A bit of blunt wisdom.

Years ago someone shared some blunt wisdom with me and it has helped me often in life.  I would like to share it  with you now as well.  Are you ready?…

“Nobody cares about your ideas.  They only care about what you do with your ideas.”

That bit of wisdom was imparted to me at a job interview by a prospective employer many years ago.  I was a young man with no experience and little education, but I had a lot of big ideas.  I didn’t get the job.  But I knew those words were true and they stayed with me.

I use those words to keep me from getting too complacent in life and in business.  I am a pretty good procrastinator.  I find it much easier to start than to finish.  Whether it is a silversmith project, a YouTube video or a new tool idea , my biggest obstacle in getting across the finish line is always me.

Being creative is a great thing.  Being creative AND disciplined is a rare thing. If you are both, then you are a truly blessed and you should be writing this article instead of me.

But I brought it up, so I will continue…

Consider this,  Uber (the taxi alternative) started in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick.  They started the company with no assets;  only an idea.  The company currently does over $20 billion in annual revenue.  It is expected that the company will become publicly traded next year.  Uber has fundamentally changed the transportation business.  They don’t own a fleet of cabs and busses.  They essentially only own an app.

No if you could go back in time to 2008 before the company even started and you heard Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick pitch their idea to you. Do you think you would have been excited to invest in their company?  I’m guessing probably not.  It would have sounded like  just another crazy idea that would never work in the real world.

The fact is that they actually had to  create the software and put it out into the world in order to make their idea into something “tangible” before anyone really cared.

So stop thinking about your big idea.  Nobody cares…  But when you discipline yourself to actually bring it to reality and the world can see it and hold it in their hands.  It will be awesome. So go for it!

Meet The King Bee!

I have recently opened an account on Instagram.  One of things I like about Instagram is that the it is more visually based than most other social media platforms which is perfect for us jewelry artists! 

Since joining Instagram, I have found several new artists whose work is truly innovative and inspiring.  

One of those artists who has become a favorite of mine can be found on Instagram under the username @kingbeeworkshop . King Bee Workshop (AKA Chet Felkins) 

The King Bee is in Arizona and he is masterful in the way he infuses Southwest style with a contemporary twist, the likes of which I have never seen before.  If you could use a little inspiration, click the image below to see my “Featured Artist” tribute  to  his work.  

, friHelping to promote worthy new artists is something I hope to do a lot more of in the future.  I have a growing community on YouTube, FaceBook and now on Instagram which collectively amounts to several thousand interested people. So if you would like  me to feature your work,  (especially if you are using my tools to help you) please be sure to tag me in your social media posts so I will be able to see your work for consideration.  

Be sure to follow @kingbeeworkshop on Instagram to  get a behind the scenes look  and see what else he is doing.  

You can also follow me there as well @jimbrandvik

Stay Creative friends!!

Some Tips on How to Stay Creative and Productive

Here are three important factors in being creative and productive

With extremely rare exception, I think we are each capable of being artists.  I therefore don’t necessarily feel comfortable claiming to have some magic power, aka, “talent”.  Talent implies some are “gifted” and others are not.  By the same token, I also believe that we are each capable of being mathematicians.  Is not a new math theorem a product of a creative mind?  So gain, for the purposes of this discussion, and for argument’s sake, let just say that we are each capable of being creators.

Conversely, and also with extremely rare exception, I DO believe that there are people who are TRULY gifted.  Genius minds like Michelangelo or Einstein do absolutely appear from time to time.  But again, they are extremely rare.

So why do some  creators, create so prolifically and other of us create so sporadically?  Why are some of us easily blocked, while others  flow as creative fountains?

I believe there are a few factors that come into play.

ATTITUDE – First, I accept that attitude is everything.  A healthy, happy “can do” attitude is a much more fertile place for the seeds of creativity to thrive.  Conversely, a negative attitude will stop you in your tracks.  If you have a negative mind-set then the list of reasons you “can’t” will be endless.  We have all known people with “can’t do” mind-sets.

ENVIRONMENT – Second, while I believe that each have within us the capacity for greatness, there is no getting around the fact that, to a degree at least, we are products of our environment. (Or at least impacted by our environment.)

