This week’s business feature focuses on Jill of Brave Sunday. In this series of artisan business features, we will be focusing on what it takes for makers to live a committed creative life. Making a living doing what you love doesn’t “just happen.” It is the result of dedication and commitment.
Jill’s official journey into making a living creating jewelry started in 2014, shortly after the birth of her son. “After I left the workplace to dive into motherhood, I found myself itching for more. Not to say motherhood isn’t fulfilling, but I just felt like I was meant for more. My heart needed more.”
Brave Sunday has grown slowly along the way. While it started with a handful of beads and some fabric, Jill continued to explore different materials and techniques along the way to find her place among other jewelry designers. It also helped build her confidence in her abilities as a creative. Today, Jill combines a mix of clay, stamped charms, and resin to create pieces that are not only easy to wear but help others feel their best. “I can’t help but feel like I have finally found my place and am creating pieces that are a true reflection of my heart. My jewelry is full of color and full of joy.”
During this global pandemic, Jill’s commitment to providing her customers with colorful jewelry designs has increased her connection and loyalty of her followers. It was a delight to have Jill spend time with us and answer a couple questions about her commitment to living a creative life.
Becky: Welcome Jill. Was there a memorable moment when you knew you wanted to make art and being creative a full-time job?
Jill: I always had a passion for the more creative side of things. In school, music and art were my favorite subjects and that transitioned into college too. I took every art class I could, without overwhelming my course load. Photography, ceramics, art history, drawing, etc.
During college, I landed a job for a local boutique making jewelry. Getting paid to make wearable art was just such a dream come true, not to mention that women were enjoying the pieces I was making. My boss at the time was an amazing woman, who really encouraged me to think about what I wanted my life to look like in the future. To dig deep into what brought me joy and I knew I wanted to be a maker. It may have taken me a few more years for everything to align, but I think seeing my pieces on a shelf in a store, helped me see the potential. That it could be more than just a hobby.
Becky: In the beginning, what types of choices did you need to make in order to live a committed creative life that also supported you financially?
Jill: When I first started, we were already making quite a few sacrifices for me to be able to stay at home with our son. My husband was traveling over an hour away to complete his apprenticeship as an electrician and we chose a home further out to not overextend ourselves. We also had a strict budget and were paying down our debts to bring some freedom. Needless to say, starting a business wasn’t really something we had planned.
I was determined not to incur any additional debt for us, so I went through all our belongings and sold what I could. Luckily, I had a large handbag collection at the time (an addiction from my youth) and was able to sell most of them to fund a purchase of beads and supplies to jump-start Brave Sunday. I decided that every dollar earned from sales would be reinvested back into the business and for the first few years holiday gifts from my family often were tools to make running my business easier, a label printer for shipping orders, a tumbler to polish jewelry, a new desk for my workspace, etc. In fact, I still often fill my gift list with tools and supplies for making.
“Creating has always been my safe space, the way I process my feelings and the medicine I need to work through my anxiety.”
Becky: Did you have a mentor or a role model?
Jill: While I grew up always making and exploring my creativity, it was never really seen as anything more than a hobby. As I got older, the universe always seemed to direct me to the people I needed. The boss of my first job in high school, Natalia, showed me what a woman could do in business. She was powerful, knew what she wanted, but still respectful & kind. Then came Amy, the boutique owner I mention above. She was fearless and relentless in her pursuit to be happy. She provided me with encouragement galore and taught me the importance of supporting the woman around me with those gifts. More recently the lovely Chelsea of HorseFeathers Gifts and I crossed paths and she has been such an inspiration to me. She is so down to earth, so open to her past experiences, and incredibly encouraging. Not to mention she has built a creative life that is full of success by just being her authentic self.
Becky: Was there ever a time where you weren’t sure how you were going to keep moving forward with your commitment to living a creative life? What did you do?
Jill: Just one? There have been many. Recently I had to make the decision to no longer make a collection of products that were essentially the foundation of my business. I have developed some severe wrist and arm pain/numbness from the repetitive movements and making these pieces only seemed to exacerbate it. It was scary to think that I had finally found my place and here I was being told if I wanted to keep creating I needed to pivot. It felt like I was being asked to leave my baby behind and there were so many tears.
