Basically, I woke up one morning in 2018 and decided that I’m not doing jewelry anymore. After launching an Etsy shop in 2013, and becoming an LLC in 2016, one January morning in 2018, I decided that I just didn’t feel like it anymore.
It’s crazy, but also reassuring, how things change.
I’m writing this to address the questions that I assume are coming. And to address the feeling I’m having. And any possible confusion, on your part or on mine.
I think a little of backstory is going to be important for this… As I was reviewing 2017, to start planning for 2018, I uncovered a few truths about myself.
TRUTH ONE. I am good at doing things once. Whether it’s taking an exam for my professional career, or building a new brand around an idea for a blog I had, or spending one month making something new every day. Doing things, no matter the size, just once, is easy for me. The flip side of that is, that doing things, no matter the size, consistently, is incredibly difficult. Studying daily for that exam, writing consistently for that new blog, making something new every month. That’s the stuff that trips me up.
TRUTH TWO. When I look 3-5 years down the road, I want to be traveling more. I want to live with less, and spend more time exploring the country. Jewelry, in the early draft of that goal, was going to be the vehicle in which I could afford to travel. The progression looked like this. Make jewelry > grown jewelry business to support yourself > take jewelry on the road > live in an RV while you traverse the country. But after talking with my boss at work, I learned that I wouldn’t need to quit to travel like I wanted to. So now I didn’t need jewelry to support my travels. And being realistic with myself, I didn’t need to wait to take a year off, I could start sooner, with something smaller like a van rather than an rv, and go on long weekend trips instead of taking months and months off work. Making that goal more attainable, made me reevaluate everything else I was holding to be true.
TRUTH THREE. I want the freedom to evolve. I wanted to grow, to learn, to experience more this year, and every year after. I like putting my head down and getting things done, but I also love changing my mind. I love reinventing myself. I love adding things to myself. I love the thought of becoming more. I spent 2017 wanting to do more, but having to do jewelry instead. This year, I don’t want to hold back.
When I laid out all that I wanted to do in 2018. Get in shape, read more, travel more, draw more, drink rum, get licensed, further my career, get married. All of that conflicted with the time and effort I would have to spend on jewelry. If I had to keep up the business, if I had to release new jewelry every month, if I had to attend an art market every other month, if I had to take product photos and stage photo shoots, if I had to post to instagram and write newsletters. I was left with “had to” conflicting with “want to”. I had to only look back at myself, and my motto, to know what I needed to do.
I do what I want.
You can borrow that by the way. And if you ever want my advice on anything, it will almost always be that.
Ok, so now we are up to speed on my thought process behind this seemingly huge switch, going from a jewelry designer to a lifestyle blogger. Going from someone with one purpose, to someone who finally embraces and all her passions.
I spent less than a week talking it over with my friend before deciding to just make the switch. I decided to fully embrace my instagram handle and be more than just jewelry.
What you see now is a more word-friendly site. Something more focused on the blog side, rather than the shop side. The jewelry will still be there and the shop will still be open, but I don’t know when I will be making any more jewelry.
Right now I’m letting myself drift from hobby to hobby. I don’t have a posting schedule or any real plans.
I’m doing what I want, and you are invited to come along.
225 Magazine based here in Baton Rouge interviewed me and took some photos of my studio for a feature in their September 2017 issue!
Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
While most people don’t give [concrete] a first thought, much less a second, she studies it. […] Baton Rouge makers craft jewelry out of leather, metal, wood and even oyster shells. But Rusbar may be the first to have turned concrete into a style statement. To her, concrete has everything she wants for making jewelry: beauty, complexity and ubiquity.
“It’s the perfect shade of gray. It’s fantastic,” she says, gushing about the material. […] “There’s a lot of character involved in it, if you look at it.”
She starts with a sketchbook, drawing out design concepts and shapes for her jewelry. Once she has an idea, she doesn’t cast a mold. Instead, she takes copper tubing and hammers the material into shape piece by piece—this way, no shape is ever perfect, and each one is different from the other. The last step is pouring in the concrete mixture. To her, the individualized production method offers concrete the extra texture it deserves.
