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“It’s Never Too Late” is a Story We Tell Ourselves

I saw my first sunrise this past year at the age of 49. “How can this be?” you might be asking. Well, I usually like to be asleep when that is happening. Living on the West coast my whole life, I’ve seen hundreds of gorgeous sunsets. I’ve even seen the elusive green flash once. But never a sunrise. Of course, there have been a few times when I had to be out of bed before dawn, so I’d witnessed the creeping orange light pushing the darkness out of the early morning sky. But this year, from a picture window in a rented flat in San Francisco, I saw the sun peek up over the horizon and rise, slowly turning from deep red to bright yellow and changing night into day. I hadn’t planned on taking that trip. It didn’t make sense to do it, but I did. And I saw the sunrise.

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In 1997, Greg and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We thought it was such a big deal. We planned an epic Vegas vow renewal and invited our family to join us. Everyone was super pumped to party in Vegas. About a week before the big celebration, we got a phone call. It was after 10pm when the phone rang, and my Grandmother had been very ill, so I immediately thought the worst. No, I guess I thought something bad, but what I actually heard was the worst. My cousin Brandon had been in an accident and was in a coma. Traumatic brain injury. Sometimes people recover from it, sometimes they don’t. Brandon passed away the day before my birthday. You don’t think that 23 is going to be too late, but sometimes it is.

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That changed my life in a way that cannot be unchanged. Even when my life was seriously disrupted in 2009 because Greg and I both lost our jobs, and everything we had worked for, all of the careful plans we made and the feeling of comfort and security vanished, we had the most important thing. As long as you are alive, it’s not too late. We thought that.

 

About three months after losing our entire way of life, we got more bad news. My dad Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were pretty much like “WTF, Universe?” But we had hope. Bob’s treatment was a success, and he was in remission. He looked pretty good, he felt pretty good, his test were great. He had time. Then, in another WTF twist of fate, he was severely disabled by a medical procedure gone wrong. Everything changed, again. He would never recover from it; he could not. He would forever need to use oxygen. He could never fly again, or go on a cruise, or walk very far. He was fragile. When Greg and my brother Justin were planning their trip to Mt. Whitney this past summer, it was bittersweet. Bob was so excited to hear them talking about it, and bonding over it, but deep down he was sad that he couldn’t join them. If they had done this ten years ago, would he have wanted to go? I bet he would not have, because ten years ago, we didn’t know that it would soon be too late.

Bob - 32

And now he’s gone, sooner than we expected, even though we knew all along what was happening. I am tormented by the questions I didn’t ask. Greg and I were planning to take drawing and painting lessons from him, but this summer it was way too hot to be in his studio, so we thought we could start in the new year. And now, it’s too late.

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That is the thing about “too late”, you hardly ever know when it’s coming. Bob knew something that most of us don’t know – too late would be too soon for him. But most of us don’t want to know that too late can happen at any time. “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today,” is a quote people like to throw around. If I thought I was going to die today, you can sure as hell bet that nothing constructive would get done. I wouldn’t be standing here typing this, guaranteed. My day would be mostly eating, and spending time hugging my loved ones and telling them all of the things before it was too late. So how about we dream as if  we’ll die today and live as if we will die sooner than we want to. Let’s not put off telling people we love them. Let’s not wait until the stars align to get going. Let’s not wait until everything is perfect because it never will be. Do not wait to try something, to do something. To be something. Even though, or maybe because he knew his time was short, Bob still tried new things. He was a Master Lithographer, but he had never tried linocuts until this year. Of course, he was awesome at it.

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When Brandon died, my life and the way I saw things changed. I had allowed fear to control my life under the guise of safety, and when I realized that none of us is 100% safe, it was freeing and a little scary. I’d already begun to move away from materialism and this just sealed the deal. Experiences were what I now craved. Nobody wants to hear the story of how you scored a set of dishes on sale. They want to know the story of your one-day whirlwind trip to Paris while on vacation in London, and how you dashed through the city so you could see the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower in a matter of hours. I was terrified to fly (and oddly, of airplanes in general), but I wanted to get over it. I had to, before it was too late.

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.

So here is the deal. I am 50. A lot of soul-searching has been going on around here lately. I am living the years of my life where, barring any unforeseen circumstances, it is not yet too late. I cannot allow this time to just pass. I quit my job in 2012 to become a full-time maker. The plan was for me to get my thing going, then Greg would be able to quit his job and live his dream of traveling our beautiful country and taking gorgeous pictures. It hasn’t panned out. Maybe because what I really want to be is an artist and not a jewelry maker. Maybe my heart just isn’t in it. Maybe there really isn’t a market for what I make, or I’m just bad at business. Maybe I am still more afraid than I’d like to admit. I don’t know. I only know that I can’t wait any longer. We are moving forward with the plan. I confessed to Greg that I’ve been afraid to take this next big step because I didn’t want to ruin our lives, but ruining your life one drip at a time is no better than going all in and seeing what happens. It is time to go all in, before it’s too late.

