Business, career, craft, libraries, money

Making a living

It has been about 7 months since I earned my MLIS. I’m also now in the last of four short courses I’ve signed up for, in hopes of bolstering my Cataloging abilities.

The short version of the outcome of this is that I now know not to become a Cataloger in an Academic Library setting — at this point in my life, at least. I think that the way my mind makes sense of topics is not in line with the way Library of Congress Classification (LCC) works. Of course, not doing as well as I could have, could also be related to either carelessness or lack of familiarity with both the examples, and the Schedules. I believe there is a lot of truth in the latter.

Also, taking classes online kind of precludes collaborative learning, and asking questions as they arise. The good thing is that I now know what to expect, and I realize we were doing the hardest questions we could have done — the hard way. And…there was only one right answer to most of these problems, due to the fact that the test was using a True/False algorithm. Therefore, these questions weren’t weighted heavily, and I got out with a relatively decent grade.

The other good thing is that all the material required to reference as regards LCC is available freely, online. I also have copies of our texts and bibliography, so I have a base from which to explore further, if I want to. Which…I’m not sure about.

I’m pretty sure I want to get back to language learning, and my tech courses.

Last night I was up making lace, instead of working on anything that required intellectual effort. There is something to be said for figuring things out based on the space they take up, the direction in which they’re being held, their method of construction, and solving physical problems with fine motor skills. I just looked up the term, “haptic reasoning (‘haptic’, meaning, ‘relating to touch’),” which is closest to what I would call it, but I don’t think anyone else calls it that. :)

I should also note that I believe, at this point, that skilled manual labor (particularly where it comes to crafts) is one of those things that isn’t highly rewarded in the current U.S. economy. But I’m not sure about that assertion. (“Believing,” is not “knowing.”) I currently live in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the world (where a lot of people are being priced out and forced to disperse)…so I suppose it may be possible to do this as something other than a hobby, and survive, in other places.

Though I have an inkling that a lot of the stuff I do has been afforded (in the sense of “being an affordance,” or a choice made possible by the structure of the system) because of communal ways of life in the past. That could be in marriage and family relations; that could be working as part of a tribe. But if you’re dealing with capitalism and an individualistic society…where you’re totally depending on yourself to feed, clothe, house, and care for yourself…and what you want to do is craft, I don’t presently see it as a great situation.

Then again…I haven’t tried selling my beadwork on a massive scale, yet. But even if I did, as I mentioned; this is expensive to get into, it’s expensive in terms of time (looking at opportunity cost, or the cost of doing one thing when you could be doing another). Design work is probably the biggest use of time I have, as regards this — not construction, even though construction is an integral part of design for me. There’s also record-keeping and research, and materials acquisition…and the fact that small-business owners can spend upwards of 80 hours a week, establishing and running their businesses and markets.

Then, there’s reaching a broader audience than possible with craft fairs (the fair circuit requires a lot of travel), by going online. I had been looking at venues such as Etsy, and Amazon Handmade. Amazon takes 15% off the top of all sales (or did, the last time I checked), which is basically a really big chunk of the maker’s profit (which, as best I can remember, may be supposed to be all of it), and will drive up the cost of production and distribution.

Etsy is more in line with what I do, but the thing about Etsy is that price competition from overseas labor (where countries are working with labor or land economies, as versus information economies) also can drive sales prices down. That means that it may not be possible for someone living in an information economy to make enough money to make a decent living off of skilled manual labor, because prices are being undercut by companies based in places with lower costs of living.

Right now, I’m trying to temper the handcrafting work with information work. If I can be my own Web Developer, and in turn also develop websites for others, there’s some chance of success. The drawback, then, is being responsible for everything, including the chance that one’s systems and databases may be attacked — and most companies which experience data breaches, it is said, go out of business. That’s after having invested into their own companies. It’s a lot of risk, not to mention a reason to incorporate (which allows one to keep their own personal assets, even if their company folds).