Every day during June 2017, I challenged myself to make a new, one of a kind, piece of jewelry. I shared my process on my instagram, but I also wanted to track how I was feeling during it all, so below is a quick recap of the day’s work and my thoughts. All designs will be available in the shop after the challenge. Posts are updated with the final product photo.
First, a little bit of backstory
At the beginning of the year, I planned out my first 6 months, and gave myself themes for each month. I decided June would be about “defying norms,” and it was all about doing things differently. Thinking about my business in a different way, and seeing what happens. Then in April I decided to pivot and focus 100% on my jewelry, where before I was splitting my time between 2 digital goods (because it’s hard to get off the passive income bandwagon).
I decided to double down again on jewelry. It’s were my real passion is. It’s the reason I quit making home decor. It’s what I want to be known for. But in trying to meet some imaginary revenue number, I was focusing on the “easy” digital stuff (even though it’s totally NOT easy). I ignored the fun creative stuff.
So, to get back to my roots in a big way, I decided to spend June focusing on making things. Making new things. Making a lot of new things.
I’m lumping all my pre-making into a single day, but this is the stuff I worked on the weeks leading up to the challenge.
Usually when I’m working on jewelry, I sketch out a series of designs that are a family of sorts. The sketches come first, and they don’t get their names until I’m done. The name usually comes to me sometime when I’m polishing them or photographing them. But it’s usually pretty effortless.
For the challenge I’m doing it backwards. My first step was to come up with a series of names or concepts, and that would guide my designs.
I did it this way for a few reasons: It let me think of all the names ahead of time and tailor my sketches to that word. Plus, I wanted an opportunity to engage with people. Doing it this way, allows someone to suggest a word, and if I like it, I can work it in. The opportunity for engagement is so important for me. I want to interact with my followers in a deep way, and show them how I work.
I brainstormed my concepts and tentatively scheduled them for the month.
Then I started sketching out ideas for the first 2 weeks or so, so I wouldn’t have to worry about being “inspired” to work every day, and so I had a rough game-plan moving through the first few days of the challenge.
Then I got to work!
Day 1: ALTER
The idea for the Alter necklace came from the meaning for the word “alter/altar”. It started as a straight forward and literal depiction of a table or surface. It then morphed into a perspective on a table. It ended with an altered view on a cube, and became an experiment on depth and using my materials in new ways.
Day 2: BEYOND
The Beyond necklace’s inspiration was a shooting star, and all the things beyond this earth and beyond our knowledge. I got pretty abstract with it, and to me it’s become a symbol of all the knowledge we seek. I also got to experiment with using my drill to make holes in the copper to string it on, rather than adding a wire loop that would muddy the straight forward design.
Day 3: CHANCE
Chance was pretty simple. The idea of a coin, and a 50/50 chance to make a change. It led to a simple circle, cut in half. I also used my drill to add holes in the copper, which makes this design super clean and a bit more sculptural. I can’t wait to see how elegant this one turns out!
Day 4: DEFY
Defy actually took me a while to get my thoughts in order. My original sketch for defy was an X with some square wire in a simple round frame. I didn’t love it, but it was abstract, and I’m big on abstract.
Outside of this challenge, I had an idea floating around for a “wire drawing” of a fist, set in a simple frame. It wasn’t until I sat down to make this piece that I realized I really disliked the design I had for the X.
Defy is one of my words for 2017, it means a lot to me, and I didn’t want it being a negative design.
It took me a while to work through the geometry and get it translated into square wire, but I think the result is simple, elegant, and powerful.
I’m going to keep this one for myself, so it won’t be in the shop with the others, but I’ve already had a lot of interest in it, so after the challenge I’ll probably sit down and make more.
Maybe I’ll offer it all year. I’m not sure yet. But it could be interesting having a 2017 design that’s available all year. 95% of my stuff is one of a kind, but having one design connect all of 2017 is pretty exciting. Stay tuned to find out what I do.
