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The Joy and Healing of Writing

The Joy and Healing of Writing by Yol SwanLately, I have been focusing my energy and attention on creative writing more than jewelry making. My life has taken quite a turn, with my 13-year marriage reaching an end a couple months ago, and writing has proven to be one of the most gratifying and therapeutic things I’ve ever done (excluding meditation).

I had previously written about what I thought the purpose of making jewelry was (aside from the obvious creative outlet it provides) on my post Why Am I a Jewelry Designer? Just as life had been pounding and shaping me through many trials over the last few years, I was actually expressing that in my jewelry making. You know, as within, so without.

Now the Universe seems to be orchestrating a new phase in my life, with jewelry making slowing down considerably, and the drive and need to write proportionately increasing. Aside from my Spiritual Poetry & Other Self-Reflections blog, which I invite you to visit, I am focusing on a self-help book I have been working on (on and off) for a few months now.

Interestingly enough (just in case you don’t believe in synchronicity), the book is about the self-healing tools I have learned over 27 years, which have helped me to face my life’s obstacles and pain, to grow both emotionally and spiritually. Now they are been put to the test through my current circumstances, and have proven—once again— to be amazingly effective. I just love when life gives me the opportunity to see how much I have grown by challenging me with events I have to overcome! I certainly am, now more than ever, ready to share what I have been gifted with, to help others grow and find more inner peace, including my abilities as an Intuitive Spiritual Counselor and Life & Business Coach. To check what I am up to, visit:

Yol Swan: Intuitive Spiritual Counselor, Life & Business Coach

Happy Holidays!

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Between Jewelry and Writing…

My personal life seems to be going through some big changes right now, and I find myself spending more time writing than making jewelry. Perhaps it is also that winter is approaching and I tend to become more of a hermit than usual. In any case, I have some new designs for my last show of the year, in Marshall, NC, and I will post them as soon as I get to photograph them (or at least some). Stay tuned!

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Being a Productive Creative on a Daily Basis

Productivity is a term I don’t use all that often, because I tend to think in terms of creativity rather than productivity. But beyond the semantics of it all, when it comes down to it, creativity without productivity equals procrastination. Yes, like most creatives, I could spend hours thinking about all sorts of designs and ideas. In fact, I tend to spend some time doing just that while falling asleep at night, and I guess that is ok for the most part. It’s during the day, when productivity should be the focus, that creative thinking alone—or anything else that becomes a distraction from being productive—can become a problem. Like Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Life presents many obstacles and distractions on a daily basis, so I decided to make a list of some of my most challenging ones and find solutions to tackle them on a daily basis as well:

1. The E-Mail Trap. Reading email can take hours, especially if you are like me and get work related email and personal message from friends, organizations, blogs, and loops you belong to. A lot of those email messages have links that you click on to read a post, go to a specific web page, fill out a form to support a cause, and so on, which in turn may lead to other pages, so before you know it you can find yourself surfing the web for hours. Yes, there is wonderful information to be found out there, but each minute you spend online is one productive minute you are losing for yourself.

My Solution: Scan your email messages earlier in the day and choose only the ones related to work, those that you need to reply to during business hours. Reply to those and close your email application. In other words, save all the non-work related email for the evening, and forget about it. You can quickly scan only for work related email during a break in your day, but avoid checking your email every 10 minutes!

2. The Facebook Trap. Whether it is to connect with friends and family or to promote a business, Facebook has become this huge social hub that everyone belongs to. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the time you spend on FB doesn’t take away from your productivity.

My Solution: If you have a FB page, visit it only once or twice a day, check if you have any new comments you need to respond to, post something on your wall if you have something to say, and sign out of FB. You can check what your friends are doing and posting about later in the evening.

3. The Blogging Trap. Yes, blogging has also become a big part in a lot of people’s lives, including mine, yet it can also take so much time to do this on a daily basis that it can also become a hindrance to productivity. As part of a marketing campaign, it is fine to spend some time blogging or visiting other people’s blogs, as long as you don’t get lost in the blogosphere, which can happen very easily!