CONFIDENCE – Finally, I believe that if a person is confident in their ability to produce great work, they will have an easier time staying creative and productive because they won’t be worried about the difficulty of the task before them.

So let’s examine some tried and true ways to foster our own creativity;

Let’s  begin with developing a “can do” attitude.

I hear people say, “I could NEVER do that!” over and over.  I always ask, “Why not?”.  Most of the time the answer is something like this.  “I could never do that because – ” (Insert any excuse below.)

  1. “I have no artistic talent.”

  2. “I don’t have any of the right tools.”

  3. “I have no time with my job and family demands.”

  4. “I have no place to work from.”

  5. “I can’t afford all the things I would need to start.”

These are not real reasons for not being able to create.  These are excuses fabricated to make the person feel better about not being creative and productive.

I’m sure that if you are reading this.  You are a creative mind and you don’t make these excuses, but I’ll bet that you have encountered these mind-sets yourself.  Let’s examine why these are not valid reasons.

“I have no artistic talent.”

I think I have already explained my believes regarding talent in the 3rd paragraph above when I said that with extremely rare exception, I think we are each capable of being artists.  I therefore don’t necessarily feel comfortable claiming to have some magic power, aka, “talent”.  So, I won’t belabor the point.

“I don’t have any of the right tools.”

Hi. My name is Jim.  I am addicted to tools… (There, I said it and I feel better. ) BUT the first tools I possessed for making jewelry consisted of a butane torch and a jeweler’s saw.  I am a tool maker but the truth is, nobody needs to a own lot of tools to make jewelry.  Very simple hand tools will take you quite a way down the road.

That being said, I do think the right tools make our jobs easier.  That’s all I focus on as I design a new tool.  I ask myself this, “How would this job look if it were easy?”

“I have no time with my job and family demands.”

Spare time can be found in lots of places.  Turn off the television, Get up an hour earlier, plan your day with purpose, delegate time stealing tasks to others, decline some social events, etc.  Just schedule your creative time like any other responsibility.

“I have no place to work from.”

I have a beautiful shop and studio now, but I started my silversmith career on the back porch of the house I was renting.  Come on, how much space does a butane torch and s jeweler’s saw require?  Anyone can find a small space to work out of.  A friend of mine works out of an old school bus.  He makes amazing things!

“I can’t afford all the things I would need to start.”

Back to the butane torch and jeweler’s saw.  Humble beginnings…  A can do” attitude can move mountains.

ENVIRONMENT – So, now that we know the importance of attitude, let’s have a look at our environment.  There are several ways to make your environment more conducive to creativity and more productive.

  • Get and Stay Organized – If your studio space is messy and cluttered, it is not a conducive to your creativity.  It is more difficult to stay focused and finding the tools and materials you need is also more difficult.  Working in a messy environment will at best lead to lots of half finished projects.

Organization is something that I struggle with.  I tend to work on several projects simultaneously.  I live on a small working ranch which means there are lots of chores to do.  I make tools, I make jewelry, I make videos, I make… messes. But I KNOW that I am more productive (and happier) when I make a concerted effort to stay organized.

  • Eliminate (or at least reduce) Distractions – Distractions come in all shapes and sizes.  For me, social media is an enjoyable and necessary part of business.  I am on FaceBook, Instagram, Etsy, YouTube and I also have this blog.  I love interacting with people and sharing with them, but I don’t allow social media to burn up all my time.  The way that I accomplish that is to turn off the audible notifications from all of those applications on my phone and my computer.  I still get badge notifications from FaceBook and Instagram and YouTube and Etsy, but I don’t hear the audible notifications anymore.  Now I only spend 3 specific times per day on social media. (Morning coffee, lunch time and end of day) Know what?  I am much more focused and productive.

Practically no one has my phone number outside of my immediate family, so if my phone rings and it is not a number I recognize, I don’t answer.  Most calls are telemarketers  anyway, so no loss there.

