Keeping Busy

Hui.1 is officially 2

I officially have a 2 year old.  Eee gads.  

Labor Day has officially come and gone, along with the summer, but the lingering heat waves are still upon us until at least mid-October.  The cool, overcast mornings remind me of my days trekking back to Cal Poly Pomona for the start of the new calendar school year.  I haven’t stepped foot in an academic classroom in over 8 years, but the notion of the sun burning through the cloud cover mid-morning is permanently ingrained in my memory.  This weekend is supposed to hit the high 90’s, even in Orange County.  Despite the heat, I love this time of year.  It’s like hitting a metaphoric “reset” button and the seasons actually start changing.  This fashionista is ready for light sweater and hoodie weather so I can don my Doc Martens and go stomping around with the kids in tow.  Yes, I am the cool Mom who tries to make an effort to look like I didn’t just roll out of bed.

One of my bestsellers

On the jewelry end of things, the Laguna gallery is doing well.  I just dropped more traditional chainmaille bracelets and I need to get working on more re-stocks for the items that have already sold.  My best seller has been the tri-colored graduated necklace and earrings.  Nice to know one of my favorite earring designs is doing so well.  I just added some new inventory to XCVI Fashion Island and I’m planning to drop off a new style Rock on a Rope to XCVI Mission Viejo this weekend.  Both XCVI shops have said that larger focal point necklaces have been their bestsellers, so I’m testing the waters with a giant Rock on a Rope.  The beauty of this new design is that it can be worn long to compliment the fall season’s sweaters and tunics, but can also be worn short when desired.  The stone is large because it has to carry it’s own weight and stand out when worn long.  The biggest I have so far are 40mm fire agate coin shaped beads.  All the beads I found for this test project are perfect for the warmer fall tones.  XCVI Fashion Island has me tentatively scheduled for a trunk show in mid-October and XCVI Mission Viejo’s should be in early November.  Exciting, but also means I need to get my butt into gear about inventory.  It shouldn’t be too bad with Hui.2 getting bigger and not needing me to hold him all day long.  I also have some new ideas for streamlining production as well as chores around the house that I’ve been slowly implementing with great success.  So there is hope and motivation to get everything together and smoothly.  Let’s see how this goes.

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Opportunities, Traffic, and Tranquility

Playing in the studio

Hui.2 will be two months old next week. Where has these past two months gone? Mostly trying to get as much sleep as possible and squeezing in some creative time during those rare moments I can catch a break. But he’s getting used to the concept of not needing to be held all day long, which is really nice. Hui.1 still pokes at him in awe and occasionally too hard. But with two boys so close in age, they’ll be best friends and mortal enemies. I expect yelling, “don’t poke your brother” at both of them several times a day once Hui.2 is more active.  Hui.1 is already starting to realize Hui.2 fights back and he doesn’t like it.  I had both of them on my lap and Hui.1 slid off the rocker because Hui.2’s feet were touching him.  Hilarious.

The Laguna gallery wants more pieces and they want to give me a shelf in addition to being in their premier front display case. They’ve sold my best two chainmaille necklaces already, in addition to several earring and necklace sets. This is exciting and terrifying because it means I need to produce more inventory, but it also means more exposure and potentially more sales. At least it’s a great spot for the bigger, more intricate pieces. I also have to get my Perfect Rings polished and ready to go as well. The gallery wife told her husband it’s okay if I come in with two pounds of jewelry for them to sell. Like I said, exciting and terrifying.

