Baby Steps

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Sunday mornings are the best times for me to get away. Baby slept for 7 hours and decided not to go back to sleep, so I left him with Jesse and headed out to run errands. Of course, this includes a stop at 85•C for fresh bread and my favorite passion fruit green tea.

Yesterday was crazy busy, wandering through the LA County Fair for the first time and then heading down to Mission Viejo for a birthday party. The company made the heat bearable, as well as soaking up as much cool air and water as we could. Hui.1 had a blast checking out all the animals while Hui.2 napped in the stroller. Despite how much my feet hurt today, it was worth not needing to hold the baby all day long like usual. Hui.2 naps with Jesse but he just wants to play and nurse with me. When I give up trying to get him to sleep, I put him on the playmat next to my workbench and poke at jewelry as much as I can before he wants my attention again. He’s starting to show signs of being tired so it may get better soon. One can only hope, at least.

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We headed south after loading the kids in the car, and since we had extra time, we stopped at the mall for Hui.1 to run around the playground while Hui.2 made his debut to XCVI Mission Viejo. It was a quick visit to say hi to the girls and browse through the new fall goodies. I got some intel about the latest happenings at the store and said I’d be back to drop off the giant Rock on a Rope necklaces.

I feel very confident they’ll be a big hit with all of the fall tunics and sweaters. Maybe even the resort collection as well. I never realized the resort collection caters to the snowbirds who travel to warmer areas in the winter. Oops. It seems to also be a prelude to spring. Urban Maille already got their first frost of the season. Fall has arrived faster than anticipated, although my sense of time is skewed with the arrival of Hui.2. This new adventure of having two kids to chase after is rough. But I’m making it work, one step at a time. I also need to remind myself he won’t always be this small and hugs will be in less demand as he gets older, as proven with Hui.1.

I promise, the wait for new shiny things will be well worth your while.

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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.

Simple Pleasures

Tourmaline Rock on a Rope

Yesterday was a great day.

Hui.2 decided to take an early nap and Hui.1 woke up late.  So we started our day around 10:30am, had breakfast, then ventured into the studio where we watched Teddy Ruxpin, cuddled, and I actually got to sit at my workbench.  Hui.2 was still fast asleep (I kept checking on him because I was paranoid) and after flipping through my stone book, I decided I needed to make myself a Rock on a Rope with a ruby for some extra vitality.  I wanted to add some morganite to it for some Divine Love, but how could I make them work together?  My favorite design didn’t fit my needs at the moment.  I wanted a single, solitary stone, but I also wanted to reap the rewards of both stones.  Hmm.

Morganite and Aquamarine

It’s still a Rock on a Rope, even though I added a single morganite bead to the end of the extender chain!  Ding ding ding!  And of course, I felt the need to make it in rose gold.  Perfect!  I haven’t made anything for myself lately, so this was a nice treat.  I also added a solitary, faceted rose quartz to hang out with the morganite.  Divine Love, romantic love, and vitality is a powerful concoction.  This strand of rubies is very special and I’ve only taken 2 beads so far, with very specific intentions.  The first one I made as a tester bracelet with some Chinese Knots and chain.  Again, a very simple design with the knots framing the stone (like most things, I need to make more and take photos).  I wore it for a day before feeling the urge to give it to my sister.  My intuition was saying the ruby did its job, and it was time to pass it on to her.

As soon as Hui.1 went down for a nap, Hui.2 woke up from his 3-4 hour nap.  So we nursed in the studio, nicely curled up in my La-Z-Boy recliner (best investment I ever made for this new baby), streaming more Dawson’s Creek on Netflix (in my defense, I’m waiting for last season’s Grey’s Anatomy and Once Upon a Time to be on Netflix so I can catch up).  It was perfect to have some much needed quality time with both boys individually, as well as having some time to truly spend in the studio.  It’s simple pleasures like these that wards off postpartum depression and gives me hope that life with two kids two years apart won’t always be so chaotic.

