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The first step to starting a jewelry business

Hi All,

I have just subscribed to this forum although I have been reading
the posts and searching through the archives on and off for several

I hope you won’t mind that I am starting my time as a subscriber by
asking a question which really applies very much to my personal
situation. I have come to something of a cross-road in my life and
feel that whilst I can probably make good logical decisions there are
people here who could add valuable experience to what I have.

To start with - a little about my background. I am Australian and
have not yet had the pleasure of travelling to any other countries.
I am 27 years old. At the end of 2000 I graduated from a course with
a Bachelor of Visual Art in Fine Art majoring in gold and
silversmithing. At the end of 2003 I completed honours for the same
course. I learnt to make jewellery from an artist’s perspective and
this means that my designs are laden with concept and are often
quite tricky to make. I guess it also means that I have a beginner’s
level of skill in many things and have no speed in any particular
area. I comment on my skill and speed as learning in an institute of
art the focus is on developing enough skill in any given area to
complete any given project - it is not about becoming proficient in
everything to allow you to later produce any design you can dream of.

After my course I worked in the jewellery industry with a major
NZ/Aus company for about a year in the casting section. By the time
I left I was completely soul destroyed. The pace expected of me was
more than I could do and no one seemed to want to help me so I could
keep up. I was supposed to get training on wax injection but the 2
specialists on wax injection were jealous of my degree and feared
that if they trained me I would end up above them so they took it in
turns to give conflicting and then report to my leading
hand that I was not picking anything up. My leading hand would do
extremely frustrating and disappointing things like sit with me for
a week whilst I do quality control on the cast and then the next week
approach me and tear strips off me because the volume of quality
control I had got through the previous day was not good enough -
when he was sitting beside me working he didn’t care to notice or
provide guidance and when I was on my own was when he chose to let me
have it - both barrels. I offered to stay back in my own time to
catch up and to continue to do so until my speed was at an acceptable
level but I was given a blunt “no” - the expectation was that from
that day forward I would meet an undefined quantity level when
previously I had been unable to. This kind of thing was not all. When
I first joined the company I was told that I would be offered a level
of pay that reflected my level of qualification and that advancement
opportunities would be good however I was paid at the level of a 1st
year apprentice without gaining the same qualification that a 1st
year apprentice would and I found myself unable to even advance to a
basic level polishing job.

After that job I worked for 3 months with another very small company
that was run by a man I had been told had been bankrupt 3 times. I
got on with my co-workers much better at this company but the owner
of the company made a point every day to chastise me and fellow
co-workers about lack of productivity - it was the same thing again -
I could not meet productivity expectations which also had not been
defined. That company had a revolving door and I left 3 months later
around the same time as the guy who started a week before me and
another that started 2 weeks after me.

On top of these experiences both companies had a blatant disregard
for safety - for example, in the first company it was not until a
jeweller lost an eye in an accident with a flexi that the company
provided safety glasses or even provided any safety equipment. At the
second company the noise was extreme and I provided my own ear plugs
and safety glasses and was criticised and made fun of by the owner
and leading hand for wearing both.

In the end I decided the jewellery industry was not for me and walked
away from it for good. By the time I walked away I was soul-destroyed
and had no self-confidence left. I had a good typing speed so I did
temp work in data entry for the next couple of years. Finally, one of
the places I did temp work at offered me a permanent job. It is where
I’m working now and it is a government department. With my strong
work ethic and other good qualities management saw in me I progressed
through the ranks very quickly and have been sitting in a mid level
job for about the last 6 months. Unfortunately I have ended up in a
job that used to be done by two people and have not been coping -
frequent meetings with management did not resolve the issues.
Finally, I ended up taking several days of sick leave as I had become
so stressed and anxious by my job that every moment outside work my
mind was consumed with my job and one day when I was getting ready
for work I just broke down and started crying - I could not handle
going to work again and going through it all again - having my hands
tied behind my back by my department then having to represent it
favourably to the public, having to personally take responsibility
for the department’s shortcomings because I was not allowed to let
the public know what was really going on and knowing that I had the
futures of innocent people in the community in my hands - that my
decision to stay back and do an extra four hours every day on my own
time, or not, would have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Right now I am on a break from work. I negotiated to take the annual
leave that I had accrued which came to four weeks. I am halfway
through that time and still finding that it is hard to shift out of
stress-mode. Very small things stress me and make me anxious - even
though I am conscious that situations aren’t, or shouldn’t be
stressful, my body reacts as though it is - gritting teeth,
tightening of neck and shoulder muscles, headaches, avoiding contact
with people, etc, etc.

