, but I plan to make some more similar ones in the future

some OOAk River Rock earrings I made for the Kate Wolf Music Festival - these sold at the event, but I plan to make some more similar ones in the future

In the meantime I’ve got a mostly no-work weekend coming up! Woo-hoo. I’ll be headed to the San Mateo Gem Show to buy stones (yes, work related, but I LOVE it so much I can’t even call it work, or maybe I’m just that lucky to call it work?!). I’ll be headed over to the 40th street block party in Oakland after that. And then, who knows? Maybe I’ll check Renegade out on Sunday, maybe I’ll just have a lazy day at home with the cats on Sunday. What are your weekend plans?

Let's Wabi-Sabi this thing called life

And just like that, my blog got reeeaaaallly quiet this year. 

It’s all the usual reasons, life gets busy and things get prioritized and re-prioritized. I know you all know how it goes. But even when things are busy, my blog is always there in the back of my mind, reminding me that I REALLY like writing over here and that as soon as I can make the time to dive back in, well, I’m diving! So, I’m back =). But not with an exact purpose. Mostly to catch all of you up on the goings-ons with me and Tangleweeds. 

me vending at the annual Whole Earth Festival in Davis (this year)

me vending at the annual Whole Earth Festival in Davis (this year)

The month of May marked two years of living in Vallejo. Those of you who follow along with my blog, may remember this post, Moving Hiatus, when I first announced that I would be moving to Vallejo. Since then, I’ve moved my studio space twice, ultimately settling in with a workshop at home in my garage. I’ve pondered where I see myself settling more permanently in the years to come and have definitely decided that I won’t be staying in Vallejo too much longer. Where exactly I’m headed next will depend on many things, but I’m hoping to find a way to move back to Oakland. 

Downtown Oakland

Downtown Oakland

With the current prices of housing that is a TALL order though, and may or may not work out the way I hope it will. This year I’ve put a lot of energy into really cleaning up my finances and taking a long hard look at how I spend my money. I’m hoping to combine this energy with the momentum I’ve gained with Tangleweeds over the last two years towards a healthier financial life for myself. (If you haven’t picked it up I highly recommend the book Worth It by Amanda Steinberg.)

I’m also open to the possibility of moving away from the bay area too though, and in this way I am simply trying to keep myself open to possibilities that I may not have considered. 

Dolly exploring her newest toy. I adopted this affectionate and loving gal at the very beginning of 2018. 

Dolly exploring her newest toy. I adopted this affectionate and loving gal at the very beginning of 2018. 

This is all to say, that while living in Vallejo has really given me many things I need: a home of my own, a secure place to park my craft fair-loaded car overnight, a workspace at home, a yard and outdoor space for my cats to roam around in (and all of this at a price I can afford) it hasn’t really proven to be the community that I need at this time in my life. I know that many people are very protective of Vallejo, and may object to the way I perceive it. And I can relate. I feel VERY protective of Oakland at times, what with the way the city is portrayed on the news. But what I know matters to me is the simple fact that Vallejo does not feel like the place I’m meant to call home for much longer. 

My workbench in my home studio

My workbench in my home studio

By this time next year I hope to be taking the steps towards moving somewhere that speaks to my heart. 

Sometimes, as I’m working towards making big changes in my life, I’ll consider what a younger me might think of the decisions I’m currently making. And I think a younger me would find a way to move MUCH sooner. Three months of living in a city that doesn’t feel like home would feel like an eternity to a younger me, let alone a year! But a younger me was also much more stubborn and much less willing to see the good that came out of frustrating circumstances. That is all to say, that there is much good that has come out of my time in Vallejo, and there is more good stuff to relish in the year to come. 

One of the HUGE benefits of moving my workspace home has been the fact that this guy wanders in and out of my garage studio pretty much all day long =)

One of the HUGE benefits of moving my workspace home has been the fact that this guy wanders in and out of my garage studio pretty much all day long =)

And in the meantime I intend to start dropping in here more often. I don’t have much of an agenda right now. I’ve written many series for this bog, from my Creative Tenacity posts for fellow creatives to my Listening-Wearing-Making posts to my Handmade Love series where I featured fellow creatives’ work. While all of those series are fun for me to write and were created for one simple reason: these were the things on my mind that I wanted to share with all of you, currently I’m in a more reflective and organic place. Which means, at least for the time being, expect more “wabi-sabi” like posts. A Tangleweeds journal in the truest sense of the word.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

warmly,
Jeannine

My Antidote to Finding the Stress in the Everyday

Last year I started a little feature in my newsletter (and sometimes shared here on the blog) called “The Tangleweeds Tool Kit.” This tool kit was full of suggestions for finding the beauty in the everyday. I’ve loved putting these tool-kits together and plan to continue with them this year (come late February/early March you’ll see them back in your in-box.) As I consider the different things I’d like to include in the 2018 tool-kits, I realized I wanted to share my reasoning behind my message with Tangleweeds: the message of “finding the beauty in the everyday.” While I hope that my jewelry embodies this idea - with pieces that easily fold into your everyday lives - I wanted to more directly address where this message sprang from in my life and business. 

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I think my back story is one many of you can relate to: I’m really f*$#ing good at finding the stress in the everyday. Some days I’m better at it than others. Over the years, as I grew Tangleweeds from a hobby without a name or much focus and eventually into the sustainable business it is today, I only grew more adept at finding the stress in the everyday. 

I would wake up most mornings and instantly my brain would start churning on all of the things I needed to do that day. “Ugh, there’s still that pile of dishes in the sink, and I need to write that blog post, and shoot, I forgot to get back to 100,109,560 emails yesterday, and oh-my-god Christmas is only 6 months away and I haven’t EVEN STARTED prepping for the holiday season!!!” Basically I’d wind myself into this tight ball of stress over things that weren’t even real, or certainly weren’t worth the added stress.  