My new Rock on a Rope

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.

Local Spotlight: 85C Bakery & Cafe

Hui.1 checking out the cakes at the Fullerton location

Every Asian person in Southern California should know about 85C because it’s pretty much the Asian equivalent of Starbucks but with the added bonus of boba and “Fresh bread!”.  Every time a new tray of bread comes out of the kitchen, the staff yells out, “Fresh bread!”  If you like savory breads smothered in cheese and garlic, this is the place to be.  I never actually stepped foot inside until one opened in my neighborhood K-town (Beach Blvd & La Mirada Blvd) because my mom would order ahead and pick it up from the Irvine location.  Now that there’s one so close, we go there on average once a week for either bread, boba drinks, or both.  If I need a quick getaway from the kids, I head out that way.

Grab a tray, grab some tongs, and go read every little sign in the corner of the bread boxes.  You can get calamari rolls that are baked with genuine squid ink, basic multigrain bread, and a vast array of garlic and cheese smothered delights.  There are other sweet breads that I haven’t tried, as well as a full blown bakery with cakes and mousse cups.  Personally, my favorites are the garlic cheese bread, tomato flatbread, and the chocolate pearl.  But be warned, they have different breads every time you visit, so they may not have your favorites that day.  I have no idea how the system works, but I haven’t been able to get any of my garlic cheese bread for the past 3 visits and when I sent Jesse to the one by his office, he only picked up 1 garlic cheese bread which was quickly devoured by both myself and Hui.1 (Hui.1 is my carb limiter; he eats most of them for me).

Happy pregnant lady

What I really like about their drinks is that you can control the amount of sugar they put in it.  Since I have to watch out for diabetes (if you are gestationally diabetic, you have a 50% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later on), I order all my drinks without sugar.  Jesse.1 ordered a taro smoothie and even without sugar, it tasted just fine.  It’s amazing how much added sugar is in our food and drink.  There is some comfort in knowing that Asian cakes are light and spongy in texture and the frosting is whipped cream instead of buttercream.  The chocolate pearl is a little round chocolate mass of cake and mousse dipped in more chocolate.  The outer layer of ganache is surprisingly sweet, but the mousse is the best I’ve ever found around Southern California.  It’s a great little treat.

There are a lot of locations and they’re open late, so you have no excuse not to go.

“Local Spotlight” will be an on-going blog series to support the local economy and community of Southern California and wherever my travels take me.  

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.

 

Nothing Left to Prove

Chainmaille Goodness

Discussions with Allison are always interesting and thought provoking.  Our initial discussions can get overwhelming, but everyone needs that one person who tells you how it is and occasionally gives you a shove in the right direction.  She does a lot more than just that for me, but you know what I mean.  She pointed out the other day that most of my jewelry designs are bold, statement pieces that are sometimes over-the-top.  The gauge I work the chainmaille in is not feminine and some people have commented I’m taking men’s jewelry and trying to make it feminine.  The more I mulled over this, the more I realized how much my subconscious has snuck its way into my jewelry.

As the youngest of 3 kids, I’ve felt I’ve had to make an extra effort to be taken seriously.  I’ve also spent nearly a decade working in a male-dominated field, on top of being overshadowed by both my father and my sister who work in the same field.  But now with the kids, I’ve been making the mental transition of being out in the field to the backend of the office.  It’s taken some getting used to because I miss the field work and watching the construction work, but being able to stay home with my kids is just as rewarding.

There is some evidence that I’m transitioning out of that “I need to prove myself” mentality, most prominently in the Chinese Knot Collection’s station necklaces and earrings.  It’s just hard to de-program after so many years of fighting against the tide.  I do feel less of a need to be taken seriously and definitely less need to prove myself.  The next step in the journey is remembering that bigger isn’t always better and there is merit in simpler, understated designs.  We’ll see where this next chapter of life takes me and how that translates into jewelry.  Acknowledging where I’ve been and where I hope to go is the first conscious step.