Metalsmithing Mamas

Hello everyone,

I am the proud mommy of an 11 month old boy. And, as you might
guess, I am in a mess at my studio. I feel I am at a point where I
need to fine-tune and simplify my business. My son goes to daycare,
and I am lucky enough to be able to set my own schedule. My husband
is also self-employed, (whose business pays the bills, if you know
what I mean…) so, he helps out as much as he can, which is a fair
amount, but my business takes the backseat…usually. I am curious to
hear from other metalsmithing mamas to see how they helped their
businesses survive during the early childhood years of parenthood.
Any daddy’s are welcome to reply as well…

Here’s to getting some work done!

Tavia Brown

Hi Tavia:

but my business takes the backseat...usually. I am curious to hear
from other metalsmithing mamas to see how they helped their
businesses survive during the early childhood years of parenthood.
Any daddy's are welcome to reply as well... Here's to getting some
work done! 

I looked at your website. Nice job! No back seat for you…work,
work, work…so you can make more of such nice stuff.

If you haven’t done so already, turn off the t.v. My sons are 6 and
7 and I haven’t turned the t.v. back on as of yet. It can be a major
time waster.

I am in the process of setting up a workspace over the garage. That
way, when my sons get on the bus, I can go across the street to
"work"…just like a regular job. I think separating my home space
times in the “I’ll work today…right after I vacuum, clean the
bathrooms, make the bed, write a grocery list etc etc”

I am also going to have a schedule. I schedule when I work,but I
also make sure I schedule in time to get house chores and grocery
shopping (and down time) done.

Good Luck and Happy production time!

Kim Starbard


Welcome to motherhood. One just has to set priorities.

I know that I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now while being
involved in my kids’ lives the way we were. There seemed never to be
a large enough block of time to get a lot accomplished. The, laundry,
the grocery shopping, the cooking, the car pools; let alone
volunteering at the schools and all of the sports events. Yikes. A
whirlwind. Then all of a sudden they’re gone. Off to college, off to
NYC, etc. They’re now grown and living/working on the east coast and
they were raised here in Southern California.

My personal time was at night when everyone was in bed and asleep.
Hard to do the phoning, etc. during that time when you need to. But
peaceful time to create and get a few things done, but not a business
for me at that time.

So I jumped totally in when the last one was off to college. I chose
that path and am very happy that I could.

It may help to have someone help you in the studio. I always wished
that I had an elf. Wouldn’t it be great? A wonderful fantasy, just as
long as they don’t take the science fiction route! But really, a
friend that has the same goals, work ethic and values that you do
could be invaluable.

Get and use a day-planner; start getting the baby to do little
chores when he/she’s old enough; stay away from the cheap plastic
toys and start the training in the jewelry shop and before you know
it, you’ll have a real helper. I marvel at the pictures I’ve seen of
the Native American children working along side their parents in the
studios! Take a look at what Denise Wallace’s grown kids are doing
now! She’d be a great one to talk with if possible.

Good luck and let us know how it’s going. Now, back to work (that’s
direction to me).

Kay Taylor

I think it comes down to selfdiscipline and passion for your work.
Before my now 1 year old was born life was relatively easy with my
now almost 9 year old. She went to school and I could work. Now my
little one is on a strict nap schedule, during which I work and I do
a good number of night shifts. Still far from full time work, but
child care is quite an expense… Good luck to you and all those
other moms (and dads) of small children out there!


I marvel at the pictures I've seen of the Native American children
working along side their parents in the studios! Take a look at what
Denise Wallace's grown kids are doing now!

Uh…I think you mean take a look at what Wally, (given name Sam) and
Denise Wallace’s kids are doing now. Wally does all of the lapidary,
Denise the silversmithing. Its always been a joint venture, and Wally
is not native…a very nice white guy in fact.

On the other hand, my kid cried after an hour of making bezels for me
at 12, and asked me incredulously how I could do something so
boring…? lol He’s 20 now and he wants to be a physicist, so I
guess I can see his point. :slight_smile:

Check out the Wallace’s site:

Lisa, ( Proud owner of the Wallace’s son Davids’ first “sold” pair of
earrings. ), Topanga, CA USA

As a divorced mom of a 3 year old, with no help and no spousal or
child support, I started out making jewelry at the kitchen table.
Moved to a shared studio briefly when my son started school, and
then figured out how to build a tiny studio at home in an old garden
shed 8’x10’, that I shared with my clothes dryer. I have been there
ever since, dryer too.

