Written by Sarah Dizon Sowinski, Founder of The Groggy Owl
I absolutely love learning new skills. This is why I use a variety of materials and techniques when creating pieces for The Groggy Owl. One of those techniques is the intricate process of electroforming. Making jewellery using this method is basically like art meets science. It’s essentially the process of transferring metal (in this case, copper) onto a conductive medium through electrodeposition.
As I tried to master the art of electroforming, I was reminded of 5 key lessons for running my small business.
1. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from starting.
When I discovered electroforming – this almost magical science of transforming virtually anything into copper – I had to know more. I spent weeks obsessively reading anything and everything I could find on electroforming. I quickly ordered all the necessary supplies. Electroforming would be my new hobby and I absolutely couldn’t wait to start. Yet, when I finally had all my supplies in order – I didn’t. The new supplies sat in my workspace for weeks. I kept making excuses, “I need to do more reading”, or “I haven’t come up with a good enough design yet”, or “I don’t know what I’m doing yet”.
Of course I didn’t know what I was doing – how could I? I hadn’t even tried yet. But, I definitely knew enough to start. I was just too afraid of messing up. Once I finally started electroforming, I realized the only real mistake I made was not starting sooner. With electroforming, the bulk of the learning was by doing.
I was reminded to just trust myself enough to start, while also accepting that I’ll always have more to learn.
Don’t stress over perfection, and don’t feel like you must know everything. Sometimes it’s all about trial and error, and that’s ok.
2. Embrace mistakes and learn from them.
Even when you know what you’re doing, you will make mistakes. Electroforming can be such a delicate process. Even the smallest thing being off can cause your piece to turn out differently than intended. It was the mistakes that taught me the best lessons craft-wise. Not only that, some of my “mistakes” turned out to be some of my most gorgeous work. One example is a piece that came out very bumpy instead of smooth. The texture isn’t what I wanted, but by forgetting about what I intended I embraced this mistake. I ended up highlighting the bumpy surface with a patina and a nice polish. Now, the accidental texture is what makes the piece so beautiful.
Things won’t always turn out how you expect them to. Your success, and also your happiness, will be determined by how you adapt and grow with the unexpected.
3. Invest in what will save you time.
When I started electroforming, I didn’t have a lot of capital. So I couldn’t afford to spend much money on a lot of tools and equipment. I ended up buying equipment that made certain processes take way longer than they needed to, wasting time in my already busy schedule. Sure, I saved money, but in comparison to all the time I wasted, it wasn’t worth it. It was so much easier, and so much more profitable long term once I finally purchased the equipment that I should have bought in the beginning.
This mistake caused me reflect on how I value my time, and reminded me of its importance. As a self-employed maker, I sometimes tend to belittle my own value. I guess that’s the imposter syndrome I struggle with. I was reminded that my time can be far more valuable than money.
This includes not only saving time to be more cost-effective and efficient, but also saving time to do what makes me happy – which is a large part of why I started The Groggy Owl in the first place.
4. Bring every aspect of yourself to every space you’re in.
What I love most about electroforming is that I’m able to incorporate so many different materials and methods with this technique to create something beautiful. When I first started this business, the advice I got was to stick to “one thing”, “one technique” etc. However, I’m the type of person who gets bored making the same thing in the same way. Some of my best pieces were the ones that combined the techniques I was told to keep separate. A lot of this fusing of techniques and materials was made possible with electroforming. This served as a lesson for how to approach not only my small business, but also everywhere I go.
I used to feel like I was only allowed to wear “one hat” to match the space I was in.
5. Community is key.
I would not have been successful with creating electroformed jewellery if it weren’t for the help of the amazing electroforming community online. Thankful for living in this digital age where these communities of artists and makers from all around the world are even possible. Once I got over both my pride and the initial fear of asking others for advice, my skills improved drastically.