I am now trying to come to peace with the situation and see where I
can go to from here. I don’t think my current job is the right one
for me… but the honest truth is that I cannot see what would be
the right job for me. I have worked for so many employers by now and
keep feeling like I have to leave in the end - very few employers
provide a safe work environment, fair levels of pay and a reasonable
workload… and those that do can pick and choose whoever they want
as employees - I am no one special… without further study I don’t
believe I can become the kind of employee who can get a fair deal in
a workplace. But, please be aware - I am not saying that I am in a
different situation to anyone else or that I am hard done by - I am
just noting my observations. And, I think my observations are
important to be aware of in terms of the facts of my personality - I
am shy, timid, a slow but thorough worker, I am intelligent and good
at problem solving but I am very highly sensitive. And that last
point is really relevant now - I think if I were not so sensitive I
would not have broken down so badly from stress… but I did. And
I’m trying to figure a way forward from here - I’m trying to find a
future that is gentle on me because for me it is now down to what I
need to do to survive - at least until I get stronger.

And, the reason I am here writing about all of this is because my
long term goal is to be self-employed as an artist/jeweller and it
has occurred to me that now might be the time to start towards that
end - to start in a very basic way. I have come to the realisation
that nothing will happen if I sit around thinking about the best way
to approach things so I have decided, tentatively, to do something
starting ASAP. I usually make complex, one off pieces which I
thoroughly love doing but which rarely sell for what they are
worth… also, at this point with stupid little things like opening
the mail causing my body to respond like it is anxious I just know I
don’t have the capacity to work on complicated designs. So, I have
thought about setting my mind to making earrings using sterling
silver and beads - I am sure you all know the type of jewellery I am
talking about. I know there is a level of skill involved and I know
I will have a learning curve but I already have the tools I need and
am good at using them.

I have ordered enough Czech glass beads and silver to make about 100
pairs of earrings. I really want to work with gem beads but I thought
I would start with something less expensive whilst honing my skills
and seeing if it’s what I really want to do. My plan is to try to
make enough “stock” to have a stall at one of the busier weekend
markets. I have invested a bit of money in the beads and silver but I
feel it is a very small risk to take even though I have no idea if it
will pay off.

I have a lot of questions and insecurities buzzing around in my mind
at the moment and my whole body is full of nervous energy as I post
this - I suppose it is all part of the condition of still being in
the process of unwinding from stress. I wonder if you folks could
help by talking about your own experiences and observations. I know
that some of my ideas of going forward with this will conflict
wildly with your own ideas… like, I have observed at the weekend
markets that many people seem to have an absolute upper limit of
about $50 (Aus) to spend on any one item - they go to the markets for
bargains. I know even that is below what many of you consider
acceptable price points. But, I also know for earrings that are not
gold and diamonds friends, family and co-workers will happily,
without thinking, spend $20 (Aus) or $30 (Aus) but more starts to be
an issue. I am thinking of trying to get people on a price point that
they don’t have to think about and I’d be inclined to price earrings
with glass beads around $30 (Aus) or with gemstone beads around $40
(Aus) each. Anything with additional elements like sawpierced shapes
would be priced upwards a bit. I know to start in this kind of
business area I have to start small and with fairly modest
expectations… but, does what I’m proposing seem realistic? It has
also occurred to me that I could start by losing money but at least I
could have a chance to test my “products” on a particular type of
"customer" and get a better feel for what people are willing to spend
on what. Hopefully after getting feedback I could refine what I’m
doing so that I can move from loss to profit. I will be doing all of
this whilst working a job, probably part time, which may or may not
be with my current employer. So, with the security of the day job I
think it would be okay to risk making a loss for a while… although,
the aim is to get away from depending on someone else for my income
so I would want to turn it around as quickly as possible.