It was catch as catch can sometimes, but I was always at home with my
son. Working in jewelry gave me a lot of freedom, paid the mortgage,
earned the payments on the little toyota that I drove for 230,000
miles, and kept us stocked in spaghetti and the like. I would work
while he was at school, stop when I had to pick him up, then take
care of dinner his homework and general kid and house time, get him
to bed by 7 or 8 and then work some more.

As he got older, my son used to say that I was, “never around”.
“Never around” meant that I was 20’ away in the studio every day, 5’
from his bedroom window. I spent a lot of time trotting between the
house and studio. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, doing laundry etc. I
just fit it all in where I could because it was that or starve…or
get a regular job and stick him in child care…lol…That didn’t
happen and here I am. Great kid, house paid off, and I love my work.
Lucky me.

Lisa, (Now the dang kid won’t move out. His reason…? Because I
am, “always around”… cooking cleaning… shopping…
lol…lol…lol… What’s for dinner mom…?.) Topanga, CA USA


When my son was 0-24 months old I changed my focus from national
marketing of my jewelry lines to more regional freelance work.
Instead of perusing clients in Tokyo, Dallas or NYC I focused on
performing quality control and custom design for smaller regional
manufacturers and retailers a couple days a week. This provided an
income without taking too much time away from my child.

Of course I was an “old hen” as the mid-wives called us professional
women who were having our first babies at 40. I put my own
production lines on hold for those few years. When I returned to
them, I found they no longer satisfied my creative ambitions.

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

Here's to getting some work done! 

I don’t think there is any easy answer to this one. Your work will
have to slow down a bit. But you will find ways to get things done.
Each person finds what works best for them.

I did learn one lesson the hard way. I was delivering some work and
my son had become just big enough that his feet would touch the
ground when he was in one of our smaller strollers. He discovered
this skill while I was in discussion and had assumed that he was safe
and unable to move for a moment. He started backing his stroller up
until it hit a table upon which sat a $2500.00 soapstone sculpture.
The art object tumbled down, missed his head by inches and broke on
the floor. Needless to say, the emotions ran the full gamut. I did
deliveries alone after that for quite some time.

May your deliveries be peaceful.



I wrote an article on this very topic for Lapidary Journal back when
my son was about the age yours is now. I found the advice from other
self-employed mommies very helpful: my son will turn 8 in August and
my 5-year-old daughter will start kindergarten this fall, and I’ve
managed to jungle things enough to keep an active freelance writing
career balanced with almost full-time motherhood. Like you, my
husband’s job pays the bills, so my work has usually taken a
backseat, but as long as we were all in the same car, I figured I
was doing OK! No regrets here, at any rate.

Anyway, if you want to read the article, it’s posted on my Web site
at It’s probably in the LJ archives, too.


Suzanne Wade
(508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

Hello, Tavia,

I’m the proud mother of a nineteen-month-old, and a five month old.
We are also now expecting surprise number three, this time with no
insurance. All of our children were surprises, you would think we’d
have figured out what causes that by now.

I work full-time at the bench, with random part-time jobs filling in
extra cash. I care for the babies, because childcare is phenominally
out of our price range. I work well into the wee hours of the
morning most nights, and I grab spare time whenever I can.

Kids will adjust to “Mommy in the shop,” so don’t feel you can’t be
working when they’re awake. They’re not unsupervised, mom is right
there, but they are able to amuse themselves. Lots of times they’re
just happy being near you. Hondo likes to watch me work in the shop.
From a safe distance - I have a child-proofed zone I work in created
by baby gates. I can still see the kids, and easily reach them if
need be, and they can see me. I will admit that when they are awake
and active I don’t get quite as much done as when they’re in their
rooms or asleep.

As for housework, well, the house isn’t going to be in Better Homes
and Gardens. I didn’t bother to decorate, I just used the nail holes
the previous tenant left in the walls.

My family comes first, and my vocation (jewelry) comes first, as
well. Bump. I’ve made some simple rules for myself to help cope:
Don’t buy anything that needs to be ironed. Don’t clean anything
that isn’t visibly dirty. If I can’t see it, it isn’t there (hint:
angle the couch across a corner for an easy hiding spot for clutter.
Wedge a large plastic potted palm in the gap, and not even your
mother will know what’s hidden. It works, trust me.)