Tranquility and Traffic

Despite the summer traffic trying to get into town, spending time in Laguna is a nice reprieve from my daily life of diapers and tantrums. I went down there for an artist demo this past Saturday for my first adventure away from the kids. There’s something magical to be said about the crisp salty air and relaxed atmosphere of the beach and all its tourists. I hope to spend more time there, grabbing a bite to eat at the local cafe before my allotted demo time. Sitting around making jewelry and smiling at potential customers who wander in is a great way to spend an afternoon. With all the distractions I have at home, having such a focused and set time to make jewelry definitely falls under the self-care category. Of course, it won’t be so bad at home once Hui.2 gets older, but for now, it’s a nice change in scenery. For a closer reprieve, I can take the family over to the Fullerton Arboretum for an afternoon adventure. There’s no traffic, free parking and admission, and full of wonderfully lush greenery, bubbling brooks and waterfalls. Jesse loves visiting there, Hui.1 loves frolicking amongst the plants and walking paths, and there are plenty of tranquil places for me to park and make jewelry. Maybe we’ll do that when Jesse.1 visits for Labor Day weekend.

Hui.1 found a stick by the stream

Doing consignment seems to be my best bet until I can leave for a whole day without worrying about Hui.2. Then there’s the notion of finding a one-day show to vend at, which there are plenty of, but it’s more a notion of finding the perfect fit. Pagan Pride Day is always a good bet considering my love of stones and both the staff and attendees remember me from previous years. The biggest thing I need to remember when I go back is to bring more sets of jewelry. I admit I’ve gotten better about making mix-and-match sets, so that’s a plus. The Chinese Knot Collection would be a big hit there with the price point and all the gorgeous stones.

All and all, the babies are happy and thriving and I am doing better than surviving. Which is better than most parents can say at this age. My main focus for now is beefing up my inventory to re-stock the shops (XCVI Fashion Island also needs a re-stock), as well as finishing two pieces for the grand collection photo of a new collection that has yet to be released. It’s pretty epic and full of chainmaille. Sometimes I feel as though I have too many mediums to work with (stones, Swarovski Crystal, and artisan glass beads), but it’s just another creative challenge to make it all work. Just like the babies, it’s all worthwhile in the end.

Entrepreneurship and Kids

Hui.2 is just about 3 weeks old and weighs 10 pounds.  This is a serious mind trip because he’s still a newborn.  My mind thinks I can do lots of stuff around the house or even make jewelry, but my body says, “NO!  Must sleep!  Must lounge comfortably!”  When I wonder why I’m still achy, I remember that I gave birth less than a month ago.  Oops.

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, especially for women who are entertaining the notion of having kids.  I consider myself lucky to have found a partner who supports my dreams and ambitions.  During marriage negotiations, I told Jesse if we were to get married and have kids, I would stay home with them while building up my jewelry business.  That’s how I grew up, in the midst of my father’s engineering consulting business.  When I have Hui.2 nursing on the left side so my right hand is free to click the mouse or type on my iPhone, I imagine if that’s what my mom was doing with me at that age.  Growing up in that kind of environment, and eventually working in it as well, really taught me how to manage both a business and household at the same time.  My life is going to be nuts until the kids go off to college, but so is the price of having them.

Despite all this, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the slower pace of not having any plans or social engagements.  It’s also given me time to reflect on how 2014 has been and what I want to do next.  Lariats seem to be attracting the most attention and sales, so I need to crank out more.  I have a new design I’m testing out asd my first conscious attempt at being dainty and understated.  Once it passes the testing stage, I can start working on a lariat and figuring out how to incorporate stones and crystals.

Sales from the shops are doing quite well and I’m looking forward to eventually getting back into the throes of networking and artist demos.  I definitely need to do a trunk show with one of the XCVI stores, if not both.  That would be good around the holidays, at least by October so I can start getting my inventory ready.  By then Hui.2 should be sleeping better and be more inclined to be entertained by his playmat and brother rather than being curled up in my arms all day.  Mind you, I am definitely savoring all this cuddle time while he still has that magical new baby smell which makes all the pain and suffering of having a newborn worthwhile.  It just doesn’t work well for fast or instantaneous results all the time.

 

Blocking Out a Schedule

Hui.2 at 4 days old

Welcome Hui.2!