Even more significant was that many of the “to-do’s” were things I was very excited to get to. But I would over-think and over-stress myself so much that it would take much of the joy out of the things I wanted to do (designing new pieces), let alone the things that were pure drudgery (book-keeping). 

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Somewhere along the line, around the second or third year of running my business full time, I simply started to realize that I was making myself miserable. That, yes, there were many things about running Tangleweeds that were stressful, but that ultimately I was making the situation that much worse with my constant worry and need for control at all times. And, of course, you can bet if I was being like this with Tangleweeds I was also being like this with most other areas of my life. 

Slowly I learned to stop worrying so much, and to cede control when it was possible, and to not shoot for perfection all of the time. All of these things are easy for my conscious mind to understand, but not as easy for my unconscious to unwrap. Many of the tools I use are similar to the tools you will hear many experts praise: I make time to slow down, I meditate, I schedule off-days from work. And maybe, most importantly, I schedule down time within my work day. Just yesterday I was listing to a show on NPR and there was this time management expert on. (I’m not 100% clear what his area of expertise was but he said something that really stuck with me.) He said that (paraphrasing here) basically it’s not the amateurs in life who take breaks or step away form work when they’re tired, but it’s actually the seasoned experts who do this. That to acknowledge the need for rest is actually an incredibly mature thing to do and that the idea of just “powering through” is the amateur’s way. I heard this and honestly gave a sigh of relief. I think the more that the mainstream can soak up this message the more it will begin to be accepted in all areas of life. 

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Hand-in-hand with allowing myself to slow down, came the ability to appreciate the small things more. I wish I could point to a moment when all of this just became easier, but as I described above, it’s all been a slow process, one that is still unfolding. Finding the beauty in the everyday became my own personal mantra and naturally became the underlying message I wanted Tangleweeds to embody. Whether it’s a pile of un-raked leaves in the fall (a personal favorite), or the smell of damp cat fur when one of my feline babies have just come in from the rain, there are too many small moments of beauty everyday to count. 

I’m looking forward to continuing my adventures in slowing-down and appreciating the everyday, and most of all I am excited to share them with all of you this year!

warmly,
Jeannine

Changes Ahead in 2018

Oh, the new year! For me it’s always a similar feeling: I’m jazzed up about the momentum I feel to make new changes happen, but I’m also intimidated and daunted, afraid that I’m going to let myself down. I usually have to temper that second part or I’ll stress myself out so much I manage to make nothing new happen.

Can you relate?

Wearing some of my favorite Tangleweeds pieces. 

Wearing some of my favorite Tangleweeds pieces. 

I’ve realized over the years that part of making the new happen means letting go of the old. This isn’t always easy - many times the old masquerades as SUPER important. Mainly because it’s what I know and am familiar with. Oftentimes, sorting out the old that I want to hang on to and the old I want to release involves list making. Almost every time, when I make the first list, there is literally nothing I can see as non-essential, or ready to be released. It usually takes coming back to that list a few times over a few days or even weeks for me to finally begin to see the openings - the old things that can be let go of to create openings for the new. 

All of that is my way of saying, this year I’ll be discontinuing quite a few of my designs. I’m still culling that list, sorting through what I think I need to hang on to and what I really want to hang on to. 

Stepping into the new year in my brand new boots.

Stepping into the new year in my brand new boots.

You guys, my valued Tangleweeds collectors, mean a lot to me and through all of this I’ve had you guys on my mind. With that said, I plan to offer a sale along with an announcement in the coming weeks with the specific date at which you will no longer be able to buy these designs. 

I’m also offering the sale because come February, I will be raising my prices across the board. It won’t be a dramatic price increase, but it will be noticeable. I strive to and make it a top priority to keep my prices as low as possible. I haven’t raised my prices in a while, so the time has come to adjust them to better reflect the current costs of running Tangleweeds. 

A Tangleweeds classic - the By Chance necklace

A Tangleweeds classic - the By Chance necklace

I am extremely excited by what this next year holds for me and Tangleweeds. I feel like some things are becoming more defined in my mind, that my vision for what I want Tangleweeds to look like and feel like has never been more clear to me. That also means that as I usher out some of the old, there will be much new to welcome into those openings. These new things will include offering creative classes, a recycled sterling silver collection, lots of great newsletters and blog posts full of stuff that, I hope, will help you all find the beauty in the everyday a little bit more easily. I also hope to explore my jewelry design process some more and am excited to see that comes out of this endeavor. We’ll see where this all takes me and I hope you’ll share the journey with me!

At the annual retreat for the Creative Pursuit Collective - a small women's creative business incubator that I helped found almost three years ago. 

At the annual retreat for the Creative Pursuit Collective - a small women's creative business incubator that I helped found almost three years ago. 

For now there are no specific dates. I will announce all of the specifics via my newsletter first, so if you haven’t signed up, now is a great time to do just that (click here to be directed to sign up for my newsletter)! Roughly though, any designs being discontinued will be pulled from both web-stores (Etsy and my shop) by the end of February. 

In the meantime, I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Trying to build on what’s already there to realize the dreams I have. That’s all any of us can do, right? It makes me think of the motivational quote that goes through my head often, when I’m feeling over-whelmed: “Starts where you are.” I love the simplicity of the statement, but also the raw verve it suggests. It challenges you to simply start, to acknowledge that nothing ever happens without first starting something. Coupled with the “where you are” comes the acceptance that we all have restrictors on our time and energy, and that to set our own pace and carve our own path at our own rates is what will give us the deepest satisfaction in life.

Thanks for joining me in this path so far! Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

warmly,
Jeannine