Don’t make any meals that can’t be fried/roasted/boiled in the same
pan or pot. I make almost all of our meals in the oven because then
I don’t have to stand over it - I get an extra thirty or forty
minutes to act silly with the kids or work. Alex does the laundry,
and he helps out with meals and the kids. (I got out of laundry by
ruining it on a regular basis -just an idea.)

Whatever, make sure you grab you time whenever you can. If you don’t
feed your own soul, you won’t be any good to anyone else, especially
your kids. If it comes down to making dinner or being in the shop,
choose the shop. Four nights in a row of take-out never killed

Most importantly, in regards to your jewelry and your family; don’t
worry about being perfect or having anything be perfect. This isn’t
a final exam - it’s just Life. Enjoy.

I know I’ve babbled on and on, but I do hope something I’ve written
will help you.

Good luck,
Susannah Page-Garcia
Moonshine Metal Creations

Lucky me too…my husband pay the bulk of the bills and I do
luxuries, like the car, vacations, donations and college funds! Maybe
I should call them “the flexible budget items”.

I currently have a child entering 1st grade and a special needs 2
year old. I went from a dozen summer shows to 7 a year after the 1st
was born to 4 this year. In the meantime I started thinking about
things I could do in shorter bursts of time and being flexible with
childcare arrangements.

We live near 2 colleges and sometimes I can piggyback 2 quick hours
of childcare onto his special needs pre-school and get 4 whole hours
to work. Sometimes the students are grateful for someone who can work
with their schedules if you run an ad in the student paper. My
husband agrees to do early morning childcare until he leaves for his
train and I stay up late doing the paperwork for shows and purchase
orders. I have agreed to more special orders, consignment and small
wholesale stuff because I can do them without being gone for 3 day

In summer it would seem harder, but can be easier! A responsible 12
year old wouldn’t be left alone with my children while I was out, but
are fine if I am 30 feet away in my studio with a baby monitor on and
I can hear how things are going.

I figure in 3 years they will both be in school all day and my new
problem will be adjusting to all that studio time. I don’t want to
Pollyanna this since I do need to make some money and I know some
people need to make significantly more…but I working hard to accept
that this is OK for now, understanding that the situation will
continually be changing.

Karen…who is thinking that it’s a little crazy to fire up her kiln
when it’s 100 degrees out.

Hello again everyone,

Thanks to all of you who shared your experiences and input. It all
really helps to see and think of the different possibilties. Right
now I think I am going to re-write my business plan to have a more
specific focus for my work…discover what that is…i.e. to do
wholesale, or not and whether to focus on one-of-a-kind or
not…therefore, having a defined goal to strive toward. I am also
going to practice saying “no”…a valuable word, I think. For
example, I am going to let go of some committee work I volunteered
for…I need to prioritize. My husband and I are going to work
toward hiring a full-time office manager/bookkeeper for his business
and I will relinquish my duties there. I think that will help a
lot…not just for me, but for his business as well, since I only
work for him part-time. Thank you for letting me sift through my
brain on this wonderful forum we have here.


I have spent quite a few hours at the bench with infants and
toddlers near by. Six kids of my own, a nephew that lived with me
intil he was 2 and an employee’s child that thought her place was
sitting on my lap. The main thing I have learned is that they are
all different. Some kids are nearly impossible to care for in the
shop and others are great. I love it when I can work with a baby in
the room, but you had better have a back-up plan. A baby sitter or
daycare can be expensive, but even when money was very tight I could
not afford not to pay it. Otherwise nothing would get done and my
income would disappear.

From age 6 months to 2 years, I liked to use a backpack, especially
when I am soldering. That way I know they can’t get in any trouble
while I am focused on the work and it becomes a sort of ritual that
the kid enjoys. But it does not work with all kids. Some want to
thrash around and make it impossible to do anything that needs a
steady hand.

My wife has worked with me full time since our 5th baby. We also
have had some other employees since then. Dealing with a child while
you work is a whole lot easier when there is another big person in
the room. It is also a lot easier after a few years of practice. The
earlier kids cost a lot more in terms of lost productivity since I
spent more time alone with them and was less experienced with the
balancing act.

