Monday, July 26, 2010

Inspiration Monday - Find good people

Being an artist is difficult business. As I mentioned in my blog last week, you're constantly putting yourself on the line. Your work is a part of you, and sending it out to be judged by others is exhausting.

As such, I constantly struggle with how to sustain the energy necessary to keep soldiering on. Starting and running a business (or--in my megalomaniacal aspirations--a design empire) requires a constant input of energy and time because you always have to be thinking about the next step. Working in a corporate job has its own set of emotional drains and problems, but there is an odd comfort in knowing where you're going to be each day and knowing what you're going to do. For those people who aren't threatened with lay-offs, you also can always count on your paycheck. Artists know that whether they can pay their rent or not depends on their ability to generate money off of their talent (which can be subject to arbitrary whims, as I also mentioned last week).

Something I realized not too long ago is that the easiest way to keep up all the energy to keep fighting is to find good people. Last year when I decided to redesign my life, I also purged all of the friends who didn't get what I was trying to do and who thought I was a bit of a weirdo. (I am, of course, but I shouldn't be judged for that!) These days, I surround myself with friends are supportive of what I'm doing, even if they're not artists. And they are my greatest resource--if I'm feeling anxious about a decision or feeling drained, they keep me motivated.

Any time you venture off the beaten path, it helps to have a few cheerleaders in your corner. Good friends will always be there as your personal pep rally. Don't waste time with nay-sayers. Chances are they're wrong, or they're trying to dismiss your dreams because they're too scared to follow theirs. And don't waste time talking to people who don't get what you're doing. Talking to people who don't understand art is a lot like talking to medieval peasants about the stock market--they're not going to get it. (As an aside, if you are doing that, you're totally wasting your time machine.)

Vanessa Walilko
Chain mail jewelry

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Make Something Beautiful - Chainmaille Belt

I've been futzing with this belt for months. It emerged after I altered the ring size I used for one of my pieces of chain mail jewelry and suddenly had a plethora of rings in a size I couldn't use. And then I thought the former bracelet design would work great as a belt. The ends of the belt, however, thwarted me for months. I wasn't sure how to finish it off so that it looked polished. I came up with a solution just a couple of days ago, and now I have a belt that I can proudly wear. I am a happy lady.

Vanessa Walilko
Chain mail jewelry

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inspiration Monday - Don't Take it Personally

I remember the first time I entered the Bead Dreams competition. I submitted my Phoenix Reborn bead embroidered necklace and my Dragon Mother beaded sculpture. I was so proud of both pieces, I had even gotten Larry Sanders to photograph them and sent in fancy high-res images. To say that I was disappointed when I got the rejection letter would be an understatement.

I used to take rejection personally, and I imagine that most sensitive artists do. It's hard not to--your pour your energy and time into making a piece of art that you adore. It's a piece of you. It takes courage just to show it to someone, let alone send it out to be judged. It can be really heartbreaking to send a piece out and find it unequivocally dismissed. You can console yourself with knowing that your friends think it's cool, but only so much.

Thankfully, I possess that weird gene that when someone tells me no, I have to prove them wrong. I have no idea where this stubborn, potentially spiteful impulse comes from, but every rejection evokes the same response: "I'll show you." Both my win in the Fire Mountain Gems contest and my publication in Step by Step Wire Jewelry came from being rejected elsewhere. I had to prove the rejectors wrong.

Of course, what I've realized over the past couple years (aside from the fact that I can put my Scorpio-moon vindictive nature to very productive use), is that you can't take it personally. At the end of the day, all judgments are arbitrary. We can hide behind an illusion of objectivity as much as we want, but without a doubt, whatever was going on inside the heads of the judges determines if we get into a show or not. They might like your work, but it doesn't fit into their vision of the show. They might like your aesthetic, but not your technical skill, or vice versa. They could have been cut off by some jerk in the morning and think your entry reminds them of the driver. They could have gotten a ton of really skilled applicants this year, and your piece was great but others made things even better. Anything is possible.

At the end of the day, you have to have faith in the work that you're doing, and keep putting it out there for the world to see. As you hone your craft, someone is bound to notice, and they will tell other someones until suddenly lots of people know and care about what you're doing. But before that happens, you have to get over yourself and not take it personally. It'll serve you better in the long run.

Vanessa Walilko
Handmade aluminum chain mail jewelry

Friday, July 16, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Inspiration Monday - Overcoming Procrastination

Crafting an MBA recently posted a blog entry about how to stop using "work" to procrastinate from doing real work. I do this constantly. I should be working on preparing for some upcoming shows, but instead I'm working on my cropped red scale mail jacket. It's almost done, but deadlines are looming and I'm looking for a distraction.

There are tips for how to overcome this procrastination in the form of fake work. One is to prioritize your to-do list. So I guess it's time to get off the computer and get to work!

Vanessa Walilko
Handmade Aluminum Chainmaille Jewelry

Friday, July 9, 2010

Make Something Beautiful - Day 61

Today has been a fantastic day. I found out that my chainmaille jacket was mentioned in the Evanston Review, my armor was featured on the Lark Crafts website, and I got a call that I was chosen as a finalist for the National Sewing Council Fashion Fever Sewing Competition. And that was all before noon. As I said, fantastic day.

I also am happy to report that I finally finished my latest dragon, made from Swarovski crystal elements. It's a project that I started working on MANY months ago, and I'm delighted to see the finished product.

Vanessa Walilko
Handmade aluminum chainmaille jewelry

Monday, July 5, 2010

Inspiration Monday - Practice Makes Perfect

I happened to find this great post written by my cousin's cousin on honing your craft. She is a talented musician, but what she says easily applies to any creative endeavor. If you want to be really good at something, you have to practice it obsessively. She describes learning techniques for playing the piano well, but I was reminded of making chainmaille. Any time a student of mine tells me that she would like to have better closures, I reply that if she wants really good closures, she should make a piece of clothing. Closing 10,000, 15,000, or 30,000 jump rings will help you hone your skill (if you don't tear your hair out first, of course).

In any case, the blog post is a good read for anyone who wants to know how someone creative develops their skill. Read her blog post here.

Vanessa Walilko
Aluminum Chainmaille Jewelry