What did I do? I made a commitment to myself to not give up until I did everything I could. I truly believe I was meant to do this, I feel it in my bones. It is hard to explain that feeling, but I think most creatives know what I am talking about. So, I got up and put on my big girl pants. Hahaha. I leaned in to my community of fellow creatives. They listened, offered advice, and really helped me narrow down what I wanted for the future. I tried new things. New materials, new processes, everything I could think of to expand my skills. I listened to podcasts of fellow creatives, music, and went searching for inspiration. There was lots of trial and error, but what came out of it all, was exactly what I needed; growth. In the end I found a place that I feel even more at home, more myself, and can share more of what is in my heart.
Living a creative life isn’t a straight & narrow path. It is filled with many bumps and you have to be able to roll with the uncertainty, believe in yourself, and do the work you were born to do which is always easier said than done.
Becky: What does a typical morning routine look like for you?
Jill: Each day looks a bit different, especially with two children at home. Most days begin with breakfast, some school fun, and play. While my munchkins play I try to answers emails from the previous day, post to social media, and prepare any packages for shipment. Sometimes I can bring a tray of beads to wrap or bake a batch of clay pieces made the previous night in between handing out snacks and playing princesses or super heroes. After bedtime, I sneak into my workspace and create pieces, fulfill and package orders, etc. That is when the magic happens and everything that happened during the day sure pours out and is transformed into colorful joy.
Becky: Do you have any particular habits or practices that you routinely practice to help you stay creative?
Jill: Setting aside time, at least one day a week, to recharge is important for me to help me stay creative. I get overwhelmed easily, and when I get in that state nothing gets made or done. Unplugging is also often necessary when I feel like ideas aren’t coming out just as planned or I am struggling. I also have learned that I need to surround myself with others who are pursuing their own creative endeavors. No one else gets it and honestly at times it can be easy to feel like you are on a deserted island by yourself. Having support and people to make you laugh and encourage is a definite necessity and I count myself blessed to have the best gals in my corner.
Becky: How do you motivate yourself to be creative?
Jill: Motivation for me comes from doing. I can all too easily get cozy on my couch watching Harry Potter, zoning out from the world, if I don’t make something every day. It doesn’t even have to be jewelry. I have developed a fond love of coloring recently that has become such a breath of fresh air and has inspired some color combinations in my current product offerings.
Becky: What would you say your top three strengths are?
Jill: This one is so hard for me to answer….
- My intuition. I don’t really know if someone would consider that a strength, but following my heart is what lead me on this adventure and has always guided me down the right direction.
- I am sensitive. Hahaha. Again, maybe not always viewed as a strength, but I think being able to feel things around me allows me to form connections easier. Both with the world around me and with my customers.
- I am always open to new opportunities to learn and grow. It keeps boredom at bay and usually leads to something good.
Becky: How does living a life of being creative enhance your level of happiness?
Jill: Besides my family, being able to be creative fills my heart. There is just something about taking a handful of materials and transforming them into a piece of jewelry that helps another woman feel beautiful that leaves me fulfilled & whole. Even amongst the hard days & lack of sleep, I really can’t imagine doing anything else.
Becky: Are there any books that you have enjoyed or would recommend to people who would like to live a more committed creative life?
Jill: Truth be told I sadly don’t often make the time to read as often as I would like. Yet the last book I was able to read was Jordan Lee Dooley’s book, Own Your Everyday. While not entirely geared to makers, I think it can help those of us who may have fallen off track or feel lost in the creative world. Showing up as ourselves can be scary. Sharing our creative endeavors is much like sharing a piece of our hearts, and that can have us feeling vulnerable and exposed. Yet, if creating is what we are meant to do, what we feel is our purpose in our hearts, we owe it to ourselves to show up. Embrace it and all that we are. We need to let go of our expectations, theories of what success looks like, let go of fear and just create. Good, beautiful things are sure to follow.
More so than ever, I feel that our community of makers is being called to commit even deeper to living a creative life. Art brings beauty and balance into not only our own lives, but into the lives of others. Our role, as creative people, is essential. Thank you Jill for your commitment to your own creativity and the life that you are living as a result of that commitment.
To see more of Jill’s work, visit:
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