Dilemmas and Disappointments
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know by now that I’ve taken to having a weekly theme. A recent one was dilemmas and disappointments, so I thought I’d chat about those today.
Although the words are big and serious sounding, not all disappointments are disasters, and not every dilemma is as serious as Sophie’s choice. For those who don’t know the reference, it comes from the story of a woman who is told to choose which of her two young children should be sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz and which one should live. If that isn’t going to help me keep my own dilemmas in perspective, nothing will.
The first is a dilemma that has to do with cost vs. investment. Being a small business means I have to watch every penny I spend. Every time I’m considering whether to buy something new for my workshop, I’m faced with the “should I or shouldn’t I?” question. I often get very excited about a new idea, becoming completely consumed and obsessed by it. I have a big, fat debate in my head and eventually conclude it by either saying yay or nay.
Now most people would think that if I’ve said nay, I’ve saved money and it hasn’t cost me anything. But what about the lost opportunity cost? Consider my enamelling kiln. It wasn’t necessary for me to create an enamel range. I could have done without it. Had I not bought the kiln, I would have saved a substantial amount. But having bought it, I’ve created an entire range using it, and it has already more than paid for itself. I've also improved my enamelling skills, introduced colour into my work and got a great deal of pleasure from it. So saving that money would have cost me dearly in more ways than one.
More recently, I bought a big blow torch, and a bunch of other side equipment with the idea of doing water-casting. I'll add a link to my blog post about it if you want to know more. Anyway, the torch is so powerful that I can’t use it indoors for fear of burning the house down. And I’m shying away from water-casting for a whole host of other reasons, so all that money has just turned out to be a cost.
So there are pitfalls in saying yay as well as nay. This is one dilemma that’s here to stay, and I'll never know the answer to what might have been had I chosen the alternative. We are all gifted with the wisdom of hindsight, but not many of us can see into a parallel universe. So saying “I wonder what would have happened if…” is nothing but a waste of headspace.
The second isn’t so much a dilemma as it is a disappointment. Of late I’ve been making updates to my website to clarify my brand message. What do I make? How do I make it? What do I and my jewellery stand for? What do I care about?
Clear messaging around these things will help draw fewer, but more interested people to my website. And I have less time than ever to get my message across. Did you know that people form a first impression of a website in 50 milliseconds? I didn't. They will decide to stay or leave within the first 15 seconds. But if I do get my messaging right, I’ll have homed in on the tiny subset of humanity that likes what I make, how I make it and what I stand for.
Doing this means narrowing my product range down to the point where someone visiting my website can see what I’m about at a glance. My message should be loud and clear – “This is what I do”. Not “I do bit of this, but you might like that too, and look - I’ve made one of these as well”. Remember - I have less than 15 seconds.
So, sadly, I’ve decided to remove all the items in the range I’ve shown below from my website. I’m really disappointed, because it was the first full range I ever designed and I still really love it. But the style of the pieces, the time they take to make and everything else put together just doesn’t fit right now. Maybe sometime in the future it will. I sincerely hope I’m only saying au revoir, not farewell.
And then the final thing I want to chat about today is my constant struggle in trying to balance learning with doing. There are two basic skills that I need to have in order to make my business a success; I need to know how to make jewellery, and how to run a business. I’m comfortable making jewellery. Obviously the finish and finesse will improve as the years go by, but I'm clear about what I can and can’t do. For example, I don’t work in gold because I can't afford to, and I don’t set precious stones because I find them too small to set. So I don’t offer those services. Easy.
Running a business is different altogether. If I’m trying to build a business, I can’t shy away from running it simply because I haven't perfected all the skills. And just because I'm a greedy learner doesn't mean I should go on one learning quest after another. That will put me in danger of becoming a perpetual student.
There in a nutshell is my dilemma. If I do something and get it wrong, I’m going to get nowhere – so I try to learn. If I keep learning and do nothing, I’m going to get nowhere – so I start doing and risk getting it wrong. Catch-22. So I've made a decision - in 2021 I'll often press the pause button on learning, and just jump in with my usual gusto. In any case, as far as business goes, there's no perfect - and I’m a big believer in “done is better than perfect”.
The only place where I still strive for perfection is while making my jewellery. Because, ultimately, that’s what the customer is going to get. And that’s all that should really matter.
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And here's a link to that post about water-cast jewellery.