I’m a jewelry artist fraud, and I’m gonna be found out.
Do you know that feeling that you’re a fraud in some creative area of your life, like calling yourself “a writer” or “a dancer”? It sounds so – well – audacious. Like who am I to say I’m a jewelry artist? I don’t have any credentials, like an MFA in jewelry making.
Sometimes our creative journey is about living with the tension between being audacious, even feeling like a fraud, and the knowing of your knower.
I was asked some months ago if I would create an engagement and wedding ring set. When I first met with the couple, I felt so honored and excited. I know how meaningful my own custom wedding ring is to me (thank you, Todd T!), and it filled me with amazement and wonder to think that someone would entrust me to do the same for them.
And it freaked me out because I never made a wedding set before, and the design idea was right at the edge of my skill level.
But at the same time, I thought, “I can do that!” Audacious? Of course. But it came from my knower, not my ego. I KNEW I could do it.
My client had a very specific image in her mind of what she wanted. She found images of four or five rings by different jewelry artists, and asked me to combine certain elements from them. I realized I needed to make a prototype first, to make sure that I was understanding what she was visualizing, and also to figure out the mechanics of fabricating the piece. Some of the photos showed rings that had been made by casting, where you carve the shapes in wax then form them from molten metal. I don’t do casting. The techniques I use are all based around fabrication: cutting metal and soldering pieces together. The two different approaches have different things that are easier or harder to do. Making a prototype in silver would let me experiment without worrying about mistakes. I bought a couple cheap stones in the same shape and size as my client’s gorgeous white sapphire, and plunged in.
I had tons of fun.
But it was freakin’ hard.
The most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
I got stuck. A lot.
I figured a little part out. Then I hit a problem. Then I moved forward again.
But then, I came to a point where I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t move forward. I told my client I couldn’t do it. Here’s the condensed version of what I emailed to her:
“After trying 4 different ways of doing it, I have to admit defeat with cutting the curved diamond shaped windows into the sides of your bezel. I’ll try to explain why it’s so difficult. [I explain]. I tried several ways [I explain why they didn’t work]. I even tried [I explain some more], but that didn’t work either because [more explanation]. I spent an hour or so looking at the big jewelry supply website, to see if some tool might give me an idea, but to no avail. I think it’s really just something that would have to be done as a casting. So, here are my thoughts. We can [I give her some simpler options]. Or if you’d like to find someone who can do a cast ring for you, no hard feelings. Let me know what you think, my friend. When I came in this evening and told Craig that I was defeated, he said, “wow, you don’t give up very easily.” That’s true, but in this case, I can’t think of anything else to try that’s within my skill set and abilities. I want you to end up with a ring you love, and I don’t want any stubbornness on my part to get in the way of the right person making it, if you want something I can’t do. :-)”
I was already more than 25 hour into the project, working on the second prototype, but I was so discouraged I didn’t care if I had to just write off that time. All I could think of was that I wasn’t a good jewelry artist, I didn’t know enough techniques, blah, blah, blah.
I wanted out. Because I was scared.
But my client wrote back and said she was happy to go with one of the simpler options I suggested. And then she said:
“I am still 100% confident that you have the skills to complete my ring and that it will be perfect and beautiful! Prototype 1 was already super beautiful and it just needed some adjustments.”
Ah, those kind words were life to me, even though she’s not a metalsmith herself and really had no way of judging my skills. But I sensed the conviction in her knower that I was SUPPOSED to make her ring.
So using the simpler option for that element, I agreed to keep going. It was really fun and exciting again for a while, especially as I started in on the real thing, with the white gold. But then I hit a few more snags because white gold is a whole lot harder than the silver I had used for the prototype. I fought and rejoiced and fought and rejoiced and finally made it to the very last step: setting the client’s gorgeous stone.
And I froze. It takes a lot of hand strength and control to set a stone in a plain bezel, but this one had fancy beaded edges, making it even harder. If you slip or apply too much pressure, you can crack the stone. I had actually cracked one of my cheap stones as I experimented with the prototype. I COULDN’T crack this beautiful, expensive stone that didn’t belong to me.
I felt sick with fear.
Enter Brenda, a fellow life coach. As she coached me, here’s what popped out of my mouth: “I’m a fraud as a jewelry artist, and I’m about to be found out because I going to crack the stone and ruin the whole piece.” Even as I type this now, I feel again the sweaty hands, the sickening fear, as I held that raw, limiting belief. Disaster seemed so certain I felt as though it had already happened.
I love being coached! Can I say that again? I LOVE being coached!!! Brenda took me back to the beginning of the process, when I felt so honored to be asked to make a wedding set. I felt again the challenge, but also the knowing in my knower that I could do it. She brought me to a place of peace right in the middle of the tension between the knowing I WOULD create this piece, and the audacity of working right at the edge of my skills.
And from that place of peace, I went back to my workbench. And the metal that wouldn’t bend for me before bent magically under my tools, and the stone was set. When I was finished, I just sat there, whispering, “thank you, thank you, thank you.”
I am not a fraud. I am a daring creative soul, and I follow my knower. And I am grateful.