Day 5: EXPAND
Another one of my words for 2017. The concept behind the Expand necklace is to push your boundaries and expand your community. It’s all about moving out of your comfort zone. I wanted to make this one a little more dramatic than usual, so I was playing around with sizes, and I think it came out perfectly! There is a lot of copper in this one, which helps make it extra flashy. It took a lot longer than usual to solder everything together. I think I was having problems with everything being flush, but it worked in the end. This one is similar to 2 and 3 in that there are holes in the copper for the leather string, making it a very clean final design.
DAy 6: forge
Ok, ok, the last 3 designs were inspired by my words for 2017. Forge is about transforming yourself, creating something different, and change. This shape was inspired by a set of twisted earrings I made myself earlier this year. For the necklace it became something simple and elegant, with extra textured copper that grabs the light. It’s a long pedant, 3 inches total, and I’m so excited to see how it hangs on a long leather cord.
day 7: grow
Originally inspired by a leaf, I took an abstract turn, as I usually do. Grow is about planting roots and reaching for more. It’s about digging in, doing the work, and the slow burn. It might take you years to get there, but once you do, you’ll stand for ages.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as close as I had to my original sketch. I surprised myself with this one. It’s elegant and balanced. Another one I can’t wait to finish.
day 8: Home
Inspired by the front door on my childhood house: home is a feeling of familiarity and safety. Starting out with an abstraction, this pendant became an experiment in using copper in 3 dimensions and adding texture.
day 9: idol
I had just done a twisted piece for day 6, but I was really interested in the hammered finish and wanted to play around with it more. This was a total experiment and ended up nothing like my sketches. Also, I had to actually do this on day 10. I went home for my dad’s birthday and didn’t make it back in time to get to the studio.
day 10: journey
This is how I expected most of this challenge pieces to go: A simple frame shape with some wire decoration. I’m glad that didn’t pan out because it would be so boring! Fitting that the Journey necklace is where I realize that my projected path for the challenge has changed. This whole year has been a Journey in finding paths that aren’t right. It’s exciting to just keep experimenting!
Day 11: Keep
I had no idea what was going to happen with this one. My original designs were all over the place and I couldn’t decide what “keep” should stand for. I guess the wedding I was at this weekend was still in my mind, because the final design ended up being a pretty convincing cross/religious symbol, which was unintentional, but now I can’t un-see it… I guess is stands for “keep loving”.
day 12: link
I wanted to see if I could make a big dramatic chain. Turns out I can, but it’s a pain in the ass. The proportions are not what I had in mind, but I don’t hate it… I’m going to polish it some more and see if that helps. The chain just looks so busy, and I’d like to smooth out more of the tool marks on the links. I’m extremely happy that so many of these challenge designs are complete experiments!
Day 13: Moment
This was an experiment to see if I could bend the copper tube I use before I hammered it flat, to get a flat shape. Turns out I can! But this is about as small as I can make it, in terms of circumference. I really liked the original sketch, and the final didn’t turn out exactly how I pictured. My biggest “error” was that I textured the ring before I attached the frame, so a lot of solder seeped out through the sides and I doubt I’ll be able to get it all off. I might add more solder to at least make it look intentional… I do like how the two metal colors play together, I just didn’t plan it.
The overall design was inspired by one big moment that radiates out through time, and through the rest of your life. Or maybe one small moment that you didn’t realize at the time, that would turn out to be a big moment.
** After the challenge was over, I re-attempted this design. It came out way better and I’m so much happier with it. **
Day 14: Nonsense
I HAVE NEVER LOVED ANYTHING MORE THAN THIS! It’s playful, it’s fun, it’s got personality, and I just adore it! I am definitely going to make more of these after the challenge is over (and might keep this one for myself)! Besides having over a foot of copper in the frame, this one was a joy to make! The pieces just fell together, and it was surprisingly quick and rewarding soldering it all. I just want to hooold it! Once I fill it with concrete, it’s going to have the most perfect weight to it too. EEEeeeeee!
Design inspired by a scribble. Simple nonsense. The stuff our lives are filled with.
Day 15: OPen
A simple over-sized reminder to bring goodness into your life. Conceptually, it’s about being open to new ideas, new opportunities, and new adventures (even if they don’t look like adventures at the start).