There are a few (hypothetical) ways out of this that I can see: one is to sell designs, rather than selling finished jewelry, so one can focus on the design process exclusively, instead of materials acquisition and construction (which can get tedious). Another is to do this work as a hobby on the side while one brings in primary income via another means (as I’m trying to do with Librarianship, and/or eventually Web Development). The third is to marry and have one’s spouse bring in the primary income, leaving one free to work (I’m not betting on this). The fourth is to live with a group (of family, friends, housemates, etc.) and meet financial requirements (rent, etc.) cooperatively, which I’ve known a lot of people to do (and which is an option on the table).

What I’ve been hoping to do is to deal with the Librarianship as my primary mode of income, and work my interest in crafts into my job. This will, at least, allow people who can’t afford to get deeply into — say — beadwork, to be able to get a respite from the grind.

So in any case…right now I’m looking at working more with people, in a Public Library setting, more than working as a Cataloger. Because of this, it makes sense to learn (or solidify) a second language, and to deal more closely with honing my interpersonal interaction skills. To further the Technical Services angle, I can try and get back to my Web Programming courses…at least, after this next course ends.

I think it will be a relief.

career, craft, creativity, fiber arts, jewelry, self care, work

Despite it: what do I *want* to do?

Hmm. You know, the question of what I really want to do has come up over the last few days. Not what would be profitable to do — but how I want to spend my time.

I think my life is becoming more clearly divided between work, professional development, and leisure…where I didn’t really have anything to compare “leisure” to, before. I wonder what it would have been like if I worked for years before going into University.

Most likely, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have made it through (unless I went through Community College first to maintain my study skills), but aside from that, it would have helped me to have had some work experience. That way, I could actually tell what kind of work I was interested in (and where I could be hired), in Undergrad, and aim my major and studies accordingly.

Still — I would not have likely ended up with as much education as I have now, because I would have had practical experience of life outside academia. I also might have been able to take a more direct route to a career. But that’s me looking back at my 18-year-old self from about two decades into the future. I suppose it’s easy to have regrets (or “regrets”), and to see where things could have gone differently.

So many of those early decisions powerfully affect what comes later, at least if one allows them to. For instance, I shunted myself out of a career in the Hard Sciences early, by opting not to take University-level Math. This placed me squarely in the Social Sciences and Humanities, which happened to be where my then-current interests lay. However, those interests were influenced by never before having had the opportunity to learn these things, and also by an early experience of unexplained dysfunctional social dynamics.

In any case, not everything I do (at least, now) has to be marketable, or something I plan to or can make money on: writing is an example. Yes, I had an undergraduate major in Creative Writing, but that decision affected two years in my early twenties. Ironically, I didn’t know much about myself, then. It shouldn’t define the rest of my life.

I think that up until now, most — if not all — of my time was primarily focused on academic pursuits and work. Right now, I’m not in college anymore (for the first time in years), and I have the hope of a higher-paying career, which won’t require me to have a second (or possibly third) job.

Earlier, I was reading and realized how much easier it was to take in information than to put out information. If I do this Librarianship thing for real, reading is much more important than writing. Like, way more. Writing does help, but unless I work in an Academic Library, publishing probably isn’t a huge pressure. If I did work in an Academic Library, it’s unlikely that I’d be asked to write fiction.

Out of this, I realize that it…likely is okay for me to do what I want to, with my free time (apart from work, reading, and Professional Development). That includes crafts, and it doesn’t have to include Illustration, regardless of whether or not I got a degree in Art.

All of this has been wonderfully enriching, but it doesn’t mean I have to hold to the same pattern for the rest of my life. I know that I appreciate the arts; I also know that I appreciate well-crafted writing. I found community in Art; from both of these pursuits I’ve learned how important it is to me to have creative output. It’s basically really hard for me to live without making things. Without records, the days run together, and I lose track of what has happened — which is a major underlying reason for my own blogging.

The thing is, my career path as it stands now is not exactly a creative one. I don’t, however, have to make all my waking hours about my job and my career — right now I still have space for free time. Assuming success with my job and career, there isn’t any need for what I do during that free time, to be profitable.

So, I finally was able to begin practicing tatting, the other night. For those who haven’t been following this blog, tatting is a form of lacemaking. And…I do think I’ve earned enough time to be able to do something that’s just about me, and not about money.

