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Working by yourself

I am currently working on a project and would love some input from
all your Orchidians out there. How do you stay motivated to work by
yourself with no one to answer to? How do you avoid feeling
isolated? Do you enjoy working by yourself? Suggestions, ideas,
thoughts are all welcome.

Thank you in advance.
Marlene Richey
Richey Jewelry Gallery
15 Wharf . Portland . ME . 04101

How do you stay motivated to work by yourself with no one to
answer to?  How do you avoid feeling isolated? 

I moved 2000 miles away from all of my friends in jewelry class (and
It was amazing how much creativity was generated by talking over
design projects, fabrication techniques, etc. I missed that, but once
I was working on jewelry for shows I found I could get more done in
the isolation. I joined two guilds and started taking workshops.
Phone calls to jewelry class friends keep me in touch and we still
exhange ideas. For my own work, I set goals for building stock for
shows and put check lists up to keep on track but I balance that with
the contact of guild events and taking a casting class.

Donna in VA

Long ago, when I was a psych grad student, my teachers talked of
people being either “inner directed” or “other directed.” Other
directed people need interaction and feedback from others while
they’re working; their motivation comes from outside themselves.
Inner directed people are driven from within; they work best on their

I suspect that many jewelers are inner directed. I know I’d much
rather be in my studio making jewelry than out at shows selling it.

Janet Kofoed

I have a work schedule just like a 9-5 job. I work everyday and
depending on my physical state do what I can to create anything bad
good indifferent wonderous. It is all practice it is all valuble. I
get a lot of inspiration from music in my shop. I have always worked
with music in my studio.

An American Cameo Artist


I am so glad you started this thread. I feel this is probably a
common problem that no one talks about, I know that I am in the same
situation. When you work with multiple jewelers you draw from their
energy and enthusiasm. Also, when you have a “job” you usually have
someone to answer to, be on time, deadlines etc. I think this forum
is one way to stay motivated, being able to throw a question out
there and get multiple view points is wonderful. I have posed similar
questions before and the key that I keep getting told is discipline.
Making yourself sit down and get to work for a set amount of time
every day. Also, I take inspiration from looking at jewelry that
motivates and excites me. I recently watched a special on the
Discovery channel on the Hope diamond and boy did that get me charged
up, what a beauty. I know that the things I’m writting are all things
you heard before, but please know that their are certainly others who
are feeling the same frustration. Maybe we can keep each other moving

Belinda Marquardt

Well, I read Orchid, but for personal contact, I get most of that
from the woman who runs our artist’s co-op.

So far, at any rate, I have no pics of anything I feel like posting
and showing to anyone, let alone people so far ahead of me
skills-wise. I swear I don’t understand why people buy some of the
things they’ve bought from me. But they do, so I keep working at


Hunger is a great motivator! No workie no eatie. LOL


Hello Marlene and anyone on Orchid!

I have been doing much of my own diamond setting for the past 46
years, and here are a few answers for you. Some special orders
require being in a very quiet room, no noise, no interruptions, no
telephone calls. But knowing that any “small talk” can take your
mind off what you are doing…isolation is much needed at certain
times like these…if I want to be social I will meet my friends
during “none setting” days, but setting time is just that…setting
time! When I am deep thought, I refuse to be sidelined by trivial
needs, but I do take mandantory “simple, 5 minute mental breaks” 2-3
times an hour.

Motivation is the knowledge of “dead-lines”, working to getting the
job done on time and within the prescribed time for delivery. Money?
is the second motivation, although it should be number One…but
Quality, Speed, Anticipating Repeat orders overweighs the instant
"money" at times. Do I enjoy working on my own? “yes, and
sometimes”…all of these items were described in the opening
paragragh. Although I do miss the interraction of my fellow peers,
How do I avoid being alone? I have my telephone nearby and MY kind
of Classical music on CD’s and the “talk-radio”. As I like my own
company and working alone is well suited for my quiet life-style.
At home, I can also communicate with many of my jewellery PC friends
in the States. So am I alone? Not by any stretch of the
imagination…at home I can email YOU at 6:30A.M. or during the
daytime if need be. Am I happy in both worlds?.with a resounding
yes!!!..Well I hope I’ve answered many of your questions…
Gerry Lewy!..a.k.a. “Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!”…

I also think that my motivation to fabricate pieces and to do it as
well as I can, comes from somewhere within in me.