Also, I have concerns over suppliers. I decided to order my beads
from an Australian company this time that claimed to be a wholesaler
and had more variety in colours and sizes than any other Australian
company I could find. I was disappointed to hear from the supplier
that a lot of the items I’ve ordered they have run out of stock for
and for others they can only partly fill the order. They have also
told me that they have no immediate plans to restock. I wonder if
anyone has any good, reliable suppliers whose details they wouldn’t
mind sharing? I would be happy to order from an overseas company.

I guess the real question is one that can’t be answered definitively
but I will ask anyway - Am I doing the right thing? (Am I heading in
the right direction? Is my reasoning sound? Will this get me one step
closer to my goal?)

Thank you kindly for reading this very long-winded post and I look
forward with anticipation to any replies that might result.


I guess the real question is one that can't be answered
definitively but I will ask anyway - Am I doing the right thing?
(Am I heading in the right direction? Is my reasoning sound? Will
this get me one step closer to my goal?) 

Only you really know that.

Is starting your own business ever a reasonable thing to do?

To quote the title of the Barbara Sher book, “It’s only too late if
you don’t start now.”

You’re young, presumably have few responsibilities and attachments.
No giant house? No 10 kids? What’s stopping you. Just do it.

I started my business as a teenager.

Just go downtown and file the paperwork. Or do it on line, however
you guys do it in Australia.

Just start. Start making stuff, start selling. As you do that, on the
side, start writing your marketing plan, your business plan.

Doing what you want to do will be healing for you.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Tania, a lot of what you are describing sounds very familiar to me!
I don’t have the specialized degree that you do, but I can certainly
relate to the politics and undermining in the work place tearing your
own self image to shreds.

First of all, see a doctor. What you are feeling is not normal… at
least not to the degree you are feeling it. It’s always hard to say
that word depression. But as one who does suffer from it, the relief
will be incredible. (I think I would stay on the medication just for
the good night’s sleep alone!) There may be other factors involved,
thyroid and other things our body does do us can often make things
seem out of our control. Find a doctor you trust, and try a
combination of different things until you feel normal again.

Don’t jump into opening your own store off the bat, especially if
your items are more complicated to make. Try several art shows, and
even put the money into traveling out of Australia to find your
market. Running a store brings its own level of stress, dealing with
land lords, utility companies, suppliers leaving you short (as you
are already finding out). It took me seven years of running a bead
and jewelry store to find out that my local area just does not have
enough interest in what I make to make it worth while. I’m just
starting to find my market in some tourist areas doing shows, and I
could have saved myself some wasted money if I hadn’t been impatient
and took some time to figure that out first. This is my personality
to just be impatient and go ahead with what I want with minimal
research, however, I learned so much during that time and have
developed my skills in other areas that I don’t consider it a lost
effort and I met some wonderful people. I think things happened the
way they were supposed to, and once you get feeling great about
yourself again, grab onto the lessons of these horrible experiences
you’ve had. You now know how to treat people should you get to the
point of hiring others. You may even know at this point that
production work just isn’t for you. Some of us just feel incredibly
strongly about things, and sometimes working in an environment with a
large group of people just isn’t for us.

Please do what you can to bring back YOU. Who are you? Who do you
want to be? What can you control? How can you deal with the things
that are out of your control? Be strong and even though so much of
our validation comes from what others think (otherwise they wouldn’t
buy our stuff!) please yourself first! Do what you need to feel good
about you, never lose the need to explore and the rest will come, if
you keep your eyes open! I wish you well, and feel free to contact me
off list if you wish to talk further. Good luck, girl!


Tania; Here are a few suggestions. Is there any chance of going part
time with your job? That way you can still have an income to help
with the bills while having more time to work on your jewelry. You
should research where and how you can sell your work you are
obviously aware that selling at the kind of markets you mentioned is
mostly low end stuff but if it can be a bridge to what you want
consider it that. A hundred pair of 30.00 earrings will pay the
bills just as well as one 3,000.00 pair. Your work in the jewelry
shops have given you experience on doing production work that will
help in the future. Just because you made jewelry instead of say
tennis shoes doesn’t mean it wasn’t a sweat shop. Keep that thought
in mind. Doing high end work is a select clientel, there are a lot of
potential customers who cannot afford this kind of thing. Also you
need to get a little of a reputation to get into that market. I think
it is a goal that you my have to work up to.Last but not least have
faith in yourself.

