OH MAN. I don’t even know how to begin with all of my feelings about my friend Flannery Grace Good. She’s kind. She’s funny. She’s a wickedly clever observer of human nonsense. She’s an incredibly talented jeweler who has created some of the most extraordinarily breath-taking things I have ever seen, and she’s also crafted small, sweet treasures for some of my favorite humans–sometimes on a pretty tight schedule, too (because I wait until the last minute to float an idea by her, whoops.) But my friend Flan gets shit done! And she has always come through for me. She’s truly one of the most amazing people I know, and one day I am going to show up on her doorstep and say Hi! I’m your surprise guest for the weekend! And we are going to have a fabulous time because she’d be super into it.
One day, Flan!
Flannery is joining us for our Ten Things installment at Unquiet Things this month, and I am so pleased. Thank you for the time, energy, and vulnerability you shared in the writing of these practical insights and wisdom snippets, Flannery. Thank you for always so being incomparably wonderful. Thank you for being my friend.
When Sarah asked me if I would like to contribute to her blog, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I love and admire her, and felt honored that she thought of me. “Any ten things, I can do this” and I decided “Ten Things I Know” should be easy peasy, despite my fear of writing.
This was not easy for me. The irony of being named after a writer, while struggling with from the heart communication, is pretty funny. My art is the only thing I can speak of with confidence, I consider it my official language, and everything else gets stuffed way down. I’ve been working for myself for 23 years, so my perspective is deep into self-employed weirdo artist territory. This was scary, and helpful to me. I know it’s not perfect, and I sit with the feeling that everyone is going to laugh at me, but that’s a lot like being an artist, fraught with uncertainty. It’s worth it. Thank you, Sarah.
1. Anything Can Be Learned
If you want it, you can do it. I was not a natural when I started making jewelry. My uncle Bubba (who taught me) called me “opposite girl,” because all of my instincts were exactly wrong. I ruined everything I made but I kept going. I wanted it, and put in hours and miles of work. Of course there are people with innate talent, or prodigies, but that is not every successful person. I truly believe that dedication, desire, work, and willingness to fail are all that is needed to do anything. If something truly sparks your interest, follow it.
Growing up in Arkansas, I didn’t have much in the way of art offered in school. I was so bored. In high school, my best subject was French, but I was totally uninspired. My first semester of college, my grades spelled out B-I-F-F. No kidding. The B would have been an A if it weren’t for me skipping so many classes, Advanced French Conversation. After that pathetic performance, I was not in college anymore and got a full-time job at a popular store. This was the mid-90s, so of course, I was making macrame hemp necklaces with fimo yin yangs! They were a hit, and I was able to sell them. That led me to ask my uncle for the millionth time to teach me metalsmithing. He agreed, and in the summer of 1996, I went to his house in Taos, New Mexico, to learn. I will never forget the look on his face when I actually showed up. My first lesson was “don’t touch my stuff, just watch” and that lasted about a month. On the 4th of July, under a sage-scented, firecracker filled sky, I made my first piece. It sucked. Something clicked inside me though, and I have never looked back.
After our summer together, I tried and failed on my own for about a year. Then, I went back to college. I graduated summa cum laude in 3 years, I made straight As. That is what passion will do, and that spark sustains me still. I ruin things all the time, even after 23 years. Bubba says of soldering, “if the wind’s blowin’ out of the south southeast? Forget about it.”
A willingness to fail is necessary, and for me, it is the hardest part, but I have quit having tantrums when I ruin something– it wastes time. I feel so lucky to have found this, and I promise that you can do what you dream of. Just start, and keep going.
2. Time Is Our Most Precious Commodity
We’ve all had the experience of standing in an endless line, and there’s that one person huffing and puffing about it. That person is a turd, and one of my biggest pet peeves. As if their time is somehow more important than everyone else’s. When I trade with others, which I do often (it’s a great way to build a collection without money!), I prefer to trade on an hour for hour basis. When someone gives you their time, treasure it, because it is actual treasure.
If you are “that person” in line, think again, it’s unbecoming.
