Friday, September 24, 2010

Private School -- The Story Continues

First, I want to thank all of you SO. VERY. MUCH. for all your stories and suggestions and advice.  I've taken them all to heart and have talked to my husband about them and thought long and hard about things.

Earlier in the week, Rick and I had our school visit and interview, and we were enchanted by the school.  We got to see the classroom Zack would be in, and a girl that Zack went to preschool with would be in the same class.  They were good friends so that's such a great bonus.  We also got his class schedule, and it's got so much more emphasis on art and music and computer skills than he's getting now, plus ample time for recess to blow the cobwebs out.

Yesterday was Zack's assessment tests and tour, and when I picked him up, I asked him what HIS thoughts were.  He loved it and was ready to go.

Today we got the call -- he's in.

So, Tuesday he starts.  I feel like I'm in a whirlwind!

Time will tell if this is truly the right decision, but my gut tells me it is. The class size is small, the headmaster is visible and hands-on, and the opportunities and teaching methods are up Zack's alley. 

All anyone wants for the children is the best they can give them -- of themselves, and of the world.  I know I'm already giving Zack the best of me.  Now I hope I'm giving him the best schooling opportunity.  Who knows where this will take him?

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Clarification

I wanted to make a clarification to this post.

When I said my time would be crunched -- I didn't mean my time with Zack.  Right now, I don't make any jewelry when he's home, unless it's jewelry we make together (and he does have an eye for color!).  My first job is being a mom.

What I meant was my time to make jewelry while my son was at school would be crunched.  And my point to that was making jewelry was what would make the money to pay for his schooling, and it was a Catch-22.  I didn't mean I was upset that MY time alone or my time for working was shortened.  Not at all.

I mean, look at this face.  Who wouldn't want to play endless games of UNO with him instead of making jewelry?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A New Focus -- Jewelry, Education, and Finding a Balance

(This is long, so grab a coffee -- I'd love and appreciate your feedback at the end.)

Recent events in our lives here at home have made me take a good long look at my job as a jewelry designer.  How I operate my business, what hours I keep, even how I market my jewelry has all now come under scrutiny.

Being a jewelry designer is my full-time job.  Until now, though, the money that I've made has either been put back into the business or used to finance the extras in our household, like remodeling jobs and new appliances.  It's paid for my lampwork studio, workshops, and bead buying trips.  In other words, I haven't had too much stress over my bottom line.

my booth at an outdoor show
Now, however, things have changed.

My son, Zachary, is seven and just entered 2nd grade at our public school.  He's so smart -- and that's not just a proud mama talking.  Last year he was blessed with an amazing teacher who had a wonderful way of teaching, and the children learned about science and math using hands-on methods, and their reading levels were pushed to where Zack left 1st grade reading at an end-of-2nd-grade/beginning-of-3rd-grade level. 

Over the summer, his reading really sky-rocketed and we kept a summer reading list.  The kidlet read 21 chapter books (some were pretty big hardbacks, and many he read twice so he actually read more) and we worked on worksheets from a Summer Bridge Program I bought.  We've had him in museums since he was two, so he's naturally curious (his own word to describe himself) and he's just a sponge, ready to learn.

Zack, on the left, at Eco Camp
Now that he's entered 2nd grade, though, I've realized that what I saw in 1st grade was the drastic jump from the fun-and-play days of Kindergarten to the settle-down-to-business of 1st grade.  I also realized that teachers are only allowed to do what they're allowed to do.

Zack's 2nd grade teacher is a sweet, caring woman who has been nothing but kind.  Her communication with me has been exemplary.  I have no problems there whatsoever.  My problem is with the public school's education. 

To say that Zack is bored would be an understatement.  Part of Zack's "homework" (I put that in quotes because, well, if you saw the homework.....) is to read a book of his choice for 15 minutes each day.  I have to MAKE Zack turn out his bedroom light after he's been reading for two hours.

Zack at two and a half
Since Zack was in preschool, Rick and I have tossed around the idea of putting Zack in private school.  We were really, really torn.  We didn't have the first clue what to do.  We had friends who had children in all three schools -- the public school, the private but affordable Catholic school, and the expensive private school.  We finally decided to put him in public school because we figured Kindergarten was Kindergarten pretty much wherever you went.

But now, after loooong conversations and agonies between the choices (I even considered home schooling, something I *never* thought I'd be able to do), I made a phone call to the expensive private school.  My thought was to apply for 3rd grade.

Oh wait, the admissions office said.  We have one slot left for this year's 2nd grade.

And I took that as a sign.