Finally, the best way I have found to eliminate distractions as my business has grown and the hours in the day have not, it to change my schedule.  I have never been a morning person, but a couple of years ago, I started getting up very early in the morning before there were any distractions. My wife was still asleep, my phone wasn’t yet ringing, etc.  Over time I have become an early bird.  I still sleep 8 hours per day, but I never sleep beyond 5:00 am.  (Yes, I go to sleep pretty early compared to most people, but I don’t miss late night TV)   I really cherish my early morning time not being undistracted by anything for the first couple of hours of my day when I am now at my most creative time of the day.

I’m sure you too can find ways to remove some of the distractions that interrupt your creative time.

CONFIDENCE – Finally, let’s tackle confidence.  When you are confident in your work everything which used to seem like a mountain will be just a bump in the road.  Unfortunately, building confidence does take some time and effort.  Here is how I recommend you become a more confident silversmith.

  • Build on your skill set.  There are scores of skills required to becoming a top  silversmith.  There are the base skills such as sawing, soldering and stone setting. There are more specialized skills such as advanced stone setting, wax carving, and engraving.  But no matter where you are in your journey to becoming a master silversmith, you should be constantly stepping up your game by adding to your toolbox of skills.  When you make something today, you should consciously be making every effort to make it better than what you made yesterday.  Realizing that you are on a journey to being a master rather than being focused on the idea that you are not now a master, gives you renewed confidence ever day!

For some, this means taking classes online or in person.  For others this means watching a video or reading a book.  However you learn best, just keep learning!

Always photograph your work.  I have a saying that the job is not done until the glamour shots are taken.  Building a photographic portfolio of your body of work will give you the ability to truly “see” how far you have come in building your skill set and refining your end product.  AND it will be a confidence builder!

When I review photos of my work, I inevitably see things that I plan to improve upon on my next piece.  Better polish, more symmetry, better flow of design, etc.

  • Realize that everyone is on the same journey as you.   No matter how accomplished another smith is, never forget that he or she began their journey at the beginning, just like you did.  They have only been traveling down the road to becoming a master longer than you.  You WILL get to where they are someday if you only keep traveling!  Look back from time to time at how far you have already come and confidently continue to forge ahead.



Super Easy Ring Size Calculator!

OK, I’m no computer nerd, but I do know my way around a spread-sheet…

My Super Easy Ring Size Calculator is a free and simple way to quickly figure out how long to cut a piece of material which you intend to form into a ring.  The calculator automatically factors in the extra length to compensate for the thickness of the material.  All you need to do is enter the gauge of the material you intend to use, and read the length from the “Length” column for the size you are shooting for.  Pretty cool, right?

Just click here to subscribe to my email list and I’ll send you an email with a link for you to download the Super Easy Ring Size Calculator.

It is available in two delicious flavors:

  1. Mac
  2. Windows

If you have questions about how to use the calcuclator, just drop a comment below!

Adding Value

Oh great…  Another blog…  How AWESOME is that?!   Just what the world needed!! :-/

OK, I get it.  That’s what say to myself every time someone announces that they are starting a blog as well.   But, I think this blog will add value to many of the folks who use my tools or who have purchased my tools but haven’t yet used them.  Because it will allow me to easily share information (tips, techniques etc) via email and it will give me way more control over how that information is presented.

You may know that I have a YouTube channel which I use to explain how to use the tools I make.  I love learning new things and like most people, I am a visual learner.  Video is a perfect way to learn! But, (there’s always a but) not everyone is familiar with the ins and outs of how YouTube works.

Like me, most of my customers are baby-boomers who didn’t grow up with  the Internet or computers in general.  When most of us finally did jump on the Internet bandwagon it was because we realized that we might never find true love without an email account!

So this blog will be a way for me to connect more easily with those who are more comfortable communicating via email rather than all the latest forms of social media.

I hope you will subscribe to the blog.  If you do, I will do my level best to provide valuable and enjoyable content.

Some of the things I plan to cover in the blog are:

  • Photo and Video Tutorials
    • Tips and Tricks I use in my studio
    • Techniques and Tweaks
  • Business Brainstorming
    • Marketing Tip and Tricks
    • Mistakes I made along the way
  • Behind the Scenes
    • Making Jewelry
    • Engraving
    • Making Tools
    • Ranch Life
    • Lifestyle

I encourage you to drop a comment below and let me know if there is any subject in particular that you would like me to cover.

I do hope to see your bright and shiny face here often!