Well, it’s been a week since Hui.2 decided to grace us with his presence and it’s been a small adventure, compared to Hui.1’s arrival.  But, we are all doing well and slowly adjusting to life with a newborn and a toddler.  I have to remind myself to take it easy and rest instead of rushing every which way to work on all the new jewelry designs that have been running amok in my head.  One of the nice things that babies bring is new perspective and constant change.  I need to figure out a schedule that works for everyone… more of that work-life balance everyone is talking about.  Here are some things that need to be blocked out:

Alone Time:

I need time to decompress from the world and sit in my head for awhile, even if it means staring at the walls doing nothing.  I did that this morning by going out into the garden to trim my nails (who honestly wants to vacuum nail clippings?) and soak up a little bit of vitamin D.  Alone time is very important for me and I need to figure out how to block that out whenever I can.  Jesse is actually very good at knowing when he needs to kick me out of the house or take the kids out so I can get some peace and quiet.  Starting kundalini yoga and meditation again falls under this category as well.  I’ve also figured out that I need to put Hui.2 down for a nap before I put Hui.1 down.  Then I’ll actually get some peace and quiet.

Unplugged Family Time:

Let’s face it; we live in a society who would rather stare at their phones to interact with the world instead of actually engaging with people face-to-face.  What that said, I want to be sure that when we’re all together, we’re all present and not glued to the electronics.  Jesse and I are good about not taking out our phones while we’re out for dinner unless it’s to check in on Yelp, but I do not want to spread the technology plague to the kids.  Hui.1 already comes running at me with my phone when I put it down somewhere within his reach.  It’s cute, but it also says he knows how important the phone is to me.  I’m not sure if I like that or not, but since I don’t have a landline, I need to keep the phone within reach 90% of the day.

Business Time:

It partly goes with the alone time, but the alone time gives me a chance to rest my brain and let the ideas cultivate before I start production or even tinkering.  But there’s more to business than just design and production.  There’s writing blog posts, adding listings on Etsy, making sure the website is up and running smoothly, posting on social media, etc.  I’ll start with one goal I want to accomplish for the day so that intention is imprinted into my subconscious with the hope of actually getting it done.  Eventually, once Hui.2’s schedule is less chaotic (yes, I’m being optimistic), I’ll up that to three goals a day, even if it’s something small like wiping down all the mirrors in the house.  Breaking up big projects into little pieces is the best way to get things done.

Hubby Time:

Since we’re limited on babysitters, this includes playing Dominion, watching TV together, and who knows what else.  It’s been nice having him home for the past week and we’ve been experimenting in the kitchen again, yesterday making my mom’s crepes for breakfast with a fruit syrup and then roasting a goose for dinner.  We’re almost finished with Season 6 of the Big Bang Theory.  He got bored of watching Star Trek: Voyager, but Season 7 of Big Bang will be released by the end of the summer.  We can spend that time playing Dominion since we have the base set and 4 expansions.

Holiday goose in July

Of course, this will vary depending on how the kids and I deal with our daily lives, but I’m confident to make this work.  I just need to remember to be patient with everyone, but most importantly, myself.  I can’t do everything at once, but I can be present and make every effort to get a few goals accomplished, even if that means getting 15 minutes of peace and quiet during this newborn stage.

37 Weeks and Counting

Beautiful day at Laguna Beach for a jewelry drop off at Orange County Creatives

I’m officially at 37 weeks.

Hui.1 came just as I hit 37 weeks, but before I started going to the weekly OB appointments.  I’m doing my best to take it easy and hopefully let this baby stay awhile longer.  Sunday was the beginning of my maternity leave and I’ve been keeping busy by digging back to my roots with some basic chainmaille and coming up with some new designs for the summer and fall/winter collections.  It’s true that artists and fashion designers have to keep up with their seasonal collections at least 6 months in advance, if not more.  As crazy as it sounds, it really isn’t.  There needs to be time for photos to be taken and edited before anything else actually happens.  I’m still struggling with the whole concept, but only because I know this baby is going to take up most of my summer before I can truly get back into the swing of things (resting and baby come first).  But, I have my stores fully stocked and there’s always the US Postal Service if they need more jewelry.  Photos are another story, but I will have the summer collection posted and listed on Etsy sometime in July.  If you can’t wait, go check out these new Grace Bead bracelets at XCVI Mission Viejo, as well as some awesome lariats (see photo below).  Orange County Creatives has some adorable summer earrings and I’ll be sending more in as my earring pile gets bigger (follow them on Facebook for photos).