I loathe the term self-care, however, I do advocate taking time for yourself. Give yourself 20 minutes to start, whether that be meditation, a walk, a bath, exercise, dancing, whatever you enjoy, do that. Integrating this into your daily life will improve your quality of life, and you may find that it gives you more time! Being calm and centered makes everything easier. There’s no such thing as being too busy to give yourself 20 minutes, I’ve tried that lie on myself many times, and sometimes I still don that bullshit robe for ego’s sake, but then after a few days I go for a walk or go swimming and realize I was just being full of it. You’re worth it.
3. The Frequency And Content Of A Person’s Social Media Posts Has Nothing To Do With Their Real Life
This one is the hardest for me to write, and I am on the verge of tears and unhealthy coping mechanisms just thinking about it, but I want to help so here goes. You are not alone. In 2017, I made a show about loss. Because I cannot speak or write about my experiences, I transformed them into my best work. I dug into my guts and hung them on the wall of my alma mater, Western State Colorado University. I gave a 30-minute speech to a large audience. It was both excruciating and incredibly cathartic.
What does this have to do with social media? Well, from December 2010 through April 2012, my life was Hell. I call that time Hell Year, and it almost killed me. I was always scrolling and posting on Facebook like everything was normal and fine. A selfie, some videos, a funny joke, look what I can do! When inside I was barely hanging on, and outside I was tempting fate because I did not value my life. I’ve never admitted that before…(at this point I had to take a break in writing, and I apologized to myself and let some tears fall). Finding my dog Mesa, tattered and on the verge of death herself, and then reuniting with my now husband (we met when I was slinging those sweet hemp necklaces!), saved my life. Love saved me. Please, hang on. Don’t make assumptions based on what you see on social media. I am forever changed post-Hell Year, and I still have a long road ahead toward loving myself, but I am so glad to be here and moving toward that goal. I am so grateful that I made it, and I see you struggling. Be you ahead, beside, or behind me–I offer you my hand.
4. Devastation Is Relative
A dark time is serious business and nothing to dismiss. There’s always someone, somewhere, who has it much worse, but that does not diminish the validity of your/a loved one’s experience. Read that again. I am writing this on behalf of everyone paralyzed by pain, never, ever say the following: “it could be worse” “look on the bright side” “have you tried ___?” “I can’t believe you’re so upset about ___” “think positive.” These things are dismissive, lazy, and downright dangerous to say. If someone you love is hurting, love them. Feed them. Give them your time. Listen, if they feel like talking. Check in regularly with no expectations.
Post Hell Year, I lost a lot of friends, because I wasn’t any fun anymore. My friend Molly got it, and so I would answer her phone calls. She let me be a bitch and has never led me to believe that it almost cost me her friendship.
*cheery voice*: “Hey Flan how’s it going?”
*total dick voice*: “…how the fuck do you think it’s going?”
Repeat that scenario every phone call for a couple years. I need to thank her for that, and I will as soon as I finish writing these. This entry segues pretty well into the next:
5. Old Sayings Are Old Sayings Because They’re True
Such as: you really will find out who your friends are when times are tough. Before you go too far into a situation, ask yourself, “are there proverbs written about this?” If so, and they advise against you: reconsider. I am specifically referring to what you make available for public consumption, and behaviors you subject your loved ones to. You never know who you might alienate, and restraint is power. I speak from experience. I have made my share of poor choices, against the wise advice of my family and friends, thinking I know better or that the rules don’t apply to me. I have been humbled, and this is why I am very careful with what I post online. The internet does not get access to my personal life. I am opinionated, and my family and I have weathered extreme devastation, but I will never allow something I post to sully my reputation, or be lapped up by those who might revel in my suffering. Screenshots are forever.
6. See The Funny
I took some classes at Berkeley Psychic Institute and one of the first things they teach is “amusement is the highest vibration”. I can’t possibly describe the surreal environment that is “psychic kindergarten” (BPI term) but I have held on to this lesson and I really believe it. If you know me, you’re probably like “wut” about me using the term “highest vibration” and are Googling “Berkeley Psychic Institute” right now. But the point is that when you are in mirth, even compared to the most devout reverence, you are open, and full of joy. My husband makes me laugh all day every day, and sometimes I get him pretty good too. It’s so important.