Hope this helps a little.
good luck Dave Owen

Hi Tania -

I am so sorry to hear about your experiences, things can be tough for
an art school trained jeweler. I am also in my mid-twenties and have
been through a similar thing. I studied at an art school to get my
BFA in jewelry and metalsmithing. Although it was one of the premier
schools in the country it does NOTHING to help prepare for future
employment. After working a summer doing repairs at a local jewelry
shop I was told generally stores like theirs don’t hire art school
grads, we have no skills. They would prefer someone who had done a
year long intense technical program. I was told the same thing at
another repair type place that works on speed. The only things we can
do as ‘art jewelers’ is do production work for another art jeweler
(which is also pretty soul crushing) or open our own businesses. But,
oops! they don’t teach (and actually won’t allow) business courses at
an art school. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I ended up working as a designer for a watch company in Switzerland
and after two years was convinced that I couldn’t design or make
anything of any worth. Almost daily for a month, I too left work, got
on the bus and started sobbing. That’s when I knew something had to
change. I quit and had an international move ahead of me, no health
insurance, no steady income and no clue what to do. I am currently an
artist in residence in a small town. My rent is manageable, I work in
the gallery a few days a week and have the rest of the time to
create. I have a few shows coming up next month and although my
’salary’ is non-existent I am so much happier, which counts for a
lot. This was the right answer for me, I don’t know what will work
for you and no one can really tell you. But if you are as miserable
as you say you will find your ‘something’ to change. Good luck and
please stay in touch and let me know how things are going for you.


Dear Tania,

Well, from your job history and health issues I would suggest that
you reconsider being self employed. It is the best way to be
stressed! When you are solely responsible for your production,
marketing, shipping, scheduling, financing, health insurance…it is
very stressful. It takes a certain kind of crazy, courageous person
to be self employed and it sounds like that is not you. I have alot
of friends who are artists and self employed. The ones who are highly
sensitive and shy have the hardest time with their careers. They are
often breaking down crying and feeling lost. I am not judging or
criticizing here it is just that they are overwhelmed much easier but
they are deep beautiful people who feel everything. Also to create
pieces that are not your “true” art will not bring you any sense of
fufillment or joy.

Perhaps you could do a consultation with a career consultant who
would be able to(with the tests that they do) suggest a direction to
go in. My intial hit on where you might be able to find a comfortable
creative environment is back in academia, perhaps assistant teaching
to start in a metals program? Or becoming an assistant in a small
craft jewelers workshop? It is hard to find someplace nowadays where
speed and efficiency are not going to be a factor. We live in a fast
world which has become overly sensorized and our bodies and pyches
have not had the time to evolve to handle the overload, hence the
stress and illnesses that prevade our cultures. I understand how
difficult this must be for you and encourage you to find the tools,
like yoga and meditation, to assist yourself in processing it better.

I would suggest that you sit down with a sheet of paper in a quiet
space and list all of the things that you LOVE to do in life that
which bring you great joy ( ex. gardening, music,cooking, making
things with your hands)…then make a list of what you LIKE to
do…then what you dislike or what makes you stressed…next list
what you see as your strengths and weakness of personality…ask
your friends for their feedback on what they see in you and put it
on the list. This will all help you to see who you are and what
tools you have or can access to create a life that brings you joy.
With clarity we can make better balanced decisions about our

Beth McElhiney

Hi Tania,

I have been where you are and I understand exactly what you are going
through. I attempted what you are talking about doing in 2002. I am
also an extremely “sensitive” person who does very poorly under high
levels of stress. I would be more than happy to speak to you
privately, off the board, about my experience. You can email me at
this address if you are interested