The beadwork I had been doing, had been migrating from being a pleasurable pastime, to being a microbusiness…and I’m not thinking that my designs come quickly enough for that work to be decently profitable. Of course, I can still teach the designs to others…

For that matter, I might become capable of teaching other creative pastimes, without the need for those pastimes to be commercially profitable.

As for writing, and the whole graphic novel thing…I shouldn’t force it. It’s been a very long time since I’ve written any fiction (actually, I believe Christmas was the last attempt); right now, I’m angled more towards nonfiction. Essays. Blogging. I also haven’t been drawing. While it’s attractive to restart the latter, drawing an entire graphic novel is very different than just doing one-off sketches. A graphic novel requires drawing much more — including things one doesn’t want to draw, or possibly see — than making images in general.

Right now…there are still a lot of things I want to work on. The two things I have wanted to work on today — other than logging this — have been practicing the tatting, and working on the blouse project I left off of. There is also the embroidery issue, which I’ve been dealing with for years…I’ve just been wondering what I could make for myself that includes such. (That I would wear, I mean…)

It is true I do have a lot of beads. I also have a number of designs to try out…but I shouldn’t push myself to work on them, too hard. They’ll be here. And right now, I’ve invested more than I would get back from sales. Maybe I’m making it too hard for myself to get back to working on my beadwork, by giving myself too many options, going through too much to set myself up in hopes of success. I’m not just forging ahead without a thought to the future, which, ironically, is likely a much more productive stance in the short-term.

I’m also planning on seeing through these last two courses. Maybe after those are over, I can deal with producing jewelry to sell (though I highly doubt that, if I got a full-time job, or even a part-time job in a higher position that required training and study, I would have enough time or energy to deal with it, either). I suspect that…given time and a lack of pressure, I will likely go back to it.

Right now, though…I want to try and deal with the fiber work, and the sewing. I don’t know why. But I suspect that cross-medium capability in micromacramé, lacework, embroidery, and beadweaving together, could lead to something really nice. I’ve seen examples of the beautiful things that can be made with beaded lace…which is obviously very distant from me, right now. But it’s enough to help spur me on. The thing is, I’m not sure how much time I would have to explore these things, if I were producing work for money.

I think that’s the real issue. Time, and allowing myself the latitude to explore.

beading, Business, career, craft, creativity, jewelry design

Showing up.

Well, I was able to restart my beading. I’m working on a project from (what at least feels like) years ago. The dominant colors are bronze, brown, and green, though I’m also working a little deep red into it, with some success. (Luckily, it doesn’t matter if anyone can recognize it as red, or not! It’s very subtle.) I am having a couple of problems, though:

  1. Just like trying to restart painting from zero, or restart writing from zero, trying to restart beading from zero comes with its own difficulties. I wouldn’t say I’m, “stymied,” just yet, but there’s definitely some practice that will have to come before I can get back into my stride.
  2. I’ve realized how core to my personality my creativity is, so it’s kind of…hard, after having been forced away from it (timewise), for so long.
    And, well, then there’s this one:
  3. I find myself more interested in this than I realized; part of the reason I did continue on with the Library training was to gain entrepreneurial skills. Actually, part of the reason to start the Library training at all, was to support my beadwork and jeweling. It’s not obvious, but being a handcrafter is not a lucrative position to be in; most handcrafters make poverty wages. Nor is being a jeweler, even though the items produced are essentially luxury items.

For the last two or three days, I’ve been moving things around. I’ve freed up a lot of space in my storage, more than I could have ever imagined. The major thing is having to depend on my own documentation to be able to tell what everything is and the cost of each little thing (which isn’t even possible to exactly know, without the initial quantities of each item).

Estimations are kind of crucial, here, when dealing with backstock which is not labeled as to its cost or value. With new stock it’s easier, but that data has to be recorded pretty much as soon as possible and in as much detail as possible, before memory fades (a lot of places don’t give itemized receipts). That is something I learned from an early Library Science class.