My experience has been that after age 2 it gets a lot harder to deal
with a child in the studio, until about age 7 when you can actually
let them start playing with the materials. Even more so for taking a
child to shows. My employee with the little girl had to quit about
the time the child turned 2. She would not consider daycare, the
father could not adjust his schedule and the kid just became too
much of a handfull to keep bringing to work.

I have never had to deal with being the only one for a child 24 / 7.
I don’t think I could do that and work more than part time. It is
best for the child anyway if several people share the care for it.

Stephen Walker

PS: Maybe a thread on child labor would be an interesting follow up.
Not child labor = bad, but how do you train and motivate the brats.
My younger kids beg to help in the studio, but they either can’t do
what they want to do or won’t do what they are capable of doing. By
the time they are old enough to be really useful, they don’t have
the time between school, friends, sports and video games. All you
ever hear about child labor is how wrong it is to staff sweat shops
with kids. I think if you can teach a kid skilled work at a young
age, that is fantastic. How do you do it?

Hello Tavia,

First, let me say your website has a really cool design, and your
work is beautiful. I loved seeing your post about being a
“Metalsmithing Mama”. I think I will have to adopt that name, too.
:slight_smile: I am the proud mommy of a 4-1/2 year old boy & a 8 month old
little girl. It’s sooooo very different having the second than the
first, let me tell you! I’m assuming, by the way, this baby is your

I started learning jewerly making in late '98, and about a year
later we moved to Heidelberg, Germany (no, not with the military). I
started a wonderful opportunity as a guest student a few full days
per week at the Goldschmiedeschule in Pforzheim, about an hour away
by Autobahn. Two years later, though, I had to stop as I gave birth
to a wonderful little boy. The days at the school were long, and
eventually it was hard to lug my big preggo self around all day & sit
on a little wooden stool, so I stopped about 6 weeks before he was
born. He was a very happy & contented baby, enjoying sitting in his
little bouncy seat, watching Mommy do her thing, so I actually got a
decent amount of work done in the first few months. Decent,
considering I wasn’t getting much sleep & I had a new baby to take
care of! We lived in a little apartment, and my work room was a
spare BR off the living area, so it was pretty easy to have him happy
& still be in my area doing stuff. Eventually we moved back to the
US, though, when he was about 7-1/2 months old, so I was without my
tool for several months. We moved in July, and it was November before
we were in a house & able to unpack everything. But between taking
care of a little one, unpacking a large house, being home alone 5
days a week (traveling hubby), and doing work on the basement (adding
lights & such) before I could really work down there, it was Mother’s
Day before I sat down & really used my torch for the first time! Now,
by the way, we have an annual Mother’s Day tradition where Hubby
watches the kids all day while I get to play & make myself a piece
of jewerly. Win-win! :wink: Anyway, I finally got to the point where I
was able to get some work done, squeezing it in while he napped, the
occasional time when he entertained himself in his playroom, and
whenever I could after he went to bed or on the weekends when Daddy
was home & not having to take care of something himself. Eventually,
when my son was was 1-1/2 years old, he started at daycare two days
each week, whole days. I might have done it a little sooner, but it
took that long for us to decide we wanted to do that & then find one
we liked. That time was reallllly good, I got a lot more done. Of
course, I had to use that time to get other stuff done, too, like
doctor’s appointments & still unpacking the house & such, but it
still helped out a lot. Unfortunately, though, shortly after the
daycare started, we decided we had to move. So, I finished setting up
the house just to get it ready to move out of! We lived there almost
exactly one year. Ugh. I loved that house. Stuff got packed up AGAIN
& we moved AGAIN and I had to wait AGAIN to get my stuff out of