Find things that make you laugh, cultivate jokes with your friends, don’t be afraid to laugh at the absurd parts of your darkest moments. Because being able to laugh in the worst times can save you.
7. Networking, Collecting, And Supporting Are Important
I have an incredible art and jewelry collection. Most of it is by living artists I have connected with online. I am not a wealthy person. I live in the Midwest where it’s cheap, and I will never go back to living somewhere that requires my level of hustle just to pay the bills (sorry, California. P.S. I want my money back). By living in a place I can afford, I am able to invest so much more into materials, and support artists I admire, including other jewelers.
I believe that there is room for everyone at the top. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even though that sometimes burns. The art world is brutal, and I am not trying to sugar coat that, but the good outweighs the bad. I know the temptation to be a lone wolf is powerful, I have felt it. Wanting to keep all “my” customers to myself, wanting to call out a copycat, wanting to leave other jewelers out of my veneration, you name it. I am not immune to the darker sides of human nature or the realities of competition. However, you can’t do that stuff and truly succeed. Hate, jealousy, and exclusion will bind you. Fellowship and networking opens doors and creates lasting bonds and friendships. If someone comes to me and wants something that I happen to know is another jeweler’s specialty? I will put those people in touch. If someone starts making jewelry and has questions? I have gone as far as to spend hours giving every bit of advice and assistance I can, at no charge. I share everything that moves me. I buy everything I can. I love my friends and community, and am happy for their successes.
8. Be You
There is so much pressure in life to be a certain way. Especially for women, and especially if you are trying to make a living in art. I know I am selling myself as much as my jewelry. I am an introvert with no persona to speak of. I don’t look cool, I don’t wear makeup, my hair is plain, and I do not discuss my personal life online. I am not on-brand in any way, because I have no brand. I put my time into my work. I like silly animal videos and juvenile humor, and share those things with reckless abandon. It works for me. I make people laugh. I give my time and my money to those in need whenever I can. I am there for my friends and family. I put my spirit into my work. As a result, people want to be like me, not look like me, and that is a true legacy I’m proud of.
9. Nature Is Magic
When I was little, my mama taught me that Nature is God (for lack of a better word). “Flanny, did you know that some people never even see the moon?” that question broke my child-heart, and the realization haunts me still. Throughout my life I have cultivated and nurtured a relationship with the natural world, and it is one of my best assets as well as an incredible teacher. Yes, I know what kind of feather that is; yes, I know when the moon is new or full; yes, I have been pulled outside because I felt a rainbow coming; yes, I have wild animal friends, and we talk.
Anyone can receive priceless gifts from nature. Go out into it, regularly. Visit the same place in all seasons and get to know it. I believe that a person has not truly experienced love until they have loved an animal, or nature, and frankly I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t. Nature is a portal to other realms, too. I have seen things that defy explanation, which have led me deeper into my appreciation and relationship with the supernatural, and increased my intuition. I am an only child, born on the Day of the Dead, and grew up in a haunted house, so my baseline was already substantial in that regard. Being in tune with nature is something that can be practiced, and I promise that observing and being in the moment can reap powerful, inspiring rewards.
10. I Don’t Know
I am not religious, because I do not think humans are capable of explaining life, and people seem to do crazy, horrible things in the name of their god. I’m OK with the question mark. It leaves room for magic. Feeling hopeless about the state of humanity is paralyzing, and yet the only option is to keep going. Focusing on the amazing things people do, helps. I am so inspired by beauty, compassion, bravery, ingenuity, and skill. I am also humbled by our insignificance, and calmed by it. I forgive myself for forgetting. I believe in the beyond. That belief does not require dogma, a title, or anyone besides me. I spent a year volunteering in a children’s hospital. Those kids, they have something that leaves most of us as we age. They have a light that is not diminished by sickness or death. They remember. They know.