Augest Derenthal
Cry Baby Designs

Tania -

Let me address two points in your posting. First, your supplier may
have no option when it comes to restocking some of the Czech glass
that you ordered. The various factories (and there are a lot of
small factories that do the various larger Czech glass beads) will
usually work with a single color at a time, working from the
lightest color to the darkest color and doing as many shapes in that
color as they think they will be able to sell. Sometimes they guess
correctly, sometimes they don’t. When they have gone through the
entire color spectrum, they clean everything up well so that the
black does not contaminate the clear, and then they recommence the
cycle. Depending on the sizes, shapes, and quantities that they make
in each color, it could be months before a color will come around in
the manufacturing cycle again. There are certainly other dealers out
there - I sell these beads and I know of many others who also do -
but they may run into the same problems if they are purchasing the
same shape/colors from the same factory(ies).

Second, I have a lot of concerns about your deciding to make a career
as an artist/jeweler/etc when you state that you are a slow,
methodical, and highly sensitive person. When you are self-promoting
your items, it really helps to have a thick skin and the ability to
let a lot of things slide right off your back. I am concerned that
you are not that type of person and that you will only find this type
of career will increase your stress levels. I highly recommend that
you consult for some professional advice.

Good luck to you.

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)

Tania good luck.

I don’t think markets are a good idea, cause as you mentioned, people
are looking for bargains - “market mentality”, also you will be
competing with the imported cheaper jewellery. Although Dinosaur
Designs started that way. I would recommend you look at a range of
production work which will be easy to make and hopefully, sell. You
don’t mention which state you are in, but there are a number of
galleries that will take work from emerging artists providing it
matches their client base. Working for your self is very far from
being stress free, but you do set your own pace and times. Do be
prepared to work very long hours, and being speedy is an asset, but
doing it part time to start you can build up speed, good luck,

Christine in Sth Australia.

Hi Elaine,

Thank you for your reply to my post.

Your point about responsibilities and attachments is a good one. I
don’t have a mortgage or any dependants so I guess that makes this
the best possible time in my life to take a risk because I really
don’t have much to lose…

And… I hope that you are right that doing what I want to do will
be healing. I have a strong feeling that it will be very good for me
in that sense although its just the thought of the “business” side of
things which has made me tentative about it.

Thanks for your encouragement.


Hi Kerry,

Thank you for replying to my post.

I agree with you that what I’m feeling is not normal but then, the
pressure I was put under at work was not normal either. I don’t
believe I’m suffering from depression in any ongoing sense - sure,
I’ve had moments of depression when I dwell on things like the fact
that I have to go back to the same job that did me in. It is a simple
matter of paying the bills at the moment - I have to go back. That
thought chills me a fair bit because of how I was treated at work -
where I continually asked for help with my workload and was
continually ignored but my conscience could not allow me to leave
stakeholders in the lurch because of our shortstaffing. But…
whilst that is a roadblock that I don’t know how to move just yet
because I don’t have the clarity just yet I can see that there is a
life beyond that - I can see that I can make choices that will get me
around the roadblock in time. I guess my initial post may have
sounded very “doom and gloom” but in general I don’t feel that way.

I do still feel my body respond as though there is stress stimulus
when there isn’t… but, I think my body became so accustomed to
there being stress stimulus ALL the time that it now has to get
accustomed to that same stimulus not being there. I do feel that I’m
improving although it is frustrating that the stress didn’t all just
melt away and completely disappear on the first day of my holidays. I
know there is a danger that when I return to work things could be
re-triggered. I think I will first return to work and do just enough
work to fill the hours I’m paid for - after having been away for a
month there should be someone else there who has learnt my job and
can cover what I cannot do - there never was such a person before.
But, if that doesn’t work and my stress levels rise again I will go
straight to a doctor.

I definately won’t start by opening a store - its something I
couldn’t get the finance to do anyway. Really I want to start by
spending a few months to make as much stock as I can and then perhaps
the next thing to do is to apply for casual stall spots at several
different weekend markets and just aim to find markets that I like
and get a good response at. I must admit I have spent a little time
daydreaming about driving up the coast to some markets in areas that
see a lot of tourists pass through… but as my car is old and
probably couldn’t make that run too often I’m just going to view that
as a goal to reach for later on.

