“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Since I was small, I wanted to be an artist and always looked at things differently than other kids. I was always drawing. I remember my mother coming into my room on Saturday mornings, thinking I was sleeping the day away, only to find me sitting in my bed drawing. Sleep was never really a necessary thing if I have something that needs to get out. Now, don't confuse my saying any of this with me saying I am an extraordinary artist or any kind of artistic genius - because I don't think I am, but I just know that if i don't make something, sometimes, it strangles me until it comes out. I'll bet more than a few of you will understand what I'm taking about.
I always drew my friends when they came over to play - I wasn't great at just playing, though. There was always some kind of art project and kids rarely wanted to come back after spending an afternoon with me, making them stay still or drawing next to them while they played with my barbies (that all had my homemade clothes...). I won the town art contest in 5th grade with a painting of mountains, trees and rocks. My mother still has the painting hanging somewhere, I think. In high school, I filled all of my elective classes with art studio classes. I went to weekend classes at the Museum School - the art school attached to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I took the advanced placement Art course my junior year and scored a 4 out of 4. My parents never wanted me to be an artist, though, and fought me pretty hard about going to art school, but caved when I said I wanted to study Architectural Design. So, I was accepted, early decision, in October of my senior year to Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. At the time, it was considered the top art school in the US - I have no idea where it is in the rankings, now, but I felt pretty good about myself and spent the rest of the year in the art room. I graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA.
Between the end of high school and the first day of college, I was in a serious car accident. It has forever changed the way I look and, I think, the way I think. I am comfortable with it now, more or less, but beginning college with a face full of black stitches (and my full on goth attire at the time) created an interesting introduction for me, some crazy mean rumors, and put me square in the realm of "outsider". It was ok - I learned to rely on myself and to draw from my own strengths.
While at Mass. Art, I took every elective I could afford - a small metals class was one of them. I got my introduction to metal forming, cold connecting, soldering and sawing. I made a bolo depicting a staircase from above and a copper box with an art nouveaux piercing on the top. During this time, I was also still studying Architecture and I would make abstracted buildings out of heated and formed copper sheet. These forms would become the basis for many of the building designs I came up with.
My drawing studio professors always wanted me to switch majors. They said I didn't belong in design. They were right, and I knew they were right, but I felt like I needed to learn how to do something to make money to support myself. I was pretty certain I was predetermined to be on my own (with a butler - long story, but if you know me, you know what that's all about). Eventually, money did win out. I found out how much I would be making my first year at an architectural firm and how difficult it was for women to advance in the field. I was bartending and waitressing at the time, and I was making more money doing those things. So, I switched my major to Art History my last year and spend one extra semester to finish and spent the next several years working in restaurants.
I moved to NYC in 2003 for a change of pace. As much as I love Boston, it got small. New York has never gotten small. I've been here for 13 years now, and its still an engaging, undulating place that, I think, will forever hold my attention. Anyway, I had aspirations to become a "famous artist" here, somehow. I took art classes at SUNY Purchase and at The Art Student's League of NY. I still worked in restaurants to support myself and hopped around the city - my first 2 years, i considered myself an "Urban nomad" - i lived in 12 different spots before meeting Udi (my husband) and finally settling down, but I never figured out how to build up the confidence to walk into a gallery with my work.
I saw Udi across the room one night at 3am, in the LES, at an awful club my girl friend and I used to go to after work. It was the kind of place you went to to laugh at people (as terrible as that might sound, but I was young...). Anyway, I saw Udi's eyes from across the room. From the moment our eyes met, I felt it was fate that brought us together. It was the first time I truly believed in god or some higher being - someone that had a hand in dealing the cards we hold. My life was hard up until I met him. Things began to make sense afterward.
Our relationship went pretty fast. We moved in with each other within a month of meeting. We set up house, got married and had our first child by our 3 year first date anniversary. During all of this time, I tried to "grow up". I tried working 9 - 5 at a hair salon, then I got my real estate license and went to work as a real estate agent. I was actually good at that. During the short time I was active (3 months), I sold 4 apartments and rented a whole bunch of them. Udi and I worked together and we were a really good team. Then our first born came about and I decided to be a stay at home mom. Udi is very good at what he does and it has always afforded me the freedom to do what I wanted, and what we thought was best was to have me at home, rather than having a nanny. Udi and I are alone in the city - his family is in Israel and my sister is in Massachusetts, my parents and I are estranged, so our day to day lives has always been just us. At that time, all of my artistic inclinations went into setting up house - cooking, making curtains, baby decorations, I taught myself how to knit and made blankets. After the kids were born, I would make very elaborate birthday party decorations and crazy cakes (one cake was a fondant castle with a gigantic mural of a princess, dragon and pirate having a tea party that took up our entire living room wall - of course, my daughter doesn't remember it at all). Then about a year after my second was born, I began really drawing again. It was a huge relief - that I still could draw after all the time not doing much and just getting the images out. At this time, Udi and I decided that i shouldn't go back to work in Real Estate, so I let my license go. I figured it was time to really try to be an artist, so I started with baby steps to confidence and opened an Etsy shop. Pigmented Fibers had a handful of prints and 3 t-shirt designs. I kept my shop open from 2011 - 2013 and I sold 12 items. But, I got good reviews and responses, so it was all ok. I realized that my 2D art work wasn't that fulfilling or appealing in a market place. My 2D art work has always been about me - self portraits even if it wasn't a portrait. Not everyone wants my stream of consciousness on their wall. SO, I started thinking about what else I could make. I always wanted to take more metals classes and I've been collecting turquoise for as long as I can remember, so I thought I could go, take a class and learn how to make bezel settings. I took an awful class at SVA. The teacher thought I already knew what I was doing (I assume because I was already familiar with a lot of tools from the class I took in college), but I really didn't. After my first ring was finished, every question I asked was answered without a solution. I got frustrated and decided to set up my own little studio in my art alcove in my apartment. So, by trial and error, I have been teaching myself how to make jewelry - you know - the reason you're bothering to read all of this nonsense. I have been buying hand made clothes since I could afford to and I developed a basic relationship with one sweet maker and asked her to evaluate my jewelry to see if she thought I could sell it. She did think so, and I started Stone Sparrow Design.
