Sunday 7 June 2009

Going Back

Lampwork Beads By Laura SparlingThese 'Retro' beads have an apt name. Not only are the colours and designs quite groovy in a retro sense, they also made me go back in time. Not in a time travel kind of way but in a revisiting-beads-gone-by manner.

I've been stressing about my beadmaking lately. A lot. I've had tears, tantrums, strops, moods and at one point - a very low point - I even thought about giving up and packing the lampwork in.

You see, it's tricky being a one-woman business. I don't see anybody, I don't really get face-to-face feedback about my work and sometimes it's very hard to keep myself motivated. Of course, those things are my choice. I'm a bit of a hermit, really. I've always liked my own company and even when I was at school and the teacher would tell us to work in pairs I would always ask if I could work on my own. I think it's the perfectionist streak in me, and possibly a little bit of a control freak too. I could get feedback about my work but I don't do fairs or shows or forums but when it comes down to it, I just don't want to do those things.

This past week has been hard. We're in the midst of this 'credit crunch' (hate that flipping phrase) and I'm aware that people don't have the money to spend on beads like they did a couple of years ago. That made me think 'Hmmm. Should I be making cheaper-to-buy beads?' and I tried that. They sold and everything but to be honest, I hated making them because they weren't the beads that I wanted to be making. I hit on a good idea with the Cupcake beads and I sold over four hundred of those in three months. Excellent and everything but the bottom line was I was breaking my own rule and was, in effect, taking commissions and special orders. It wasn't until I'd finished making them that I realised what a massive amount of pressure I'd put myself under.

I was on the phone to Chris the other night, moaning about beads and how I wanted to give them up and get a 'proper' job and he gave me an excellent piece of advice. (He's good at that - I don't know what I'd do without him!) Chris told me that this weekend I should 'make beads for fun'. I did that on Saturday morning and came up with the Monochrome beads from the last post. Although I felt ten times better while making them I knew that my relationship with lampwork was still on the rocks.

Then last night, I took my knitting upstairs to get a few rows worked before I went to sleep. I'm working on a complex lace pattern at the moment and I need peace and quiet (no television to distract my eyes) or I muck it up. (If I have to rip back any more stitches I swear I will just throw the project in the bin!) So I snuggled down with my knitting and put my iPod on. I recently discovered Brenda Dayne's
'Cast On' podcast and it is amazing - knitting stuff, cool tunes and Radio 4 type articles all rolled into one. Last night I was listening to Episode 72 and one part of it really hit home. Brenda was saying how she almost gave up podcasting at the end of last year because she wasn't really enjoying it anymore. She said so many things that struck chords with me. Brenda was talking about feedback and comments that people left on her blog about her podcast and how most of the comments were great, positive and really lovely. But it was the very few negative comments that really stuck in her head. She also said that she found that she was making the podcast more for her audience than she was for herself. She'd fallen into the trap of giving people what she thought they wanted as opposed to what she wanted to give them.

And I stopped knitting and I thought 'I've done the exact same thing.'

People send me the loveliest emails about my work. All you fab blog readers leave me excellent comments. And I love that. But I realised that about two years ago I let one person's 'constructive criticism' about my work really get to me. Those beads up there at the top of the post are my most favourite type of beads to make. They relax me. Each one takes me almost half an hour to complete but I get totally absorbed in the whole process of making them. It's the rhythmic, equal placing of the dots, the smooth application of the stringer, the slow melting-in of the dots. I love the whole process of it. They're real in-the-zone beads. But someone once said that they were too 'fussy' and all that intricate detail restricted them too much as a jewellery designer when it came to incorporating them into jewellery. That's a totally reasonable observation and one person's opinion but heck, it got to me something chronic and from that day on I felt I shouldn't make that type of bead anymore. The same thing happened when a couple of people said they didn't like raised bumps on beads. I went through a long phase of doing sans-bumpy-bit beads even though I loved to make textured beads. And a couple of people suggested I make more flatter beads and less round ones.

While I was listening to Brenda last night it dawned on me that for the last couple of years I've completely discounted all the super-positive feedback and instead let about five 'negative' comments influence what beads I create. I realised that I'd lost my way. I was making what I thought other people wanted me to make rather than making the beads that I wanted to make.

This morning I woke up and I thought about the podcast and I remembered what Chris had said about making beads for fun.

That's what I did today.

I picked out my 'Chris Colours', pulled a load of stringer and made my favourite beads.

And for the first time in absolutely ages I got into that happy bead place.

And it was ace!

