I learned my metalsmithing techniques when I was in high school. When I was signing up for electives my mother noticed jewelry making and stated that I’d definitely enjoy this class since I already made jewelry. She wasn’t wrong; I was very skilled with stringing beads and basic wire working techniques (think creating loops). But what we didn’t know at the time was that this would be nothing like what I knew.
Over the four years I was in jewelry I learned so many different skills related to the craft. But one of the most valuable lessons my high school teacher taught me was the idea of the “happy mistake.” In this scenario, you embrace the mistake and choose to see the positive vs. the negative.
Happy mistakes are important to learn early. In my career, I’ve melted rings, struggled with solder, bumped elements at the last second so they are positioned incorrectly, over sanded solder seams, and countless others. Happy mistakes allow the artist the chance to learn and grow, and they can also provide you a different design then you expected.
In April I was making several handmade gifts for friends and I make some real rookie mistakes working with the resin. We’re talking curing resin with a halogen light, and also trying to rush the process which led to air bubbles and touching the resin long before it cured. This means that I had 8 total bezels that were unusable and filled with resin. Unfortunately, because this was a personalized resin photo jewelry gift this wasn’t something I could sell to someone else, regardless of the fact that I personally wasn’t happy with how they looked.
For anyone who makes jewelry or who makes anything with their hands, you’ll know that supplies are not free. In fact, especially in the case of jewelry making, supplies are rather expensive. In my case, I had made a costly mistake with these bezels. So this meant that I could either throw them away to be unused or try to salvage what I had.
So, channeling my high school teacher, I decided to see this as a happy mistake, and a challenge of sorts. I was hoping that I would get a handmade jewelry idea that would turn these into something wonderful.
For the last several months I’ve been collecting beer bottle caps from New Belgium. I not only love their beer but also love their brewery and the fun activities they host. When I placed the bezels on my work bench I saw the pile of beer caps I had been collecting and got the handmade jewelry idea I had been hoping for. I knew that if I trimmed the caps just right I could get something that would lay over the hardened resin. To give some contrast I even purchased a can of beer just for the logos to use in the design.
I’m so pleased with the final bracelet design and how everything looks. As an added bonus, everyone I’ve shown it to has agreed it looks fabulous including several New Belgium employees. I think that’s definitely a sign that I got something right.
Sometimes jewelry making emulates life; you have the choice to see different events as positives or negatives. Simply changing your perspective can impact your whole outlook and the way that you handle the situation. I’m so glad that I didn’t go with my first response, to throw the bezels in the trash, and instead trusted myself enough to fix the mistakes I made and create something wonderful. Plus, now I not only have a bad-ass bracelet; I have an accessory with a great story.
What kinds of mistakes have you made that you’ve been able to overcome, both in jewelry making and in life? Share your story in the comments!