My Solution: Blog in the evening and don’t try to finish a post at once if it is taking too long. In other words, give yourself the time to write the post, but limit it to what feels ok to you in terms of time, and leave it for the following day if it’s not done. Don’t think that you need to finish the post at once, if it’s not flowing smoothly, and take your time, or spread it in installments. Just don’t spend all evening with one post. If blogging is your main business, then this wouldn’t necessarily apply to you, of course.

4. The Self-Sabotage Trap. Well, anything can go in this category, really. We can find a million ways to sabotage productivity—from watching TV and doing house chores to unexplainable reasons to justify why we don’t just go into the studio and work. The important thing here is to identify how we do it, how we sabotage our productivity and utilize the time we should be spending creating something that fulfills us, and redirect that energy toward productivity.

My Solution: Set up a schedule and stick to it. Get things that need to be taken care of (work, house chores, email, FB, marketing, etc.) earlier in the day or later in the evening, depending on what works best for you, and leave a good chunk of the day for productivity and only that. Allow no distractions and no interruptions. Before you start creating, sit for 10-15 minutes in meditation to help you focus, release all stress, and clear your mind of other concerns. Now get to work!

Have you found your own way of being (and staying) a productive creative? I’d love to hear it here…

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Virtual Jewelry Studio Stroll

As promised, here are some photos of the new studio set up. I cleared some room to have a separate table to set up my mini photo studio, so now I have three 6′ tables to work with for everything else: metal work, metal clay, collage, soldering, polishing, tumbling, keum-boo, and heat patination. Roomy!

Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Studio

A closer look at the metal work and beading area. I placed my little stereo closer, too, so I can reach it as I am working if the phone rings or if I want to change a tune…

Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Studio-2

Then comes the collage and metal clay area. I brought a file cabinet from my home office (to make some more room there too), which serves as an organizer here and still leaves me plenty of room to work with. Below is the area I use mostly for metal clay:

Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Studio-3

Next is the table where I do all the soldering, polishing, patination, and keum-boo, which is a Thai technique for adding layers of gold to fine silver. Here you can also see other tools for tumbling, pickling, and cleaning metals.

Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Studio-4

Since keum-boo and certain type of patination require direct heat, I use a hot plate. Someday I will be able to get a sturdy wooden table to add safety to this station, but for now it has to be plastic. I set the hot plate up on a thick piece of wood to prevent burning the table! Below you can see the hot plate and the bookshelf where I keep patinas and some packaging materials. I don’t use liver of sulphur for patinas here, I do those in the bathroom, where there is running water.

Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Studio: Keum BooSacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Studio: Patinas

Finally, here is the new mini photo studio. Now I have more room to move around and play with lights. I even have room for all my photo accessories and props. I am loving it!

Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs Photo Studio

You can see my metal clay kiln above. I placed it by a brick wall (the fire place), since it seems the safest spot for the amount of heat that kiln can kick.

Thanks for reading this far. Hope you enjoyed my virtual jewelry studio stroll!

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Uncluttering the Studio

I have been busy uncluttering my studio and setting up a new area for my “mini photo studio.” I have to be able to manipulate the lighting better, which obviously entails having more room to move lights, props, camera, and so on. So I created a separate area for this and boy, does it help with other stuff, too! Now I have a whole table for soldering and keum boo work without being afraid to set my light box on fire. Nice! And it’s amazing how inspiring an uncluttered space can be…

I will be posting some pictures of my new set up soon. I am trying to clear and clean the whole space, so it is taking longer than anticipated, because I can’t do it all at once. Plus, the uncluttering has put me to work taking pictures of things I need to sell locally or on eBay to clear the clutter and also purchase a new camera I have my eyes on. The little Olympus I have been using for years has served me well, but I am ready to upgrade and work some more to improve my photographs.