I can't give up the beadmaking. Beads are part of who I am. For a while I just kind of forgot how well beads and I work together. I just have to make what I want to make. It's that simple. It may sound selfish, I know, but I like those 'fussy' designs and the roundness of round beads. Beads want to be round - it's science. Turning molten glass will pull itself into a ball. Complex dots and lines are what I do. They're my thing.

While I'm being all sentimental I'm just going to take this moment to say a heartfelt 'thank you' to all my customers and blog readers. Without customers I wouldn't have a business and without blog readers I'd have even less people to talk to! Your support means a heck of a lot to me. And thank you too for reading this far and for hanging in there recently while I went off the beadmaking rails. I know that a lot of you knew something was wrong and so did I. Now I've figured out exactly what the problem is I can sort it out.

How am I going to do that?

I'm going back.

Back to my beloved dots and and lines.
Back to making beads for fun.
Back to Beads By Laura.


  1. Laura, I'm soooo soooo pleased to see that you're making the beads you want to make again - and what absolutely gorgeous ones at that! Each one is a work of art and remember that you're a bead ARTIST & in the same way that a painter shouldn't have to compromise their style neither should you. If someone wants a different style of beads they can buy them elsewhere but your beads have part of you in them & that's what makes them so special & that's why we want to own them (talking of which, I got there too late again tonight!!).
    400 cupcake beads - no wonder it was tough for you for a while!
    Well done to Chris & Brenda Daynes for helping you find your way back - I can't imagine the world of beads without you & your beads in it. Never underestimate yourself or your skills as a bead artist & teacher.
    After my one day spent with you losing myself in making each bead, I can really understand why you wanted to get back to that wonderful feeling.
    Love as always
    Kay, So'ton xx

  2. Ahhh...Laura, I'm SOOOO glad to see you making beads YOU like again. Chris is a very wise man. I'm glad you have a smart person like that to get you back on track. I really think beads that are "you" are the reason you sell so well and you have such an identifiable style. I'm really glad you don't have to give up lampworking. Your perfection makes me strive to be the best I can. And I find you constantly inspiring. You're one of my "must-read" blogs whenever you post.

    Lori Greenberg went through a phase a few months back where she was trying to make "what people like" to accommodate the economy, but she went back to her "signature style" in the end. I think we all go through that.

    I do know what it's like to have THE ONE NEGATIVE COMMENT stick in your head like super glue. And the positive feedback roll off your back like a duck. Sometimes it helps me. Sometimes, it's just another person's opinion and that's fine for them to have an opinion and fine for you to have your opinion. So much easier to say than to do...the things I remember from growing up are the "constructive criticism." I'm going through a different version of that as I adapat to a new culture. As I get older, I'm working hard to allow people to have their opinions and realize that I can respect their feelings AND STILL HAVE MY OWN and it's okay.

    I'm still trying to find "my voice" in glass. I think I hit on something recently that may have some potential. It's a combination of working with a monthly theme and a custom request that is getting me to a point where I think I have something unique. I don't know yet. I'll have to look around other blogs to make ure. But, the ones I read so far, I haven't seen what I'm, I'm hoping...All that mumbling about me is that YOU have found your voice and glass and you should continue to embrace that. I'm inspired by that. You're one of my inspiration touchstones.

    Anyway...I'm really glad you're back. Happy creating!

  3. That's the trouble when you work on your own, these things gnaw away at you and it is soo detrimental. I'm so glad you have come full circle and gone back to creating what you love - it really shows. Credit crunch (totally agree, stupid stupid phrase) or no, I think you will always find someone out there willing to pay for these little spheres of beauty - no need to compromise your art! I couldn't sit there day after day and paint chocolate-boxy pictures just because they sell, I'd go insane from the sheer boredom & lack of creativity - it's the same for any form of creativeness. 400 cupcakes......blimey O'Riley, you must have been climbing the walls!!

  4. Laura, I've missed your gorgeous beads. You have a talent, you make the most desirable beads and I truely believe you inspire other beadmakers. Your beads are easily recognisable and that says something very powerful. I'm so pleased you have found the road back to your creativity.
    Pam x

  5. These are sooo amazing, WELCOME BACK. We have all missed you and these amazing beads. Your post bought tears to my eyes, it is all well and good saying let negative feedback roll over you, but it is so hard. Chris is indeed a wise man, but you are a wiser woman for seeing yourself what make you unique xxxxxxxxxx

  6. Dear Laura
    What a huge post!!!!
    I'm really glad to see you're back in track!!
    You're beautiful beads always stand out in a crowd and that's because you're a wonderful artist and you love what you do!
    This credit crunch stuff has made us all wonder about our work and income, but one must find a different strattegie for sales other than making something you're getting bored with (althought your cupcakes were different from all others, 400 is quite an army!!!).
    I only got to the computer this morning, had a really busy weekend, and found your new beauties, sold of course!, the ones I so much love, in black and white and in retro colours! I'm glad to have you back! They're just too beautiful!
    So Laura hang in there, stick to what you believe in and while you're at it, stick on to Chris too, he really knows you !! He's a keeper!