Thank you for sharing your story about opening your bead store. I
can relate to being impatient to get started with something and
diving in whilst still doing the research - I have done that in the
past… I have found you learn heaps and if there wasn’t much put on
the line then there’s not much lost… but this time around I have
been doing a fair bit of research. However, I feel that there’s some
research you just can’t do without putting yourself in the situation
and seeing how people respond.

“Who are you? Who do you want to be? What can you control? How can
you deal with the things that are out of your control?” - these
questions that you asked have been good to give me something to
ponder and reflect on. I think later on I will sit down and write out
my answers to those questions… I guess at the times in your life
where you have been through some sort of significant event you often
find that you have neglected to be aware of yourself and to take
charge of the things that are in your control.

Thanks again,

Hi Tania,

Perhaps some of my experience and insights can help you. Though I am
working at a craft I love, business to me is entirely professional.
I do not let stress get to me or else I could spiral downwards with
no help of salvation.

Going into business is indeed very different than working for
others. To the naked eye, it may seem that you are finally freed
from grueling taskmasters and that you can set your own schedule.
Actually, though this is in part true, it does not mention the fact
that you will be actually working more hours because you need to
usually wear additional hats, which may include, marketing person,
salesperson, accountant, logistics, shipping, etc. (You can also
hire somebody else to perform these jobs.) The biggest benefit is
that you are your own Mistress and don’t have any glass ceiling. You
can even work at three in the morning. :-))) But make no mistake; a
business is in business to make money. And that’s why you need to
ensure your future by drawing up a business plan and researching
your target markets very well, even before you open your business.
What do you make? Who will buy them? How will you sell? How will you
reach your market?

You can also just take the plunge and make itemsthen search for
market venues. This is not recommended by me. Better to draw up a
plan that lists your business goals, timelines and schedules,
company growth, marketing and sales targets, and last but not
leastfinancial issues such as expenses (loans, taxes, raw materials,
packaging, rent, etc.) versus profit. This will give you a great
picture of your Game Plan. You can see whether your business has a
chance to survive. Without a clear picture of where you are going,
it will be harder to maintain your business. You should think
positive rather than “I hate my old job so I will open a business”.

If you go into business, always make sure you have enough cash
stashed away for the cash flow aspect of your business. Many new
businesses end before they begin because there is not money to fund
those critical first months.

Last word of advice: aim for the blue sea. In business, you have a
red sea and a blue sea to choose from. The red sea is full of
swimmers and is so packed, you can’t even swim1 It is red from all
that back-stabbing… On the other hand, the blue sea is not too
crowded and contains relaxed swimmers. For example, say you want to
open a fitness club. That puts you smack in the middle of the red
sea! But say you want to open one for women alone, who just want to
work out even if they don’t look all that great in their workout
clothes (yet). That’s the blue sea! It’s the same with jewelry. There
are trays of MacJewelry everywhere! I sometimes get seasick…

Many people transition smoothly to their business by working at
their job while starting a part-time business. This is what I am
doing. It allows me to pay the bills while growing a customer bank.
I am paving the way to make my jump soon without rushing anything.

Tania, I most sincerely wish you all the best and much success. I
hope I have been able to help! Feel free to contact me off list.

Keep shining,

Hi David,

Thank you for your reply to my post.

I think it is probably the right approach to go part time with my
job. When I return to work I am going to speak to my manager about
doing just that. As I have thought this over more and more since my
first post I think it is a matter of finding a balance between income
and expenditure and it might take some creativity to do that at
first. I am now thinking about renting out the spare room of the
house I rent so I can reduce my rent cost this would then allow me to
reduce my income. I think even if my current employer won"t allow me
to go part time I will look elsewhere for some sort of office job
that is part time as a necessity for survival for the short term (at

My thought behind starting at the markets is that I have noticed it
is very easy for most people to part with $20 without thinking too
hard about it (or needing their partner"s approval) however I have
noticed that in the current environment here even people who are
wealthy seem to have a lot of difficulty spending large amounts of
money on luxury items. And my observation has been that these people
are shrewd in any transaction so I would want to have built my
confidence and skills on lower level items before getting involved in
business with such people.