I’ve been making bigger and bigger things lately. This one will have so much concrete texture, I won’t be able to stand it! It was a pretty simple design/build. It’s kind of funny how day 14 and day 15 ended up being so perfectly opposite.
Day 16: Prowl
This just feels like a slinky, sneaky, design. I think of like, a panther on the prowl late at night. This is the first design I’ve ever done where I left a piece of tube un-smashed. (top center) I make all my frames with copper tube I hammer flat then form into shapes. I like hammering it because the edges are slightly irregular and I think it gives it a better, more imperfect feel. I’m going to wrap leather around this one to hang it, but I’ve never done it, so let’s see how it turns out!
Day 17: Queue
This has become one of my favorites so far! It’s so much copper! I really wanted to make a long pendant. It will have just a bit of concrete at the bottom, and it will add a perfect weight to the piece. I just think this one is graceful and I like it, not much else to say about it.
Day 18: Remind
Based around the times when your mind is wondering and you hear a certain word, and it sets you on a mental tangent and you end up back at a random specific memory. Weird things can put you on a mental journey, and this is a reminder of those reminders.
I’m very into twisting lately. I like the depth it adds to a piece, and the extra shine! I’m glad i went with the larger circle in the middle, it has an appropriate balance to it.
day 19: Stand
Went into the studio with no real sketches in my notebook for today. Stand is such a powerful idea. Stand in the way. Stand up for what you want. Stand even when you stand alone. And I didn’t have any sketches for that kind of power. I flipped through my notebook and found this one hanging around, so I figure I would give it a shot.
Yeah, it could kind of look like a few things… But to me its about finding the strength to stand alone.
Day 20: Tired
I was totally not feeling the challenge today, but I promised, so I dragged myself into the studio and started smashing some copper. Ironically, today’s word was “tired” which was fitting for my mood. Also, the design was one I was really excited about working on.
Inspired by a really comfortably bed, when you just melt into the mattress. Plus I’ve always wanted to play around with multiple circles in my designs. I have a design for a really big necklace after this challenge is all over.
While I’m not writing too much every day, I’m still happy I’m writing this. It shows me when I start to lose steam into a project. Hopefully I can use that to better plan moving forward on other big projects I work on.
UPDATE: I don’t know if it was the polishing or the finishing, but somewhere along the way, one of the solder joints in this necklace broke and the second circle from the left opened up. It’s never happened on a finished necklace, so I’m pretty fascinated! I’m going to see if I can fix it while the other 4 are still filled with concrete. Just another one of those times where everything is an experiment!
day 21: Urge
I actually didn’t have a design in my notebook for today, so I flipped through my inspiration and found this sketch. I actually live streamed the whole thing! It was something I had been thinking about and wanted to try. It was super chill, just hanging out, listening to music, and making jewelry. (A huge thank you to those who joined in!) It was just my first stream, but I like the idea of “just hanging out” with all of you, so I’m going to do it some more before the challenge is over.
day 22: Voice
I attempted a set of open lips, but lips ended up being damn hard. So I made it a small little pendant, and I think it’s better. Your voice may be small, but it is yours.
day 23: Wonder
Aw dang, I probably could have done something wonder woman related… But I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe not. Anyway! This is for the crooked paths we take, the unknowns we encounter, and the questions we ask along the way.
day 24: X
I’m really trying to use this square wire in a 3 dimensional way and it has just not worked out for me so far. (I attempted a ring earlier and it was NOT good.) So for this, I simplified it. It came out just as I planned, so hopefully it turns out as cool as I imagine it will, after I add concrete.
Day 25: Yearn
Similar to 24, I used wire for its textural appeal. I actually melted a glob of copper for the center, and I don’t have a mold or anything, but it came out mostly round, so that’s good. I spent a lot of time polishing this one, and it feels so good to run your fingers over.
I’m getting to the point in the challenge, where I feel out of ideas, yet when I sit down at the table, something comes to me. I feel like when they just come to me, I don’t have time to flesh them out fully, or that they feel rushed. Idk how I feel about it. This one turned out pretty cool, but it’s getting to feel forced on my end, and I don’t want the designs to feel bland or uninspired.