  7. You have a great guy there Laura, i'm like you sometimes i think everything i make is rubbish , but my lovely hubby tells me it's lovely and i should believe in myself, I have to say that i love these beads, the colours are pattern are fab, bold patterns are in at the mo, not everyone is the same if we all like the same things the world would be a boring place, just you make what you want, go girl, love Eve x

  8. Laura, when I first saw lampwork beads I came across you're blog, and if I'm honest your blog is the one I always read every post!
    I have always been a strong believer in doing things to make yourself happy... especially with art! So glad you have realized that bead making should be fun!!! I absolutly love sitting behind my torch!!! Can't wait to see all the new lovely "fun" beads you make!!!!! Good Luck xxx

  9. Laura - thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts to the rest of us. I was at a really low point and then Andrew Thornton left a nice message on my blog. The art community is really supportive for the most part. The economy is downright discouraging and may be for the next ten years -- if you believe the journalists. I decided to use this time to play more. Please check out my new beads on my blog. This is the result of free expression in the studio and the results are sooo encouraging. As far as people's comments about your work -- some people don't know when to keep their mouths shut. If someone ever says to you that your work is too intricate and blah, blah, blah, just tell then that you were in WalMart the other day and saw something that you think they would love! Get going in that studio, do not allow a few negative comments to deprive the rest of us of your gorgeous work.

  10. Well that really strikes a chord with me Laura. I have been making lower priced pieces myself recently as that is what sells but I keep muttering away to my husband that I really want to be making the bigger more intricate pieces but they end up so expensive. Two weeks ago I sold one of my favourite and best pieces and the couple who bought it loved it so much that it really gave me a boost. Your comments are just the extra push I need to get on with more high end work.

    I love these beads. I love the "Laura" style and totally understand the getting completely lost in making them bit having spent a day with you (so lost in them I did not even realise I had sound effects with my dots!! :) )

    I have looked at loads of lampwork sites where people do stringers and dots and in my view you really are in a class of your own. Your precision is just excellent. Can't wait to see what you come up with next.

    Joy x

  11. Laura, some of us have come to admire your work more recently. So I am intrigued to see the more intricate designs that you used to make.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it is a lesson to all artists about their motivation to do what they do. Follow your heart!
    Happy beading...Liz.x

  12. Life is far too short; if you possibly can, you must be happy in what you do even if you're not making that much money. I ditched a very profitable customer who has spent hundreds of pounds with me only very recently because she kept dictating what I was doing with my jewellery with her commissions. The relief was inifinite!

    I have missed your more complicated beads - I can do the easy peasy ones myself!

    Like you, I'm working on my own a lot of the time and I always say if I didn't had my day selling on Saturdays, I would turn into a complete hermit. I talk and talk on a Saturday because it's rare I get the opportunity! But even then, face to face feedback can be brutal. I've been hurt on more than one occasion by a thoughtless comment - it's very difficult not to take them to heart - especially when you're a bit uncertain and not at your best.

    What a great man you've got there, hang on to him!

  13. As an aspiring lampworker I follow your blog daily, and I love your beads! I am glad that you are getting back to what you love...that's what it is all about. By the way...I LOVE to incorporate "bumpy" beads and "fussy" beads into my jewelry creations. To me it is all about showcasing gorgeous beads.

  14. Hey Laura girl, I could have written this post, I have said it many times, when I do special orders I go nuts, when I make what others want me to make I get sad and slow, but when I make what I love then I am all good & life is to the beat of your own drum & you will never go wrong...
    So glad to see you in the space you are the most happy the yummy beads as always...
    much love...

  15. Oh my goodness me!

    Thank you all SO much for taking the time to leave such wonderful, thoughtful comments. It's so nice to know that you all the love the beads that I love.

    And fellow beadmakers who have posted - I'm glad you understand too. I did wonder if I was being a bit of a bead diva, but you've assured me that I'm not.

    And thank you too to everyone who has sent me emails about this blog post.

    I'm smiling! And all your kind words have made me quite tearful in a lump-in-the-throat kind of way

    You're all fabulous and I'm giving you all a virtual eHug! *Mwah!*

    Laura xxx

  16. Well it's about bloomin' time you woke up Laura!(this is me, trying to do "tough love"!) I told you so! At least, I think I did in that blog entry months ago when you said you were making more affordable beads. And if I didn't actually post any comments, at least I was screaming them in my head! Making things to please the taste of your customers only (I speak as a jewellery maker) can eat into your very soul. It has never worked for me, the pieces would just not sell. If your heart and soul is not in what you make, your customers can sense it.