I cannot deny my experience in workshops has given me invaluable
experience. I would not consider these businesses as direct
competition but it is useful to know what methods they are using to
have some idea of standard practice. Also, I have built my skills and
knowledge up in some areas. There are even things I know about this
kind of business that I can take or specifically choose to leave
things such as filling large pits in cast items with solder in my
case I choose to leave it because I think it would cause me more
trouble than its worth but at least I know it helps me to understand
why I might take longer to do something but at least I know that I
can guarantee quality that these workshops cannot.

Your post gives me faith that I am taking the right approach hoping
to build a business gradually starting modestly and then trying to
move upwards from there.


Hi Beth,

Thank you for your reply.

Your post has helped me to ask myself questions about my job that has
put my stress in context. I may be a shy and sensitive person but I
am also a very strong and determined person part of this is having
very strong beliefs and principles and being unwilling to compromise
on them. So, then thinking about work. To start with when I was
employed I had to sign a contract agreeing to a set of behaviours,
which if I breached, could see me serve a prison sentence of up to 2
years. So, then I am working in a challenging environment with my own
principals and standards to live up to with the threat of jail
hanging over my head if I, even accidentally, do something from that
list on my contract. Well, I could breach that contract by something
as simple as the money I am approving to go out the door is being
siphoned into one of the payments employees bank accounts. My manager
tells me to approve all payments requests without checking them
there are hundreds to do every week and I only have a few minutes in
which to do them all if I take longer then my actual work gets
further behind. So I am working blindly if in 10 years time someone
uncovers some fraudulent activity and my name is attached to a
payment approval then I will do time it has been brought down to
the level of personal responsibility by that contract. In ten years
time no one will be interested in the context that I was snowed under
and my manager directed me to behave nonchalantly towards payments.

But then also, as I have been pushed up and up the ladder I am now in
the position where I am the team leader for my team without being
paid the appropriate wage (I am also the whole team and no other team
in my office is a one person team) well, as team leader I have to be
involved in reviewing new policy proposals or policy changes that are
made behind the backs of staff like me in all the state offices.
Lately there has been a lot of secret changes going on and myself
and counterparts in other states have found ourselves tangled up in a
web of red tape that stops us from doing our job delivering things
to the community. We are now forced into a position to advocate for
the services that we are responsible for supporting I am not being
paid as a team leader, this is team leader responsibility . But if I
don"t do it then I have to be prepared to walk away from my own

When I came into this job as one person picking up from 2 people
that had left the team I was going through paperwork that was 6
months old. Of course I couldn"t be up to date with my workload
within 3 months when I started with a 6 month backlog, had the team
staffing levels cut in half, was forced to perform a policy advice
and advocacy role and furthermore manage a project without ANY
training or guidance to get me up to speed in management which I had
never done before.

So . I think this is a stressful and impossible situation for anyone.
Everyone has a breaking point. I might have met mine 10 minutes or
10 hours or 10 days before someone else who is lesssensitive but I
am positive that anyone in my position would have met their breaking
point at some stage. I am positive about this because no matter what
sensible things they had tried to do about it management would never
have given them more staff, would have downplayed their workload and
told them there was no reason they couldn"t get on top of it by
themselves and would have pressured them to get up to date all the
things I experienced. No matter how logically, intelligently or
maturely I approached the situation there was no resolution that
could be reached until something drastic happened and management
finally saw that they had severely breached their duty of care .

Now that I can see all of these things I have also started to review
my achievements. Last year, whilst working full time and being
promoted several times, having to undergo extra training, learn new
tasks and always working back extra hours I also organised and
managed an exhibition of 5 people including myself. The process from
application to use the gallery to the closing of the exhibition was a
year and I was responsible for the whole process as well as for
preparing my own art works to a high standard. For a whole year I
wore three hats I worked additional hours at work, I put in 30
hours in my own studio each week and I made every step of the
exhibition process happen including contracts, publicity,
installation, opening night etc and having regular meetings with the
artists and personally encouraging and assisting each artist to reach
their full potential. That was a huge achievement a huge effort,
incredible hours, sustained over a year. I did that. I can do it

