What’s An Artist To Do?

by noelyovovich on January 14, 2014

There are a few of you out there who have been gracious enough to notice that I’ve been silent a long time and to wonder

what happened to me. Thank you. Really. First off, I am still here and kicking! Not dead, not gone, but life continues to throw me curves and I continue to try to knock them back.

When last we saw our intrepid hero, she (I) moved to Bellingham Washington to work for Jim Binnion.

Well, in brief, I came back to Evanston, Illinois. No reflection on Jim—he’s great, exactly what I expected from my acquaintance with him from Orchid.

And Bellingham is the most gorgeous place on earth.


So I gave Jim notice (pissed him off but good, but what could I do?), 

House in snow 1 14 sm

packed BACK up, drove 2200 miles, again.But I had this idea that my marriage could be saved, and if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain. I tried to convince my husband to move there, even offered to support him so he could do the writing he chose, but I knew he couldn’t do it. He’s a fish out of water outside Greater Chicagoland. Or maybe the city limits plus Evanston.

Asked for and got a job my friend and colleague Eve Alfille’ had offered me several years ago, being production manager at her business, Eve J Alfille’ Gallery and Studio.

That’s the bare bones, except to add that it didn’t work, the marriage is no longer even on life support. One day I woke up and found that I didn’t even want it any more. I am no longer a Married Person, though I am not divorced yet, largely on account of not wanting to lose my health insurance. Gotta do it, though, lawyers and all, bleaaaahhh!

OK, so now you’re caught up, except for the parts of my story that may make it interesting to anyone but myself. I am proceeding on the assumption that my experiences are not unique, except in the particulars. As artists, we struggle to maintain income, inspiration, relationships, and mundane needs. It is never easy, harder in a poor economy.

So here’s more about how this has gone…

I learned at lot working for Jim. He has a very effective business model, for the type of work he does. Everything is Just In Time. He does not even order gold until a ring is bought, keeps almost no inventory. Almost nothing made on spec.

This is a model that can work if you are established, and if you are comfortable making fairly minor variations on a (successful) theme, such as different combinations of colored golds and other metals in a small handful of patterns, in several widths and profiles. Jim is amazing at CAD, so he can create files for growing and casting unique and complex settings. He hates to hurry, so he didn’t expect me to—he was fine with however long it took me to shave off minuscule bits of a ring until a setting fit perfectly into the band (you can’t add back, with mokume gane, so you have to get it right the first time). I really liked the lack of rush and the high standard—though by the same token, I felt the pressure to meet that standard very strongly, and there was no passing the buck, since I was the only one there. I loved learning to use a lathe and a mill and a pulse arc welder, though the first two don’t seem to have a role in my own work. In my new(er) job, I have learned to use a laser, and that’s an even cooler tool, but far too expensive for most independent jewelers. Dollar for dollar, the PUK is probably a better value.

Since I had not had a regular, wage-slave job my entire adult life, it was very hard to get used to, and I did not manage to go home and do my own work after working all day. I don’t know how so many others manage to do this. Of course, I was also getting used to a new house, a new town, a new climate, trying to make new friends. I knew no one, couldn’t get my favorite bread, my favorite frozen pizza, my favorite fruit. So I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

I came back to live in the house I raised my kids in, and I’m still in it. My husband eventually moved out, so I’m in a 9-room house alone, trying to fix it up to sell. Trying to establish new friends, since most of “our” friends got used to being “his” friends while I was gone. More to the point, I feel pretty much like a different person, and I’m trying to figure out how THAT works. Point being, I’m still not managing to do my own work. I worked for Jim for under a year, and I’ve been at my new job for just over a year and a half.

This just won’t do.

How can an artist figure out a new, updated identity without doing his/her own work?

Here’s the bottom line for me right now, if you managed to stay with me through all the prologue. It’s a little hard to come out and say this, but I think it’s true.

Artists need to be self-centered to do art. It’s a very internal process. I have not been nearly self-centered enough for many years, focusing on my marriage and raising four (amazing, fabulous, worth-it) kids. Not that I haven’t done some good work, I believe I have. But the kids are off having their own lives, the marriage is over… Now should be the time to really be the artist I truly am. I MUST figure out how to create the environment I need to do that. I need a place to live that feeds my soul, with a community that will allow me to support myself with my art and feed my belly. I am trying to figure out where that is. I can go anywhere that feels right. Evanston is far too urban for me, and too expensive. Bellingham is all I could wish for aesthetically, but I can’t figure out how the artists there keep body and soul together, in that economy. I’m open to suggestion, and I’d love to hear from you.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

noelyovovich January 28, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Thanks– I’ll take all the support I can get!

sam January 27, 2014 at 10:04 pm

one more thing – I just heard “Short Story Long” by Shane Koyczan – LOVE!! Couldn’t help but think maybe you’d like it too. You Tube.

sam January 27, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Oh, and congrats on the pending divorce. Good for you, bottom line, for moving towards happiness and away from situations that don’t work for you. Hard as it is, we both know it’s worth the effort not to be stuck in ugliness/unhappiness/indifference.


polly daeger January 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm

hi noel

fascinating reading your update–email me your phone nbr and i will call you and catch up-pd

noelyovovich January 17, 2014 at 2:50 am

All the support I’ve received already is a big boost– I really appreciate it. The hardest thing is to “give it time”. In my life, relatively little has taken care of itself– things happen when you MAKE them happen.

noelyovovich January 17, 2014 at 2:47 am

No, you got everything right. Very gratifying.