Particularly…working in a bead store or helping an established jeweler/beadworker/fiber artist is kind of a dream job, sad as that is. (I would also take fabric store or art-supply store.)

The illuminating part is that I’m more interested in doing informational interviews with small-business owners where it comes to jewelers, beaders, fiber artists, and suppliers, than I am interested in doing informational interviews with Librarians.

Essentially, I’m setting up to run a small business (which I know I can do now) at the same time as I’m dealing with trying to find a job as a Librarian. I’m not sure what liberties I can take in describing my current frustrations with my job, so I won’t. Given the last day or so of being sick (I’ll spare you the details), I didn’t opt to go in, today — which is good, because I was exhausted as it was. The weird thing is that cooperating with people at my job and knowing that I’m providing a helpful service to a community, is most of what’s keeping me there. And that’s bizarre for me to say, because before I started that job, I was basically a loner. However, I was a loner for a reason, which is not valid in adult society.

So I’m kind of dealing with this split but overlapping vision.

I’m realizing the need for cataloging where I got things from, the names of things, the locations of things, the prices and quantities of things, and finding quality vendors. That’s before getting to actually using the things. But it is typical in a small business (in this case, a micro-business) that most of one’s time is spent running the business, not producing the goods.

I’m actually glad that I have taken Business classes, in that way, because now I know that. If I don’t get a job soon, I’m now thinking about taking more Business classes to stave off loan repayment and sharpen my business acumen…though obviously, that’s a last-resort type of thing. From what I’ve heard, I should be able to make the loan repayments and cover them with my current job…we’ll see. I have Summer semester to work it out.

I also have heard that it takes an enormous personal commitment to establish a small business (and can take upwards of 60 hours of work per week [do I say, “hey, that’s just 10 hours per day”?]), but in this case it would be doing something I love (even if I’m not all that confident in my own creativity, all the time).

There are also the upshots that I have a good idea of the kind of work I want to do, where my niche market might lie, the tools I would need, the suppliers I would employ, the people skills involved (networking! How often can I be excited about that???), the community, places to learn, and ideas of places to start to sell (fairs, farmers’ markets, boutiques, flea markets, online). I also have experience, skill, stock, and tools. Which, particularly in silversmithing, aren’t really…things one would think of?

In silversmithing, it’s basically extremely helpful to take classes or apprentice to know what you’re doing, with which tools, in a safe manner…though it’s kind of a back-pocket thing for me, right now. I don’t want to do it, but I may need to, at some point: for instance, if I start getting gouged where it comes to buying pre-made components.

My main bead store for years consistently had overpriced metals, which I didn’t fully realize until I started making my own earwires. It’s also not difficult to hard-solder jump rings, but you need to know how to pick-solder, which I didn’t, for years. You also need to know how to quickly clean up and polish that stuff after it’s made, because time is money, and trust me, it looks horrible after having been blasted with fire.

(And yes, I did eventually look up how to do granulation, online: it isn’t looking easy. But I wonder if one could get a granulated-look from macramé plus bead embroidery?)

I think the major issues I would have, would be financial; like which web host to use, or which payment processor to employ.

So I know that I’m not going to be a goldsmith, and I’m looking at being a beadworker with the enhancements of fiber work and minor silversmithing. Basically, a major reason to go into Public Library work is that I’d be able to use my experience here to help other people, and thus have a reason to continue pouring resources and time into this current, “hobby.”

And yet, I’m spending so little time actually beading. I realized today that I couldn’t even remember yesterday (my computer told me I’d been off of it for two days, today), and then I realized that I had been sorting loads of beads into tiny containers for most of the amount of time I had been up.

Well — sorting and labeling. Probably like most crafters, I feel like I do more stashing than actually using what I have. In Art, we hear that most of the work is just showing up to the bench, every day. That gives the possibility of making, “good art,” but not the guarantee. The thing is, not showing up at all means there is no possibility.