Actually this realisation is very powerful for me . But, it is not
one I had until I started to feel like I had to explain myself
that I could do this, that I could start a business even despite my

I know it must seem strange to get this from me now as
in, why didn"t I provide it in my first post so that you could
understand where I"m really coming from? Well, the truth is, it
didn"t even register as being related to any of this at first. But
when I read your post so genuine and gentle and yet felt myself
wanting to respond argumentatively I realised that I had not taken
into consideration some big and important points. Of course you
could not know the kind of burning determination I have and the
things that I have achieved with it when I have only shown you one
side of the coin that is me. But, it seems I needed some sort of
catalyst to get this clarity and for me it was your post I had to
settle myself down and ask myself why your recommendation so
logically explained and so sensible got me agitated. Then I had to be
able to justify to myself that I could do the things required to be
in business that I could muster the strength to survive. This also
meant examining why my strength was not enough to survive in my
government job.

I think it is true the point you have made about living in a fast
world. I do believe that to really prosper, to get wealth above and
beyond the average person you do need to be fast to go forwards.
However, I also know that we can make choices about acceptable profit
margins and we can choose to work a lot of hours to make ends meet
at a kind of work we are at peace with I know that my main employer
in the jewellery industry paid each and every worker a pittance and
then had a huge markup on every item. I know that my employer was
making more and more profit every year. Every now and then we as
workers were gathered into a room and shown graphs plotting our
profit this year verse last year and pressured to work lots of
overtime to better the profit from the previous year. Parents would
not see their children from Monday to Saturday for months on end
because they gave in to this pressure. They had spending money but
they had no quality time with their families. After several months
like this everyone"s attitudes would become dangerously angry and
aggressive and their work was sloppy. All for the benefit of the
company making more money than it actually NEEDS to be in business
and guarantee that it could stay in business.

What I am hoping to find for myself is a balance where even though I
work slowly I can work enough hours to make enough money for the
business to carry on and for me to take home a minimum wage. I am
confident that as time goes on I will also improve my speed and have
a better sense of what the customers are interested in buying. So, I
am confident that even though it may be almost impossible at first to
get the ship floating and keep it floating that over time I will
find a balance where I can be comfortable about accepting the time
that goes in and the wage that I make. Obviously if I could work
fast in a fast moving society I could do well. But, I think that
even if you work a mediocre speed in a fast society you can make a
mediocre living on your own terms. I am willing to use myself as a
guinea pig to test this theory.

Just one last thing. Five years ago I would have agreed with you
that to create anything that is not true art would not bring me
enjoyment. Now however I have to disagree for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that if I compromise and make craft instead of
art it is still better than the compromise to push papers around in
a circle in someone else"s nonsensical office To make art would
make me very happy, to make craft would make me content to make a
career pushing papers around in circles in someone else"s nonsensical
office would (and does) cause me frustration every day. So, now I am
willing and happy to take the path that can offer me contentment. But
also, to make art is difficult and is not sustainable it is not
something you can know you can do every day of your life. When you
are making art you can sit in front of a blank piece of paper for
months on end and the frustration can be immense. However, when you
are doing other things art often just comes to you of its own accord
and then you squeeze it in where you can. For me, when I am making
craft I am also making pathways and planting seeds for my art
which makes it easier to be an artist when it is time to be an

Thank you again for your post. It has opened my eyes in a way that I
didn"t expect and I"m sure you did not expect.


Dear Tania,

It sounds like you are doing some good hard thinking and processing.
I believe it will serve you well. Setting priorities and realizing
that all of your actions are a choice you have made can be difficult
to do. I am happy to read more details about your work experience and
self-confidence and determination as they give a better foundation to
self employment. It is up to you to choose where to find your "love"
of art and “happiness” in craft. I feel that if you can find what you
need it is a good life to create and will bring you abundance. I do
love my work and it drives me to work much longer hours than I would
when I was with a company and it also gives me the impetus to take
risks and commit to the long term plan. I wish you much good luck,
sound decision making, and great abundance in whatever direction you
go in!

Beth McElhiney