I used to do photography when I was younger (waaay before digital cameras were invented!) and loved to work in my dark room. I don’t think I have utilized those skills fully for my jewelry photos, and I think it’s time to do so. Boy, it’s so easy to forget how many talents we all have, isn’t it? We get caught up in one thing and everything else seems to fade away. For some reason, life is prompting me to blend all my talents together, so I am going with the flow… More on the new set up later.

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Fear of Rejection and Failure?

Dzi Turquoise Earrings by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga DesignsIf you are a creative type and have ever submitted your work to a contest or a juried show or event, you probably have experienced rejection at some point or another. It is part of the game, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. And if you have never experienced rejection as an artist, well, you are probably the exception to the rule…

Needless to say, rejection can be painful, but it shouldn’t crush you enough to make you quit your chosen form of expression. You may fall, but you have to get up and keep playing the game, especially if you want to achieve some recognition. Yes, the creative process should be rewarding enough in and of itself, and it sure is, but if you want to put your art/craft out there for other people to appreciate and enjoy (that is, beyond your family and friends), then you have to learn and accept the game as it is, and play it as best as you can.

As they say, you win some and you lose some. But you shouldn’t lose yourself in the process, nor the joy of doing what you love to do. After all, jurors are human beings, with a particular taste, and color their judgments with their own perception of the world. What if they had a fight with their spouse and see everything with suppressed anger on the day they are looking at your photos, slides, or artwork? I’m just saying… And of course, your particular style may not fit in all the art and/or craft shows out there, but that is probably too obvious to discuss here.

Magic Ganesha Pendant by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga DesignsI was told once that my jewelry “wasn’t creative enough.” Ouch. I somehow think that the person talking to me on the phone didn’t quite realize that there was a real person on the other side, not just a ”voice.“ Not that she needed to baby my feelings, but obviously that comment was insensitive and, quite frankly, a bit arrogant. This was not a contest submission, but just an application for a local studio stroll, so I wonder why wouldn’t they simply let the public choose which studio to visit and decide for themselves…

Anyway, I had to ask myself, did I feel that my jewelry was not creative or good enough? And then, of course, creative enough for whom? And more importantly, was I making jewelry (or writing, for that matter) to express myself, or just for others to approve of it? In a lot of ways that rejection made me want to be clearer about my purpose, my style, and my choices when doing what I love to do. After all, at least for me, any creative process should be a means to a higher purpose, that is, to truly express and know myself.

Which brings me to another aspect of all this: the fear of failure. I have read and heard about this for years now: Artists expressing how they feel like impostors, not worthy of recognition, afraid that someone will find out that “they are not really artists.” Not that I can’t relate with the sense of fear that taking a leap of faith and expressing yourself entails, but I am driven toward a different and opposite perspective on this issue.

Fear of failure seems too easy of an explanation for the artistic blocks and struggles we all experience at some point or another, or the desire to quit doing what we love. Maybe I just have the tendency to look beyond the obvious, into the hidden motives of our psychological structure, but isn’t the opposite—fear of success—more likely to motivate any self-defeating attitude, simply because it is an unconscious and therefore more powerful enemy? Fear of success is nothing other than that internal censoring voice that whispers, ”You are not good enough…“ and then may get crystallized in the voice of some art juror or show manager rejecting your work.

Mini Gypsy Earrings by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga DesignsSo maybe each rejection is a good opportunity for us to take a closer look at this hidden enemy and discover how we are projecting that fear into the world (hey, maybe your parents didn’t approve of you being an artist, or didn’t allow you to express yourself, or simply didn’t support anything you dreamed of doing). It may also be a great opportunity to look at our work and make it stronger, bolder, and more expressive, no matter what our individual medium.

I am not saying that you won’t experience rejection again, no matter how closely you look at the complexities of your psyche, because it is part of the game of life, but letting it bring you down, making you feel that you ”failed,” will simply reinforce the negative experience and the energy it brings with it—more rejection. Instead of letting the world crush you when you experience rejection, and letting the fear of success quietly creep in, feel and acknowledge the anger and sadness that comes with it, and use that powerful energy to drive you to create more. Go in your studio and dive into your work. You will feel a million times better, not to mention a lot stronger, I can guarantee it. And you never know, you might come up with your best work yet!