We moved into that house in early December, and it was March before
I had the basement ready to work in. There had been one outlet & 3
working lightbulb fixtures in the basement, and obvously that
wouldn’t work. We added a ton of outlets & many lights & I got it all
setup. I could tell my son missed daycare, and I missed the time he
was there & I could get work done, so I worked quickly to find him a
new one. We had switched him to 3 days per week when we had to start
the moving process, and I was used to that now, so that’s what we did
first off at this new school. Again, full days. Hubby switched jobs
so at least now he was in town all week (that’s why we moved, he
needed to find a job where he didn’t travel, and this is where he
found it), so I was also able to get more stuff done during the week
& on the weekends, too, since he wasn’t home for just a few hours
each week. I settled into our new town (Lancaster, PA area), joined
the local chapter of the state Guild, looked into shows & galleries
(not a lot of shops in this area for my work, so I make field trips
back to the Philly area where we moved from & to other larger local
metropolitan areas), and really started to make some headway towards
getting my business going. My parents moved to the area, too, so they
helped now & then watching the boy on the days he wasn’t in daycare
if I really needed to get something done. That nice schedule carried
on for a little while, but then we decided our son needed a sibling.
It wasn’t an easy decision if I wanted to be selfish. I was really
getting things started, having another baby would really set me back.
I didn’t want to have just one child, though, it was just a shame
that life had gotten in the way & the children would be just far
enough apart that despite all of our many moves (one of the “life”
things that got in the way!) I had had enough time to move my
business along just enough to really want to keep up the momentum. Oh

A few weeks shy of 4 years after our son was born, we had our little
girl. She’s now just over 8 months old. Once again, I didn’t get a
lot of work done while I had morning sickness (the entire
pregnancy!), and this time I had a big house & yard and a child to
take care of, too. At least hubby was home more & helped A LOT. I
actually did a couple shows in that time, and continued teaching
jewelry classes (no fire stuff) which I’d started only a few months
earlier. Once she was born, it took a couple months, but I was able
to start doing more work again. My son had been going to daycare
full time since she was born, and that continued until she was almost
2 months old, when he went back to 3 days. Actually, she arrived 3
weeks early, I would’ve started his full-time schedule BEFORE she was
born if I’d had the chance. Mom & Dad were amazing help, especially
in the beginning, but Mom still tries to spend at least one day each
week here, since it’s hard to be too productive with a little one’s
schedule (or sometimes lack thereof!). Often, too, they’ll help with
both kids on a day when I’ve got them both at home.

She is now crawling all over & pulling up on anything possible, and
it’s hard to keep the playroom proofed to her level, we have a couple
things in there that weren’t in the last house, not to mention all of
her big brother’s toys! That means I mainly get to work only when
she’s napping or someone else is watching her (like Gramma or Daddy),
but I’ve managed to finagle some things in that room so that I can
steal at least a little time now & then when she’s awake. We don’t
want to pay for 2 kids in daycare, so she will probably wait another
YEAR before she goes to school, that’s when her brother will start
kindergarten (yikes!), so the next year will be a challenge. Hubby’s
job pays the bills, so, as with yours, my biz takes a back seat.
There’s house & children stuff that needs to be taken care of, too,
but but I really do take my biz seriously. It is my true passion, so
I take any moments I can to get stuff done to grow it & make it worth
what time I already do spend on it.

I did my first show since she was born in July, and a second just a
couple weeks later. Somehow (great help from Gramma!) I got several
new pieces done. I’m also teaching again now & then (couple times a
month), and I really must rely on Gramma for that now, since I can’t
just do it when my son is in daycare & be free & clear. Also, the
July show was different this year, since on the Friday my Mom had to
stay home with the baby instead of being at the show with me like
last year. And during evening setup or on the weekend days of the
shows someone has to watch TWO kids, not just one. It really makes
things different. I know the baby will grow quickly & I love the time
I have with my sweet angel princess, but it’s also hard when I have
this business that I really want to make something of. It is NOT a
hobby to me, but since I work out of my basement, it’s kind of hard
to create time when I’m “at work” and have it treated like a
“regular” job when I wouldn’t be doing laundry or running errands, or
sitting in the playroom watching Baby Mozart or playing with a bead
chaser. I do find some times I can work on something simple & take it
up into the family room & do that while being close to the kids,
whether it be one or both of them. The baby likes to pull up on my
little work table now, though, so that’s actually not as easy as it
used to be!

Whew, this got to be a long one! Sorry. At any rate, it is a
challenge for sure. I have three full-time jobs & only one full-time
to do them in. Being a Mommy isn’t easy no matter what else you’re
doing, for sure. But it’s a wonderful thing and I’m blessed to have
two wonderful little angels. They will soon be big, I know the time
will fly like crazy. I will once again get back to the point I was at
early last year when I can start thinking more seriously about my
business & really try to get it moving along. Then, of course, there
will eventually be all the school things that will take a lot of my
time, but I will adjust, too, to that phase, and make the best of it!

Good luck & good fun, all Metalsmithing Mammas!