Of course, “good art,” is subjective; “good design,” not to such a degree. But still…at least I engaged with my materials, and I can see pairings of beads jumping out at me, now (from colors I never thought I’d use)! Right now I have the forward side section of this necklace worked out; I’m not sure if I should be thinking of it like music with different verses…I just am. I don’t know if it will help, though.

beading, beadwork, craft, design, jewelry, jewelry design

Notes

My attempt to be concise has failed: the intro, here, is what’s going on locally. The rest is about beadwork and jewelry-making as a micro business.

Today was bearable, partially because I’m learning it’s okay not to overwork myself; what to do when I am in danger of overworking myself; and that I don’t have to keep my personal and work lives fully separate. I just have to avoid oversharing.

I guess it’s kind of like my Web presence.

Tomorrow…I need to re-pot my dwarf Umbrella Plant before it falls over. :) Meaning that I should water it, tonight. I also want to work on some coding, and start some kind of beading project — whether that’s bead embroidery, or working on the SuperDuo bracelet (cream, blue and amber), or working on the bronze and green project (which I’ve decided is okay if I do just use the two-hole beads as spacers for a double-stranded necklace — I really want to make a double-stranded necklace!).

I’ve spent the majority of my free time today either reading beadwork books, or browsing beadwork books. I don’t know what this place is going to look like, if I keep collecting these things.

I’m still torn on whether or not to put the project I photographed in my last post for sale…for one thing because I’m not wholly satisfied with it even now, and for another thing, because it has special significance to me. The pearls I used in it, I purchased on my last trip to visit family in Hawai’i.

I could make another version of it with far less personal significance, and likely sell it for less than this one. I’m attached enough to the one I have now, that I’ve decided that I’m not letting it go for less than $85. I predict I should be asking more, but like most beginning crafters, may undervalue my product (the upper limit above which it just gets ridiculous, is $145; $120 is middling but compensates me well for my skill and labor, and pays off everything I bought to make this).

The same place I bought the large pearl from, has told me that they will ship to the mainland; I have half a mind to ask for a 12-mm Tahitian black pearl, to make another version of this necklace. I don’t entirely know how much that would cost, however (I’m guessing between $12-$24 at retail), and the black pearls I saw there last time weren’t really iridescent. (I have a thing for rainbow sheen on pearls, but I don’t know if that sheen is artificial [like an Aurora Borealis (AB) coating on glass] or not…)

I had wanted to work on the collar project with the pink netting, but I know I still have more design work to do on it (I’ve realized how to make it curve), and that it will likely work out best if I do not attempt to incorporate the cabochon, at this point. The distortion caused by attaching a netted collar to a mounted oval cabochon…I’d have to conceal, and I’m not entirely certain how, yet (especially as that join is at the focal point of the necklace).

However…I can do a netted collar without the cabochon…or incorporate the cabochon as part of the clasp, and wear the clasp in the front. That…would make sense! Hmm. I’ll have to think, on that.

I can work on the body of the netting as-is, and see if I even have enough beads to encircle a neck comfortably…

So before Tuesday night, I want to have some stuff finished (a friend has asked me to show some of my work that night…which could get interesting). Particularly, the pink bracelet and a violet version, would be the easiest entry points into that. Working with cabochons is almost starting from zero, for me (I’ve only mounted two undrilled cabochon-like stones ever, and one of those was in a metal bezel, not a beaded one).

And…yes, basically everyone is saying I need to be selling on Etsy! I’m pretty sure I’ll need to take them up on that…

The pearl drop necklace (on chain) is in hiatus until I figure out if my chain is much too delicate to be hanging anything off of…it’s 1.3mm wide. It’s tiny. And stretchy.

28g wire will fit through a link, but with 17 of those drops…will the chain break??? The problem is that the links are so small that I have to wire the drops directly to the chain. That means that if the chain deforms or breaks, to avoid undoing my work, I’ll have to cut the chain rather than cut the drops. One or the other has to happen, and I’m not looking forward to either, because this is utilizing gold-fill and gold-plate, not pure brass.

Though, I would have a good set of tarnish-resistant chains for tassels or earrings, later…

Yeah. I need to be selling this stuff…the major issue right now is making stuff so nice that I want to hold onto it…but I hardly wear any jewelry, normally! Really!