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Whatever Brings You Joy and Inspiration…

If you have kids, you probably recognize Olivia, the book character on the picture below. And if you have kids and don’t know who Olivia is, you should run to the bookstore and get some of Ian Falconer’s books because they are incredibly creative and fun. My daughter and I still enjoy reading them, even though we have read them a million times over the years and pretty much know them by heart. Oh, even if you don’t have kids, you should check them out. They will inspire you and make you laugh!

This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things.

When I saw this Olivia doll at the bookstore I simply couldn’t resist buying it because just looking at her makes me smile and feel good about myself. Yes, Olivia is good at lots of things and has no problem testing and trying new ones, even if just once, like the Pollock style painting she created on one of her home walls after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City! Olivia is also a dreamer and her great imagination takes her to great adventures where she is the main heroine. She is a famous ballerina, opera singer, tightrope walker, lion tamer, band leader, storyteller… with a very unique sense of fashion and style. Olivia’s drum beats to her own rhythm. She is unique, original, and very proud to be truly herself.

So I decided to buy the doll on the picture and place it in a prominent spot in my studio, where I can easily see her. Olivia makes me smile. She reminds me that imagination is key in my creative ventures. She assures me that I am good at many things. She tells me that I can be myself and feel proud of it. And she also is a living proof that good design doesn’t have to be complicated, and that creativity creates a momentum of its own. Ian Falconer’s style is unique in that he uses simple lines and 4 basic colors (black, red, gray, and white), with which he creates a wonderful world for Olivia and her family. And of course, he came up with this adorable character that now even has a TV show of her own…

So grab whatever brings you joy—your favorite painting, a souvenir from a nature walk, a cartoon, a friendship token, a childhood toy, or a doll like me—and place it in your studio where you can see it while you work. Let it remind you why and how you became an artist in the first place. Let it uplift your spirit when you need it and bring inspiration when you muse takes a vacation. Let it provide you with the smiles that you require on a daily basis so you don’t take yourself too seriously. Hopefully it will prod your creativity in the right direction and refresh your sense of purpose, especially when doubts start creeping in. Let it help you remember that, like Olivia, you are [you name here] and you are good at lots of things!

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Art Plus Fear Equals Procrastination

I’ve been hearing many artists talk about art and fear lately. It’s amazing how so many of them don’t think they are true artists and even consider themselves an impostor or fraud of sorts and live with the fear that someone might “discover” who they truly are. Or something like that. I guess it’s all part of the tribulations that arise from choosing the creative process as a vital form of expression, as opposed to settling for a more profitable or conventional way of making a living. Doubts. Fear. Doubts about yourself. Doubts about what you do. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. The need for approval… And so on.

Yes, I know that this is not limited to artists. I’ve seen it in many other fields, too. It’s just human nature. Yet I believe that it is an aspect that, when left unattended, can wreak havoc in your creative endeavors, because it hides in the subconscious mind and manifests in sneaky hidden ways that may end up paralyzing your creative process.

Procrastination gets in the way of everyone, not just artists, of course, but it seems to me that because an artistic venture involves much pleasure and can be highly therapeutic, somewhere in the heart of our ego it is considered a game, or a distraction, or even a waste of time in the world of “real responsibilities.” So it gets easily pushed aside by any amount of excuses.

Anything can be procrastination and procrastination can take pretty much any form, as John Kelly shows in this creative and inspiring video:

So next time you find yourself procrastinating, grab your favorite tools and create something about it instead of letting it paralyze you and capitulating to the hidden tricks of your mind. Yes, maybe the fear of rejection will never disappear, or maybe the doubts will always be there. Who knows. But in the meantime, let’s do something fun and creative with them!