 

XCVI
Shops At Mission Viejo
555 The Shops At Mission Viejo
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
(805) 953-9340

Orange County Creatives
761 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(978) 473-9658

For those of you who know and understand how important it is to be on maternity leave, don’t worry, I have been nesting and resting.  Check out my completed Hui Hui Nest.  I picked up the side table on Sunday.  It’s such a perfect fit.  I can even make chainmaille there now, because I’ve nested as much as possible and there’s nothing more to do but sit and wait.

And now we wait…

Hui.1 has been enjoying himself at least.  His new favorite thing to do while I’m working is sitting on my lap and turning my lamp on and off.  Now if only he’d stop poking beads and ring tins with the pliers like he’s trying to fork his food… but these are those precious moments that need to be treasured because before I know it, he’s going to feel like he’s too big for Mommy hugs and the like.  So I let him spill my rings everywhere and poke the beads with the pliers.

“Like sands through the hour glass…”

The Production Process

The Chinese Knot Collection

I’ve already written about my process of design and how to cultivate creative through poking and classical music. So let’s talk about what it takes for a piece of jewelry to make it to production.

Several hours of debate and poking. Part of that poking includes this list of questions:

Is it strong enough by itself to be a statement piece?
What category does it fall under?
Does it meet the requirements of said category?
Can it be “broken” down into several coordinating pieces (i.e. Collection)?

Classic maille is the foundation of my jewelry design and sometimes you need something simple yet makes a strong statement. What’s a bakery without the staple chocolate chip cookie? What kind of engineer didn’t study calculus? Everyone has to start somewhere in order to lay out the foundation. So for me that’s where it all begins.

The next step is analyzing and being able to see a weave that can be broken down into either smaller “bits” or somehow manipulated into being adorned by beads. This particular skill has taken me years to refine and there are days when it’s still a challenge. But it’s all part of the journey, if you really want to get all philosophical about it. Sometimes it’s finding the perfect maille bit for certain beads. Other times it’s about showcasing the maille encrusted with beads.

From the photo above, you can see the versatility of the Chinese Knot Collection between it’s chainmaille foundation and how well it lends itself with the stones.  I really outdid myself with that collection and I have to figure out how to top it.  Now that’s going to be a challenge.

Entrepreneurship is Never Boring

I’ve been holed up in my studio working with my Grace beads.  First of all, I started designing my Fall/Winter Collection so I could get reacquainted with my Swarovski crystal.  Shifting mental gears isn’t always an easy process and a lot of the stuff I started making was looking like the Stepping Stones Collection.  Oops.  And I’m still in the midst of making knot bits to add to the Chinese Knot Collection.  It’s a never ending story, but so goes the evolution of jewelry design and being an entrepreneur (I swear, I’m never going to properly spell “entrepreneur” without my spell check.  The “e-u-r” at the end always gets me!).

I’ve also been working on taking better photos with my iPhone.  As technology keeps improving (thank you, Moore’s Law), point-and-shoot digital cameras are quickly eating the dust when it comes to camera phones.  Sad to say, but unless you have a SLR, phones rule.  The top photo was taken with my iPhone, natural lighting, and my workbench lamp.  Not bad, I have to admit.  (Side note:  My electronics professor in college was the one who developed one of the first camera phone chips at JPL.  She was an awesome professor.)  The entrepreneur wears many hats and sometimes you DO have to do everything yourself.  Self-promotion will always be the hardest, but learning a few tricks here and there along the way undoubtedly helps.

So there you have it.  I’m working on releasing a few pieces of Grace for the summer and also developing my Fall/Winter collection in an attempt to stay 6 months ahead of the game.  Yeah, then add the arrival of a newborn into that mix.  Yes, I am crazy, but I love it.  And with that, back to the studio I go!