It finally happened: I applied for a fine arts show and was...rejected. You see, I can count on both hands the number of shows I've applied for. Each time I've been accepted I've been thrilled. But ten isn't very many, and I knew that one day I'd be reading a "regrets" email instead of a "congrats" one, and wondered how that would make me feel.

Now I know.

It stinks. In those initial moments I wondered if my work wasn't good enough. I wondered if I could have done things differently. Self doubt. Self criticism.

And then...

I took a constructive look at my own actions and knew I *could* have done things differently. Like not waiting until the last minute to apply (yes, there's that). And submitting better photos (there's that, too). I needed to take some responsibility for the outcome.

And later...

I saw the silver lining. My focus from the beginning has been to share and sell my work online. Managing an online presence is full-time work in itself. I'll be participating in 2 shows this Fall and adding a third during the busiest season of the year would have made that more difficult. I think that's one reason I waited so long to apply for the show. And now, I'm actually feeling a little relieved. It's funny how things work out sometimes.

And so I'm moving forward with that experience in my back pocket, and the wisdom that I can always improve. And persevere. Good can always be found in the bad.

And the good I've been experiencing in recent days: design ideas flowing again. :) Here is a sample of what I've been working on.

A newly redesigned "Rockstar" ring in sterling silver.

Silver Rockstar Ring

Organic, hammered brass leaf earrings on sterling silver ear wires.

Brass Leaf Earrings

Faceted garnet and coral on sterling silver circle earrings.

Silver circle garnet coral earrings

Each of these is now available in my Etsy shop.

And more are on the way.

~ Christina

I'm finding my way back to the jewelry studio. It felt great to finish a few pieces yesterday, just because I could. But I'm a little rusty. What you don't see here is the other bangle on which I melted a "pebble" and soldered one on the wrong side, and some ear wires I managed to bend out of shape. But who's keeping track.

Butterfly Drop Earrings Pebble Bangle

I'm looking forward to more of this.

~ Christina

Website-Announcement
Words can't express how I feel about completing my new website. I took the plunge in building it myself, and after several good starts with little follow-through, I finally made it my mission to finish what I started. That meant limited studio time and many hours at my computer. And it worked.

The new website can be found at www.christinasteward.com. (If that sounds familiar, it's because it is! I've been using this URL from the beginning but simply redirected it to my Etsy shop.) And, my blog has officially moved to www.christinasteward.com/blog. If you received this blog post via email or in your WordPress reader, you have officially moved with me.

The website will evolve over time. Right now I've only included a subset of my art and jewelry in the online shop, but that will grow. The absolute best part of completing the website is now I can get back to what I enjoy most: creating.

So, go ahead, take a look at the new site and let me know what you think!

~ Christina

I like to end on a positive note, so let's talk about the good, bad and ugly of my Wordpress website development in reverse order.

The Ugly

Sometimes I wonder why I decided to use Wordpress and didn't go with a builder like Shopify or Squarespace for my ecommerce website.  The other options could potentially save time since I could leave the technology work at their feet.  It's one of the things I love about Etsy. I can just drop in my content and not worry about the rest.  But I know the answer: I'm a control freak when it comes to certain things.  I want to have full control over every single thing the website shows and does.  Wordpress gives me that option.  It's also an excellent blogging platform, another reason for choosing Wordpress.  For today, it's the right choice, even if it means a steeper learning curve.

What this means:  I have to buckle down if I'm going to get it done.  I've set a personal deadline, dedicating the month of July to finish what I started and get the website up and running.

The Bad

I'm using a Premium Wordpress theme to start from.  It's robust right out of the box, but there are still plenty of little tweaks required to make it more my own.  This requires research on my part to figure out how to make them.  While I dedicate my time to development, some things have to wait

What this means:  New jewelry designs will be on hold.  However, I'll of course process orders for existing designs as they come in.

The (Very) Good

Through this process I've learned more about Wordpress, CSS, HTML, SEO, and other acronyms, than I ever imagined.

What this means:  My technology skill set has grown (and I never thought that would happen again!).  When I'm done, I'll have a piece of the web that I'm proud to call my own...a place to share with you, that gives a better idea of who I am and the work I contribute.

I'd love to show an entire screenshot, but we have to leave some element of surprise, right?  Here's a snippet from my new Customer Service page.  I've even drawn little graphics to use like the clock icon shown here (full control). ;)

Clock Icon

Looking forward to sharing the finished website with you.

~ Christina

The Skies

May 27, 2014

In:Faith

Psalm 19:1

I've thought on this verse many times, looking up at the tops of the trees and puffy clouds gracefully gliding across the sky.

Even if we (humans) say nothing at all, the rest of God's creation speaks on His behalf.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

Sky

Moving Forward

May 15, 2014

In:Jewelry

I feel like I'm entering yet another season of creativity.  As I look ahead in my calendar, there are many pages not yet filled with ink.  My thoughts are turning again to working on my website, trying new metalsmith techniques, introducing new jewelry designs...all while I have the freedom to do so.  Life experience has shown me that there will be sharp turns and bumps along the way that dramatically slow the progress toward my goals.  But I'm determined to face them when they come, experiencing the pain and discomfort, and then persevering, never losing sight of my calling in this world.

Speaking of website, I picked it up again this week.  Truthfully, I wanted to scrap it at first.  After several months of neglect, it took me a few hours just to ramp up and remember where I left off.  I felt the familiar frustration of software development.  But when things started to click again, I took a step back and thought "Hey, that's not so bad!".  I've made real progress on it.  I'm determined to see it finished.