And if that fails, I image that I am still at school and I’m going
to have to hand my work over to my tutor tomorrow who will inspect my
solder joints & settings with her 10X loupe or zoom microscope before
grading it. That seems to work a treat!


Eva Martin

Hi Marlene,

Hunger and paying the rent are wonderful motivators! Just kidding…

First, I work on several projects simultaneously. That way I never
get blocked or bored. Second, for me it is not work. When I make
jewelry and wearable art, the world makes sense. I keep on pinching
myself to remind myself how lucky I am to have a gift that I can
share. Lastly, I work in an environment that is comfortable, so I
love to spend as much time there as possible. Candles, incense,

Keep shining,


I’ll bet you get a million responses to this - we probably have all
struggled with it. Try these:

  - join your local metalsmithing guild, look for other
  appropriate arts groups to join 

  - find one or two others new to the guild or the area and meet
  with them on and off just to talk - technical, artistic and/or

  - explore setting up some regular mini-meetings for informal
  critiques of new work (or your project, as it progresses.) 

  - identify someone whose work you admire  perhaps someone
  whose mentorship you would love to have; call and introduce
  yourself; arrange a meeting just to see her/his work and talk
  one on one.  I did this, and she happened to be very generous
  with and encouragement, best of all.  Bring pieces
  with you if possible. 

  - Do field research - meaning, ask around for galleries that
  might fit your aesthetic (I asked my slide photographer's
  metalsmithing wife! (you know who you are) and strolled
  through, wearing my work.  Strike up conversations with the
  owners or employees and add to your network.  Talk to anyone
  behind the counter in any art/craft gallery or shop - you never
  know what you might learn. 

  - Get on any mailing list that might have an event you'd enjoy
  and possibly meet other artists 

  - Enter local shows (not selling on the street; juried
  exhibitions)  You'll meet a lot of others that way. 

I’m sure there are many other ways to stay connected AND motivated
while working alone. My studio is in my basement - I don’t even have
a window - but I love the solitude and meditational state it
generates. It’s a relief from the noise of my children, spouse, life
in general. I also listen to music while I work.

I’ve found that only through active efforts do I meet other
metalsmiths & artists. Some day I hope to share a studio with a few
other people, as we did in art school. It was inspiring and fun.

Best of luck to you.

   How do you stay motivated to work by yourself with no one to
answer to?  How do you avoid feeling isolated?  Do you enjoy
working by yourself? 

Keep busy, and stretch your imagination and your skills. Look for
ideas in your particular setting that are applicable to jewelry.
Look at hardware–many useful ideas for designs and engineering.
Every item in your home or workshop has been designed, possibly for
both function and looks. Your monitor, keyboard, CPU (OK, most CPUs
are still ugly), your trashcan, pens, etc. Look at nature and her
endless designs. She didn’t make just one standard leaf. Caladiums
are heart shaped, aspens are lance shaped, maples are palmate, and
so on. Emulate, combine, dissect.

The Navajos have a beautiful saying in their Blessing Way prayer:

        Beauty before you
        Beauty behind you
        Beauty in the heavens
        Beauty at your feet
        Walk in Beauty

Open your eyes, and allow your brain and your hands to translate the
beauty you see. You will never run out of ideas.

Hello Marlene, great questions. I’ve certainly thought about these
things too, just never got around to putting it into so many words.
No time like the present though, so …

... How do you stay motivated to work by yourself with no one to
answer to? 

I’ve had practice at the self-employed thing for years now so I
thought that making the transition to jewellery would be a cinch. It
hasn’t been.

Sometimes I go for months at a stretch without a speed-bump, other
times I just die and wonder what the hell I’m doing this for. But
then I remember that I’d do it one way or another anyway, so best get
back to it. And off I go again. It would help if I was making some
real money at it, which I am not, but I suppose that’s why people
invented faith and marketing strategies and such things.

How do you avoid feeling isolated? 

I don’t think you can avoid it, at least not if you’re disconnected
from a like-minded group of people. Orchid helps a lot. I’ve found
that keeping a blog helps somewhat too because it gives people some
reason to contact you and chat about stuff that’s going on. Still,
would be nice to have friends in the business nearby.

Do you enjoy working by yourself? 