Day 26: Zest
Ok, one of my favorite things in life is the professional, Vet-Approved answer: “zest for life” to the question: “why does my cat make so much noise at night?” If only we could all have as much zest as our cats. Inspired by the lemon zest in your favorite cocktail.
I have no idea how I’m going to finish and fill this with concrete. It is a problem I’m hoping resolves itself while I’m busy not thinking about it.
And so ends the first 26 days of the 30 day challenge, aka, the alphabet portion. Yeah, I did the first 26 words in order. It was just as valid as any other reason. No one mentioned it, but towards the end there, I felt it was pretty obvious.
day 27: Drive
I really want to experiment with more copper and dainty concrete pieces. I really dig the balance and lightness of this design, and I can’t wait to try more after the challenge is over.
Inspired by whatever that thing is that keeps you going, whether it’s donuts, determination, caffeine, or courage.
day 28: endure
Inspired by a blog post I read yesterday. You might feel little and frail and like a fraud. But instead of giving up and crumbling, you just seem to keep going. Keep doing work. Keep putting yourself out there. You can do it. You keep doing it.
You might feel small but someone thinks you’re a force to be reckoned with, and that someone is me.
DAY 29: Forget
I feel like forget is a really negative word. I wish it wasn’t. There are just times you wish you could forget, just like there are times you wish you could remember. There is forgiveness in forgetting. There are second chances and empathy. Forgetting is filled with new discoveries, fresh memories, and healing.
Design inspired by Day 18: the remind necklace.
Day 30: Guide
Inspired in part by the looseness and overlapping shapes prominent in my name-sake, Amelia Pelaez’s work, I wanted to end on a cumulative note, and to show how I’ve grown over the last 30 days. While it’s not my most advanced design, it starts to feel like my true style emerging. I should be using my materials to their full abilities.
the end & beyond
So, how do I feel now that I successfully completed this challenge? Really proud. Seeing all these pieces together on my work table… it’s like… I can’t fully describe it. Of course I have favorites, but in so many, I was experimenting. And that feels fabulous. I was using copper in totally new ways. Sure sometimes it was novel, but there are some here that I fully intend on expanding on and further learning from.
I think I’m most excited about the transformation of my personal style. Going from making 5 similar designs, to these 30 totally unique pieces, changed how I think about my work and how I make it moving forward.
I want to keep experimenting and developing my style and this challenge was a perfect way to try a lot of things with no pressure.
Practically, this was also really helpful in tracking my time and materials to get a better cost assesment for my jewelry. While not glamorous, it will be good data moving forward.
I hate writing product descriptions, so I’ve decided that I don’t write product descriptions.
I write product stories. I write to create an emotional connection between you, and the design. I write to give this little piece of concrete and copper, a special place in your heart.
This time I wrote my stories a little bit differently. This time I wrote a short story, with each necklace being a piece of that story. Each represents a small vignette. A small piece of a good day. A small piece to remind you to enjoy the little things.
Read their stories in order below.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Bee… You turn over and raise your hand to your eyes to block the sun. You groan. Your feet on the cold wood floor as you shuffle to the bathroom. A quick shower has you awake, but not yet fully refreshed. While brushing your teeth, you debate even putting on eye-shadow today. The cat joins you on the sink, pawing at the faucet. You leave it dripping for her as you dry your hair. You run your fingers through it, stand up straight, puff out your chest, hands on your hips, and give yourself the most aggressive look you can muster up. The cat mews in approval. Today is a good day.
Coffee drips down the side of the pot as you set it back on the counter. Today is something special. You’re trying out a new blend from that cute little store on your commute home. It’s more expensive, but the associates know how their stuff, and they made you a special blend. Today you need the extra kick. The subtle flavors and spices roll around your tongue as you sip slowly, leaning against the counter. The cat weaves between your ankles. You put some food out for her and ruffle her head fluff a bit. You tell her your plans for the day. She mews in approval. You grab your keys and are out the door. Today is a good day.