Another small achievement involves product photography and discovering a couple of new ways to shoot my jewelry.  I knew I needed a change when I learned a few pieces receive a lot of compliments in person, but yet didn't generate the same excitement within my online shop.  Such was the case with the silver and brass "Jackie" earrings (renamed - in case you noticed!).  After more experimentation with staging and lighting, this photo was captured.  I like the way the sparkle is highlighted on the hammered brass...how the earrings have a sense of hanging in space, how the contrast between the metals is amplified.  I also added a couple of small rings to the top of the earrings to give them more swing.

"Jackie" EarringsYou may recognize these "River" earrings, too.  They're back in the shop, this time in a brushed silver finish.

Silver River Earrings

Did you know I use a light box for many of my product photos?  Well, both of these photos were taken using natural light from a window.  I think in many cases, that's the way to go.

These may sound like minor changes, and I suppose they are, but accomplishing even baby steps means I'm moving forward.

This weekend I'll be one of the participating jewelers at the Alpharetta Arts Streetfest.  More than any other fine arts show I've taken part in to date, I'm really looking forward to this one.  There will be sunny skies with flowers in bloom, it's close to home, and in an ideal location for showing my work.  Plus, being surrounded by other artists and seeing their work is thrilling for me!

Today I'm pricing and organizing jewels so that I'm as ready as possible come Saturday.  I don't quite feel that I have the variety of pieces I'd like, but I always feel that way before a show, thinking of designs that I didn't have the time to make beforehand.  But, I'm really happy with the new work I do have, so I hope you'll come out.  The show hours are 10am - 6pm both Saturday and Sunday.  Find all the details here.

Jewels

This post has been on my heart for a number of days, but I'm only now able to articulate it.  The past year has been difficult, personally, as I've lost a number of loved ones - far too many.  Most recently, I said goodbye to my precious Mom Steward.

We met almost twenty years ago, and one of my first impressions of her was her gentle kindness.  When Chad and I would visit from college, she often had a single rose, clipped from her garden, waiting for me on the table.  Before she really knew me, long before Chad and I were married, she treated me as one of her own.  I used to love the large, crumble-top blueberry muffins she baked for breakfast, and the strawberry "salad" that went with dinner, which was really dessert-before-the-dessert. ;)  Her eyes lit up when she showed me the various flowering plants inside and outside her home, explaining the varieties and how to care for them.  Everything she touched, flourished.  And when it came to serving others, I'd get mentally tired just thinking of all the people she reached out to.  She never stopped caring and doing for her family, neighbors (and their furry friends), church family and those who couldn't help themselves.  She poured herself into others.

Mom was such a special lady, it's no wonder that Dad Steward is a special guy to have won her heart so many years ago; he is one of the finest men I know.  Through our loss I've had the chance to spend quality time with both Mom and Dad Steward's families, getting a taste of their upbringing and the legacies of their own parents and grandparents.  At one moment I looked at Chad and asked "How did I get so lucky?".  While I don't really believe in luck, when I first fell for Chad, I had no idea the caliber of his family, immediate and extended.  They know how to treat others, and how to love.  And by God's grace, I met and married a man who has those same traits and outstanding character.  As Chad's cousins so succinctly stated, Mom and Dad Steward's legacy has been passed down to their families, and to mine.

I've been soaking up a Bible study by Beth Moore, and one of her statements really spoke to me this morning: "God knows how everything will turn out.  And, for every single person who belongs to Him, it turns out well."  This truth is comforting for two reasons:

1) I've learned that as long as I lean on God, He will heal even my deepest sorrow.  Mourning will again turn to joy (Isaiah 61:3).

2) Mom Steward lived her life well.  And she finished well.  As a child of God, she's received the ultimate reward of eternity with Him.

It doesn't get better than that.

Rose

Roses were Mom's favorite. This is a snapshot from Chad's and my rosebush that she gave to us when we first moved into our house. Its blooms will always remind us of her.

Sometimes introducing a new jewelry design is scary: I don't know what others will think of it.  Sometimes, others really don't think much of a particular design.  But when I hit on something special, it's a great feeling.

That's how I feel about this hammered copper rope ring.  It's made from several strands of wire that I twist together and hammer out into a rope pattern.  Since introducing it in late November, it's become my best seller, as in I've sold more of this ring than any other design since I started making jewelry.  A beautiful thing, too, is that some customers have ordered it in a set of "his" and "her" bands.  That is precious to me.

Hammered Copper Rope Ring

On my own, I probably would not have made this ring.  It was, instead, inspired by a custom order I filled for a twisted copper bracelet.  The ring seemed like a natural extension of that design, and my customers have agreed.

I love that inspiration comes not only from my own surroundings and experiences.

It also comes from...you.

And for that I say "thanks." :)

~ Christina

We're just a few short weeks away from Valentine's Day, and it occurred to me I hadn't added any new heart designs to my shop.  How rude. ;)  What resulted was a tweak to one of my previous designs, the sterling silver double-hearts pendant with granule.  This time, I created a loop bail from thick gauge wire and soldered it to the back so it hangs right over the necklace.  I like this little change.

Sterling Silver Double Hearts Necklace

Sterling Silver Double Hearts Necklace

You can find it in my Etsy shop here.

~Christina