So here we are, waiting for our first interview on Tuesday, with a child who is over the moon about the prospect of changing schools.  And herein lies the reason for the title, "A New Focus".

I will be the one paying the tuition.

At first blush, this is totally doable.  The timing is great, because I have four large craft shows coming up, and along with holiday web site sales, they will more than cover the cost.  But then the tuition bill comes around again in the spring, and there is only one show on the books for the spring, and that will in NO way cover the cost.

So for the past few nights, I've lain in bed rethinking how to run my business.  How to manage cash flow.  Where my customers are currently coming from, and where to gain new customers.  How many classes I can afford to take.  How many beads I can afford to buy.

Fortunately, I contracted with a web development company to make me a new web site (which I'm told will launch next week after we test the credit card processing unit), and this includes a new logo, so I'm primed for rebranding.  Included in the package was a ton of different sized logos, letterhead, postcards, and internet ads, along with a healthy course on SEO.  

I've also been pushing myself creatively with my Cup of Bead Soup project, and I've decided that while I'm not ditching my tried-and-true style, slowly adding in my new style might garner new customers.  Actually, this is already happening, as six pieces have already sold when I've posted them on Pretty Things and on Facebook.  I don't think my new designs are that off-base from what I normally make, so I'm hoping they'll blend nicely.

necklace I made with ceramic by Spirited Earth
I may also have to apply to more craft shows.  This year was my "Artist's Year Off" because I drastically reduced the number of shows I participated in.  I don't know if I have that luxury anymore.  On the other hand, I don't know if my health issues will allow me to take on more shows, particularly if they're outdoors.  So I'm researching galleries, online venues, and wholesale opportunities.

The other thing that will change will be the crunch on my time.  The new school expects a certain amount of volunteer time, attendance of functions, serving on committees -- much more than what I'm used to.  I volunteered at the public school and I also volunteer at the humane society, but this is an entirely new level and type of volunteering.

This means I'll have less time at the torch, less time to make jewelry, less time to upload jewelry to my web site, and less time to do paperwork.  It's a Catch-22 -- a vicious circle because in order to pay for the school, I have to make the jewelry.

bracelet in my normal style made with my own lampwork beads
Ultimately, though, it's about my son.  I entered this business when my son was nearly a year old, getting hooked on beading when I was still pregnant with him.  I knew that this business would be what would eventually pay for his college, so I guess I'm just starting early.

I have a business plan, but it's going to have to change.  My advertising plan, for instance, will TOTALLY change.  My budget will also change.  But my main goals will stay the same -- make pretty things that last while being a hands on mom.

Zack at six months.  Photo by Jen Fariello

If you've lasted this long, I'd love to know if you've faced this sort of dilemma, and how you've made changes in your life to accommodate your craft.  How did you handle the added hours, or the change to your schedule?  Did it change how you looked at what you do?

Thanks, treasured readers, for listening.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Spy With My Bead-y Eye

I have a new post up on Art Bead Scene about finding inspiration in patterns around us.

Click here to read it!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wire Work is Hard Work

Something I've discovered about the wire work that I've admired -- man is it ever hard work.

Not only that, but it takes a ton of time. Which brings me to the question of how much do I pay myself and how much do I charge for my jewelry?

Wire work seems to look the best after it's been put in liver of sulfur to turn it black, then buffed so it shows depth.  I've discovered a sincere hatred for steel wool, as it shreds and sticks in the wire and makes a hella mess.  Thankfully, I've discovered a substitute.  When I took a class with Tracy Stanley at BeadFest, she introduced me to Pro Polishing Pads and I've never looked back.  That's saved me some time, but it still takes extra effort that my stringing doesn't require.

Over the summer I've been experimenting a little bit -- and I say a little bit because as I said, this stuff takes time and will end up costing more than my normal work.  The challenge for me will be educating my customers as to why.  Hopefully, they'll be able to just look at it and see -- hold the piece and fall in love.  I haven't strayed from my love of lampwork, so the jewelry isn't too far off track, and I think that's key to adding in new work.

I'm not sure why I'm worried, because I also make chain maille jewelry, and it's priced a bit more than my lampwork jewelry, and yet it sells.  I suppose I should remember that there is indeed a person out there for each piece of jewelry.

Will I keep making wire jewelry?  Yes.  But I'll pace myself.  I haven't had a show since March, and my new web site hasn't launched yet, so I don't know how these pieces will be received.  I know *I* like them -- but will they?  And if they like them, will they want to pay a little more for them?

Either way, I've tried something new, and that's all that matters in the grand scheme of things.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.