I’ve found that it’s not so much working by myself that I like it’s
working for myself that really matters to me. I think sometimes
that it would be nice to share studio space with someone … but then
I think about tools growing legs and cigarette smoke and … well, I
begin to wonder if “by myself” and “for myself” aren’t maybe the same
thing after all.

I’m not exactly answering the question behind the questions am I?
Sorry, gotta get back to work. :wink:

Trevor F.
in The City of Light

I gotta know how can anyone sit and be cautious at mounting a
diamond worth $10’s, of thousands of dollars while others in the
same room talking gibberish and triviality, and wasting time…I
would find that almost impossible. I’d love to wear earphones to
block off their “noise”. Concentration on diamond setting on e.g.
Princess stones is hard enough, but to be immersed with “talking
heads” all the time is not conducive to a happy diamond-setter ! ! !

I once worked in such a room like this, and one of my setter friends
actually told this “motor-mouth” fellow to “SHUT UP!” I’m using
politically correct language…(without the adjectives)…;>)

Dear Marlene,

the best way that i refocus is to think about all those people that
have to go to a crappy desk job inside an office with no windows, and
constantly watching the clock. i luckly chose the path that i knew i
would feel comfortable in, and am doing something i love, even though
i dont make to much money at it. if you talk to most people, most of
them want to do exactly what you are doing. i find when i have a
lack of motivation i focus on doing a more perfect job you can always
motivate yourself by doing a better job. or another way is to take
some classes to learn more skills this can rejuvinate your spirit,
your in portland take a class with Kate Wolf.

another way to get motivated is to be overly organized and make more
deadlines for yourself, or my favorite way to be motivated is to
have a couple of kids.

as far as working alone, i cant help you there, i love working by
myself at night when it is quiet, it is relaxing to me.

good luck

Hello Marlene,

 How do you stay motivated to work by yourself with no one to
answer to?  How do you avoid feeling isolated?  Do you enjoy
working by yourself? Suggestions, ideas, thoughts are all

I love working by myself. I am definitely inner directed and have
always been auto-didactic, so this works well for me, but it is
still possible to loose momentum/focus/etc with certain aspects of
work (polishing, labeling, etc) and at such times I find that lists
and schedules help. In consdieration of this, I started making huge
charts of my months (about 30" x 40" each) on white paper, and I
write in big deadlines/timelines in red with general lists of
daily/regular deadlines/ necessities in black. For some reason this

I have also done some collaborative projects, taken classes, etc and
this has been exciting in ways I forgot about and feels like little
vacations somehow. The problem with being solo and having a home
studio (,like I do,) is that sometimes you can work too hard, or not
relegate which time is work time and which is private time. I set
certain days that are %100 ‘time off’.

Some people find that sharing a studio with others really helps
them, they are still self-directed but have outside work related
stimuli around.

Hope that helps

How do you avoid feeling isolated?  

Hello Marlene,

For the first 8 years I was self-employed, work was pretty lonely.
Staying motivated was never my problem, but isolation was a big

An area group was formed to put on an annual studio tour that I got
involved in. Several other similarly isolated artists grabbed on to
the project like drowning sailors clinging to a life raft. The chance
to work together on something was missing from our lives and this
organisation we began gave us the opportunity to do something that
was not just about one’s self. We probably made it into much more
work than it needed to be, but it was such a change to work WITH other
people, not just around them.

Even when you go to shows where there are lots of other people, what
happens in your booth is up to you. Have a great show, win awards,
make lots of money, it’s all about you. Have a bad show, suffer in
bad weather, car breaks down, get robbed, it’s all about you.

It has been years since I have worked alone for more than a few hours
at a time. Even though the chit-chat can be a distraction, staying on
task is a lot easier when several other people are paying attention
to whats going on. I can’t really expect my employees to stick to
their knitting if I am goofing off.

Working alone takes a lot of discipline that many people have trouble
with. It is easy to fool yourself by staying busy in ineffiecent
ways, that you are getting the job done when you might be
procrastinating or letting a blinkered personal muse make stuff no
one else could ever love.

I am really lucky that the people I work with now are very honest and
blunt about what goes on. If they think a design is ugly, they say
so. If craftsmanship is sloppy, I’m busted. So when they like
something I know they mean it. There was a time I had employees who
were suck-ups and yes-men. A good working culture is important for
any organisation - but working alone, the working culture becomes
personal habits and the only checks and balances are the customers
and the bill collectors.