There’s a pile of paperwork on your desk. You throw back the last sip of coffee before setting your cup down and getting to work. You get lost in your revisions. Your team is really killing it this quarter. You spend a minute being proud of what you’ve built. Next page, more revisions. You notice the time. You worked through lunch. You didn’t plan to work through lunch. But it happens often when work stops feeling like work. You grab your bag and head downstairs to see what the food trucks have to offer. Hell yeah taco truck. Today is a good day.
You balance your taco sampler on the edge of the truck’s window, reaching for your ringing phone. Just in time, You swipe it open and hold it under your ear with your left shoulder. Tacos in hand, you wave to the attendant and step back from the window, stopping for napkins and a splash of house-made hot sauce, on your way to an empty courtyard table. You brought some pages with you. ‘You are never not an editor’, you tell yourself. The call was a pitch for a new story. You flip over a sheet to the blank side and jot down a quick outline. Fitting in pieces as you move along the timeline in your mind. Balancing creative work and tacos is never an easy task, but damn, is it fulfilling. Today is a good day.
You wrap up today’s revisions and drop them off with the intern to distribute in the morning. Heels clicking across the marble lobby floor, you smile to the doorman as he sends you off. The best part about working late? You miss all the rush hour traffic. Home in record time, you notice a package at the door. Inside, you flip off your shoes, and rip open the box. It’s the album you ordered last week. You scurry to the console and place the needle on your new favorite record. Soft melodies surround you as you melt into the oversized throw pillows. The cat joins you. You ruffle her head fluff. She mews in approval. You are transported into a dreamy realm of magic and music. Today was a good day.
I hope you remember to seek out small victories. To bask in little perfect moments.
I hope today was a good day.
All necklaces are listed in the shop. Each is one of a kind. Once it’s gone, its gone.
I spent November in a blur of wood chips, concrete dust, and ink splatters.
I built a display from scratch. Then a rolling storage unit. Then some signs.
I painted my logo bigger than my face. Twice.
I bought a new printer, then printed 100+ brochures. I handed out maybe 10.
I inked quotes until my fingers were black. Then I kept going.
I packed my entire booth in my hatchback.
I drove 7 hours in the rain.
I stood in heels for 9 hours. I still can’t feel my toes.
I sold fucking prints hand over fist. I spent a night making more, then spilled my entire bottle of ink on my black jeans.
I painted a custom quote that almost made me cry.
I found people. I found people who my words resonated with. I found my people.
I met some amazing makers. New ones and ones I’ve insta-stalked for ages.
I barely saw Austin. I spent 90% of my trip at the fair or in my hotel room. I was too exhausted. Too emotionally spent to even attempt to explore the city like I planned.
I became angry and bitter when we couldn’t decide on a place to eat. I have a man who understands me and did all of the decision making after that.
I went to a restaurant where 50% of the things included fennel for some reason. I walked out of that restaurant.
I spent an evening at Buffalo Wild Wings because I couldn’t find the LSU bar. I had a really shitty hamburger. Then watched a really emotional football game.
I cried when I thought I had watched my coach’s last game. Then cried again in my hotel room when I learned it wasn’t.
I stood in flats for 9 hours.
I sold prints faster than I could make them.
I heard a British lady say the word c*nt. And it was glorious.
I made money. I made the most money I’ve ever made in a weekend. But it didn’t come close to covering my total costs. It didn’t even come close to 4 digits.
I had the best pizza I have ever eaten.
I slept better than I ever have.
I drove 7 hours in the rain.
I’m mixing the highlights and the disappointments because that’s life. That’s how we experience it. Bouncing from awesome adventure to huge let-down and back.
If you asked me today if I would do this trip over again, I honestly don’t know what I would say. Probably? Maybe? Ok sure?
We put a monetary value on everything because it’s easy. But only because I can’t tell you the value of the gift a grieving daughter will receive from her best friend. I can’t tell you the value of instant customer feedback. I can’t tell you the value of rocking my first out-of-state market. I can’t tell you the value of the best fucking pizza ever. (Actually, it was $9.50)
What I can say, is that monetarily, it was a loss. I spent more than I made. Black and White.
But if I don’t act on all the things I learned. All the progress I’ve made. All the feedback I received. Then, and only then, will it truly be a loss.