    So I'm glad you've gone back to what you enjoy. The thought of you giving up beadmaking is unthinkable!

    As for the lady with the constructive criticism, I can see where she's coming from. Perhaps the comments were not directed at you but at her own limitations in using these beads. I'm not being mean, I truly believe that sometimes in leaving comments like these, we are talking out loud, trying to explain our creative process. Surely, you must know that for every person who can not use a particular design there are other three who can.

    There are styles of beads that you (or others) make that I cannot use. So I either let them go, or buy them and keep them for the day when my skills will allow me to make them up.

    So toughen up Laura! Your beads are brilliant (Personally I'm an absolute wimp when it comes to receiving any comments about my work).

    Rant over!

  17. Yay BBL is back, and so is LS I see !!!

  18. Hiya,

    I hope you never stop making your wonderful beads, the ones you want to make. Glad you got your mojo back :)

    Its difficult sometimes not to let one negative comment colour your whole view of who you are and what you do, like a drop of ink in a huge bucket of water. As other people have said, its just their opinion, and reflects their personal choice.

    Think of all the people who buy your beads, and love them just as they are :)


  19. Wow! See how much you're loved?!

    Keep the Faith! Ha!

    J x

  20. Those are great beads!

    And I agree about working alone. Sometimes it's hard to know if you've still GOT it. That's why I like doing shows -- they validate me.

  21. Lovely, fabulous beads! They really seem to ripple and flow. Glad to hear you've got your flow back, too!

  22. Laura, that really struck a chord and I understand completely what you mean about working alone, without feedback and then letting some really quite small negative comment grow into something it shouldn't be, forgetting about all the lovely positive comments people making which should really easily outweigh it. Thank you for putting it all into words so clearly. I used to really love doing cloisonne enamelling but haven't done any for ages as it is so difficult to sell, such an intricate process always makes the work seem expensive - and I am always able to convince myself I am not in that kind of market :)

    Thanks for being such an inspiration and your beads are so beautifully controlled and intricate, which is the very thing I love about them x

  23. Your beads are the best I have seen, I cherish your cupcakes :)

    Please, please carry on in your inimitable style - the majority of your customers seem to want you to!

    You must make the beads that YOU like or it is a chore and not a pleasure, and that is not a good path to follow.

  24. Hi Laura
    It was fascinating reading your blog and the way you are looking to the future. You have a tremendous talent, with an eye for design and detail and it will be fantastic to see the beads that you'll be making. Like any artist, anyone buying your work does not just pay for the end product but for all the work that you put into them and I am so looking forward to seeing the beads by Laura that are truly BEADS BY LAURA, FOR LAURA.

  25. Wow Laura! I bought one of your fabulous cupcake beads and now that you have done with that I shall value it even more.
    You made your name by making beads your way. I would say that the 5 people who criticed your designs should have gone looking for designers making the beads that suited their style of jewellery. Not expect you to change your style, for goodness sake there is a big world out there....
    I make jewellery from other peoples beads, very simple stuff, and I buy the beads I like. One day I will be quick enough to buy a set of yours!! Keep going sunshine, we think you are great. x

  26. Laura, I love your "Laura" beads. They are not too fussy, and just lovely.
    Your post struck a chord with me as well as I have been designing jewelry that others have told me I need to make instead of what I like. Thanks for being so open about your struggle. I will certainly be mulling this around for the next few days. Keep on making your lovely beads and only listen to what your heart tells you.

  27. First, that was really wrong for the woman to say to you -- if she didn't like the beads you offered, then go somewhere else and don't stomp on someone else's work! And maybe she should think -- was it really your beads that "stifled" her, or was she just not thinking creatively?

    Second, I agree about finding yourself creating for an audience. I've done that and I hate it. My jewelry starts to look dull and boring and people don't buy it! They're used to the other, the things I love to make. The things I love to make do cost more, but I've found that there are people who WILL buy what they love. THAT is my target market, and I now do my best to make what I love.

    You do wonderfully, and the beads I have from you will very likely never be put into a piece for sale, because I can't give them up. They're pieces of art, and I like art!

    I'm so glad you wrote this post. Hugs all around!

  28. your post brought tears to my eyes Laura, but I'm so happy you've come out the other end. Artistic wobbles are never nice. You follow your instincts and your heart. Your work is amazing and I regulary check your beads and blog just to encourage myself to try to make beads which some day might look like yours (I wish!)



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