Anne Bellissimo January 17, 2014 at 12:19 am

Noel, I’m glad to see you back. I have never forgotten the pastel (?) of the beach at Pensacola, Florida. Of course, I may have the medium, geography and other pertinent points wrong, but I know (big word used deliberately) that you can’t force a direction any more than you could stop the changes. Start making your own stuff, and teach and write. It will happen. Good luck!

Pallavi Gandhi January 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm

good luck Noel! it’s not easy starting all over again..but it’s not impossible either. I’m in a similar situation, and it was good to know you’re still in the fight! : ) I wish you well

Tamara Culp January 16, 2014 at 4:06 am

I lurk on Orchid so was aware of your continuing existence! Loved your Saul Bellow submission and I hope you find the time and space to bring your very special “voice” to life again. I wish I knew where that magical, nurturing place might be, but I don’t. I will certainly keep eyes and ears open, though. I look forward to seeing what this new year brings you…with admiration, Tamara

M'lou Brubaker January 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi, Noel, and best wishes to you!
As for the work thing, just go into (or set up) your studio and make yourself a nice new pair of earrings or something to wear. You need to make friends with your tools again. If you do, they will begin to speak to you.
– M’lou

Susan January 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Your work is beautiful Noel. Don’t give up.

Sharon Miklos-Thompson January 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm

As a fellow trying to get a new start after setbacks, hoping to make a good ‘go for in 2-0-1-4’, best wishes. Inertia effect and all, once in motion it’s easier to stay that way. Good luck!

Lisha Collins January 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Have you forgotten about the struggling artist? That is the nature. If you are comfortable with this nature then just enjoy the journey. I think that is where our knowledge comes from. I have been the most creative when I was the most poor, misplaced, searching for meaning kind of mood. Congratulations on your adventure.

Billie Swanson January 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I did notice you didn’t seem to be around so much and missed seeing your wonderful work. I managed years of a trying job, doing my own work sporadically at night, mostly for the pension. Now family obligations are almost through, and I can do as I wish and move where I want within reason. High price to pay, but now some of your challenges look really familiar. Looking for that place where people are friendly and supportive and at least vaguely educated in the arts.

You are super talented. Visit some good museums and give it some time. And let us know how it’s going!

Jamie Herron January 15, 2014 at 6:43 am

I didn’t realize who the writer of this was, until I reached the end. I LOVE your work!!!! Come to Pittsburgh. It has everything to offer with the feel of a small town. I’ve been here just over a year, and I absolutely love living here. I have never lived in a more friendlier city! (And the cost of living is low). Check it out, it may surprise you!

AJ von Tauffkirchen January 15, 2014 at 4:51 am

I can relate on so many levels. First, though, wow! Working with Jim Binnion. I must admit to some envy there. And, second, oi. What a crazy rocket ride of all kinds of stuff. I don’t know how helpful I might be, but I can certainly understand, and commiserate with the situation and feeling.
I would be very happy to share time/ideas, etc… I’m up in Milwaukee, in a downtown store/studio/gallery, but know that this isn’t my long term solution.
I guess, it starts with questions. And more questions. Such as:
Do you mind/want to travel for your sales?
Do you want to supply galleries or small boutiques, or do you want a studo/gallery where customers can come see/buy?
Or do you have another retail option in mind? (internet, trunk, home shows)
What kind of person/customer do you see buying your work?
(Age/income levels/education)Where to they live?
How will they find out/see/purchase your work?
Yes, you might be open to ideas/where to live, but, where do you *want* to live.
I’m sure I could come up with lots more given a bit of time… I hope you do find them helpful. And please, do contact me if you would like.


Victoria Woollen-Danner January 15, 2014 at 4:19 am

Noel, I have to admit I’ve watched and learned from your work from afar. Like you, I am a jeweler, live in Illinois, downstate though, and have a connection with Bellingham, my son lives there, so I feel a bit of kinship with you. I have had my life change dramatically, like you, not through divorce but as a widow. When I found life as I knew it to be over, I wondered, and feared a bit, too, what now?! I wish I had some fantastic, infallible advice to offer you, but I don’t. The only thing I came away with was to have some faith and hope, after all, I had made it this far, why not farther! I began to trust myself more. I had weathered some pretty tough stuff and came out the other side intact and a bit wiser and stronger. You have, too, I’m sure. When opportunity presents itself, you’ll recognize it.

Tony January 15, 2014 at 1:59 am

Do you have a website? You can create your own little slice of whatever you want on the web. Surround yourself with what inspires you and run with it. Where ever you go you are always there! You are on the right path, start focusing on yourself. Your blog inspired me, thank you and good luck.

Karen Lechner January 15, 2014 at 1:29 am

Hi Noel,
Any chance you can subdivide the house to create a rental unit that would give you some income or does it have to be sold?
I wish you the best. Your work is stunning and you are at a stage of life when you deserve to be a little selfish in order to create.

noelyovovich January 14, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Thanks, Vito. Nice to have you in my corner.

Vytautas Vitkauskas January 14, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Sounds like a new race, another run around the track, from a new starting gate.

Sounds like a new year, a fresh start, a milestone for before and after.

Good luck. You can do it. I look forward to hearing, seeing and reading about your progress.

Kick butt!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

WordPress Admin