Everyone has different needs and skills. Some people do just
brilliantly alone. But just because you are asking, my take on it is
that you should get involved with some other people in some way.

Stephen Walker

Hello Marlene,

Like many of the other respondents, I also find working alone in my
studio to be quite challenging at times, yet ultimately very

  How do you stay motivated to work by yourself with no one to
answer to? 

It is easier to stay motivated if you are involved in a body of work
beyond just the current item in progress. I am usually working on a
series of pieces, so as each one is being accomplished I am engaged
in an internal dialogue about the other projects in the sequence.
Different segments of the work

allow me to contemplate the details of the items and think about the
pricing and logistics. This helps keeps me focused simply because
there is so much follow up work to be done once the pieces of jewelry
are completed.

A lot of the work I do has quite a bit of planning involved at the
inception, so I know how long it will likely take to achieve a
certain result. Since the body of work itself is so time consuming
and labor intensive in my particular case, it really requires me to
stay organized and focused. I also find that staying in touch
regularly with the galleries by phone and email helps me maintain a
time and spatial connection to the world outside the studio. It keeps
me motivated and it gives me incentive to stay on track with my
schedule and commitments.

Do you enjoy working by yourself? How do you avoid feeling

For the most part I am very content to work by myself. I do enjoy my
solitude and I find it productive to have long uninterrupted periods
of time to work diligently and thoughtfully. Much of the work I do
requires a very quiet and focused environment, so not having anyone
else occupying the same space makes that aspect easier to control. I
think as I get older I have less tolerance for distraction, or maybe
it just takes more cerebral energy to remain concentrated on the task
at hand. Either way, there are benefits to having a solitary space;
no one to interrupt or disorganize the studio, no one else’s mood or
temperament to accommodate or interact with, no one else adjusting
the thermostat or volume up or down.

On the other hand, working alone does have the potential towards
isolation and withdrawal. Isolation can be self imposed as well as
being either geographical or situational. I have experienced all
three at different times in my current studio during 11 years in the
same location. This is one of the reasons that I find correspondence
with my colleagues and friends to be critical in maintaining some
semblance of mental health. Being able to keep in touch with others,
many of whom have similar private studio environments provides
engagement and camaraderie which is motivating and nourishing to the
creative process. Knowing there are others out there whose
experiences are resonant with your own helps to avoid feeling
sequestered. This is one of the principle reasons I am looking
forward to relocating (soon) to an area with much closer proximity to
a population of artists, goldsmiths, and educators.

I find the time away from the studio when I get to meet friends and
colleagues in person especially rewarding and fruitful. Those far too
infrequent occasions when I attend social activities or industry and
trade events are akin to recharging my battery pack. Even more so is
the time I get to spend in the classroom teaching. When I am able to
apply some of my own perspective in an instructional capacity, and
experience the result through the hands and eyes of my students, it
is fulfilling in a way that is very different than the creativity I
experience at my bench. This contributes a great deal to my feeling
of aesthetic satisfaction and artistic accomplishment, and it helps
sustain me during those long sessions of productive solitude back in
the studio.

Michael David Sturlin

      How do you stay motivated to work by yourself with no one to
answer to? 

Marlene, while I no longer work alone in my own studio on a daily
basis, I still do from time to time. Even in my current job during
those rare occasions when I do bench work, I feel isolated. Even when
there are no customers in the store, my coworkers rarely talk to me
as I work. In those times, my sole motivation is to finish what I
started. I simply must, with any task, render a finished product.
Perhaps it is my own form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    Do you enjoy working by yourself? How do you avoid feeling

I enjoy both working alone, and with others. Part of the reason I
don’t feel isolated, I suppose, is because I enjoy my own company
very much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not narcissistic or self-centered
(well, no much, anyway), I’ve just come to grips with the fact that
I like me.

The other reason I don’t feel isolated is because when I work alone,
I accompany myself with my lifelong friend, music. Many were the
times in the early days of my little shop at home when I vowed to
get a CD player to put back there. What I wound up with is an mp3
player. Now, I have hours and hours of my favorite music I’ve ripped
from CDs to listen to. It only takes a few moments to change musical
content, and I have more selections than any formatted radio station
or satellite program to listen to (we have XM at my job, and it can
be as tedious as any radio format). The best part is that it fits in
my pocket and can go anywhere I do.

James in SoFl