I started this company so I could continue to investigate this medium. Silver and stones are very expensive and if I waned to continue making things at the rate I "needed" to, it would become a burden on my families' finances. My goal is to fulfill my artistic need and to have my business carry itself. It wasn't easy, but last year, my business did carry itself and after paying for my supplies, I had enough earnings left over to buy my husband a present to thank him for picking up my slack at home and for standing next to me while I turned into a crazy person - trying to fill custom orders, meet deadlines, and just became a general ball of stress and anxiety.
I started doing this to build confidence in myself as an artist, to have an artistic outlet and to have a feeling of self worth - separate from my roles as wife and mother. When my following began to build, and i got such positive responses, I tried to make everyone happy. Custom orders make others happy, but do not make me happy. Popular, formula items - make everyone else happy if they're able to get one, but don't make me happy. Aside from that, I am not doing this to get rich. This doesn't make money. I charge materials costs, factor in minimum wage per piece for the actual time it takes to make the piece - not to design it, photograph it, advertise it and write all of the things I write on social media. I use the best materials I can afford. I use the thickest gauge silver I can manipulate. I try to make something for everyone that expresses interest. I do every aspect of this business with my own two hands.
I sent out 383 pieces since opening my website for sales in February 2015.
I cannot do it anymore.
Not like this, anyway.
The other day, I had a rough day. My youngest daughter is having issues with a teacher at school and i got into a protective argument with her. I have a skin thing that I've been trying to have properly diagnosed for about 9 months and had a surprise biopsy. My husband has a bad back and his back went out. I had a customer pester me for a made to order ring that wasn't due to be completed for another week - for the 6th time since ordering it.
If someone is unhappy the moment they order something and it isn't even made, I would prefer to refund them and save myself from further headache. There are some people it is evident from the initial contact that it is impossible to make happy. I know this. I have always worked hard - my entire life. Every day of it. I do my best, but sometimes it isn't good enough. I'm ok with that - its not rainbows and roses 100% of the time. I try not to let these things get me down. So, the nastiness and the refund and whatnot isn't what bothered me about my interaction with the customer the other day. What bothered me was - she told me she knew I was working to fill my website for another site release and that all I care about is making money, not taking care of my customers.
All I have been doing is trying to make all 20,000 + of my followers happy. You guys like my Sparrow's Talon rings - I try to make as many of them as I can, in as many sizes and colors as you request. They pay for themselves and give me enough left over to buy materials for the next batch. I literally make zero profit off of them. Some of the stones I use for them cost $100, but I have kept the prices as streamlined as possible so everyone can get one, at the prices they expect to see them. Jewelry stores in my neighborhood charge so much more than what I charge and the things they're selling are mostly prefabricated - not hand made. I am trying to be "Insata" competitive and "Vintage" competitive - well, it's not for me to roll in buckets of money, like I was accused of trying to do. When I have extra, I give things away. I have given away 31 pieces of jewelry - real silver and real stones made 100% with my own two hands - since opening. It makes me happy. One girl was having a really hard time balancing school and a family catastrophe. She was open with me and told me about it. So, I sent her a ring I knew she wanted, but knew she couldn't really afford it. Another woman has been having a series of health problems - I sent her something that would maybe distract her from her problems - even for a little while. I have chosen give away winners based, not on how many followers their winning will get me, but on how it makes me feel to send it to them. My first give away winner hand just had a baby and couldn't afford to buy something. She was happy when she got the pendant and posted a photo say ing how pretty it made her feel. I pride myself on my relationships with my customers - I have a LOT of great relationships with a LOT of customers. More than I ever thought I would. Yeah - I have bills to pay and it would be amazing to get rich doing something I love to do, but the reality is, it's not going to happen. I want to make things that are interesting to make, interesting to look at, maybe have a hidden meaning or some fun story about where or how the miner found the stone. I will charge what all of that costs me, plus enough to pay my babysitter and enough to get started on the next one. I have that right. I will no longer try to fill my store with things only to make others happy, though. I have found out that it's not appreciated the way I had hoped and some people feel that they can demand things from me. My altruistic side has become jaded. Regardless of my intentions, I have the right to feed my family, if that's what my goal is or the right to feed my soul.
I need to feed my soul to feed my family.
From now on, my website will be filled with pieces that are designed from the intense need to create. I hope you will continue to follow along and check out what I have to show, but if you are only here for the things the hoard wants, there several silver smiths on Instagram copying my Talon rings - right down to the name and my signature hand cut bezels. I am sure they would be delighted to use my original idea as inspiration for your custom order.
Thank you for reading this far down the page. As you can tell, I am not about business - I am about heart, art and spirit. I am doing my best to remain professional, but in order to do that, I need to detach a little bit. It is very hard to be social (on social media), when your feeling anti-social. Stepping back is better than quitting, which was my first inclination. If you want to respond to me, feel free to comment below or send me an email if you'd prefer to be private.