In 2016, we will begin our Legacy Project. It’s not just enough to have experiences. You have to document and share them. Going through Bob’s childhood photo albums after his passing made me realize how much I didn’t even know I didn’t know. It made me wonder if my kids would remember that trip to Paris. They’ve seen pictures from our journeys and heard stories, but nothing is written down. Could it be lost forever? Very likely. Will it be too late someday? Without a doubt.

My word for 2016 is “fearless”. Will I still feel afraid? Of course. But I am going to do my best to act fearlessly, because fear is an illusion that is supposed to keep us safe, but too often it’s used as an excuse.

[Tweet “Usually what we’re afraid of isn’t disaster but discomfort, and that is bullshit.”]

No more of that. We are taking a trip, and hopefully leaving a legacy. I want to see Old Faithful, gaze in wonder at the Northern Lights, feel the mist of Niagara Falls, and dip my toes in the Atlantic Ocean before it’s too late. I have no idea what will happen. And truth be told, we rarely ever do.

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Blog

“Less Stuff, More Quality’ is My Passion. Here’s Why.

[Tweet “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”]

The trend towards hyper consumerism is almost inescapable. Things are just so darn cheap nowadays. Wal-Mart is everywhere, and dollar stores are so common that books and websites for crafting with stuff that you buy at the dollar store exist. Our town didn’t get its first Wal-Mart until the late 90s, and within a few years there were two more like 5 minutes away from my house. There are currently 22 Wal-Mart stores within a 30 mile radius in San Diego county. I’m picking on Wal-Mart, but they’re not the only guilty party. Cheap stuff is everywhere.

Have you heard of “retail therapy”? It’s kind of a joke to describe that feeling you get when you buy stuff, but in reality, it’s more sad than funny. When that first Wal-Mart opened in my neighborhood I fell under its spell of super cheap crap. Saturday mornings, I’d head over to see what was new and get a little alone time. I could literally spend two hours in there wandering the aisles and filling my cart with housewares, gadgets, trinkets. We were running out of room to put it all, and even though it was cheap, it wasn’t like it was free. I’m not sure what broke the spell. Maybe Greg questioning whether we really needed another red plastic mixing bowl, or maybe I’d just had enough. Like too much fast food, it wasn’t truly satisfying no matter how much I consumed, and eventually I got sick of it. Even though I love fast food, I don’t want to eat it every day. 

And I started to question the statement I was making, because how you spend your hard-earned money is one of the most powerful statements you can make. Not to bum you out too much, but super cheap stuff has a cost that someone, somewhere is somehow paying. Maybe it’s horrible working conditions, maybe it’s gross environmental practices. Sometimes it’s slavery.

Our family made a decision to choose better when handing over our money in exchange for goods and services, starting with buying less. There’s pretty much always going to be a tiny place in my life for discount stores because sometimes you do need that plastic bowl, but we really try hard to support local small businesses. This means, when we buy gifts, we try to choose local handmade whenever possible, or at least a local “mom and pop” retailer. When we eat out, we usually go to a locally owned restaurant vs a chain restaurant. And when we the only choice is a big corporate shop, we do our best to choose one that takes care of its workers and gives back to the community.

I totally get how capitalism works, but I also know that I feel better when the person who is making the stuff I buy can take care of their family. Not everyone can afford to make a statement every time they shop, but if we could all just try to see the bigger picture and spend our money a little more meaningfully, it would make an impact. And understand that you don’t have to cave to the pressure to “buy buy buy”.

And so dear friends, that is the story of my great big why. I hope I’ve made my case that more isn’t always better, but mindful is better; Meaningful is better. And I think that you will see that better stuff is better.

Also, check out this episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver where he talks about the real cost of “Fast Fashion”.  Warning: lots of swears.

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Blog Business

How To Reframe Failure

This weekend I participated in a local arts festival. It was something I had been looking forward to for a few weeks. I haven’t done many fairs or festivals. Jewelry is historically the section that fills up the quickest, so I’ve been rejected a bunch of times, and the one farmers’ market I was able to get into was not very lucrative. But I’ve been looking for a new way to get my super cool rock star jewelry in front of a new audience, so I applied to sell at this local fest.

 

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.

 

And, instead of waiting until the last day to register like I usually do, I turned my app in right away and lo and behold, it was accepted. Yay!

 

Lesson 1: Act early.

 

 

Unfortunately, the organizer forgot to notify me that I had been accepted. I was bummed, assuming that I had been rejected once again, but I decided to follow up just to be sure and to ask if perhaps there was a wait list. That is how I found out, five weeks before the event, that I had in fact been accepted.

Lesson 2: Follow up.

 

My expectations were high. I’d heard legends about makers who didn’t bring enough product and sold completely out halfway through a fair. Another more realistic statistic I’d heard somewhere said that most vendors sell about 30% of their stock on hand. So I set two goals for myself: One, to design three new products I could make quickly and sell at a lower price point; and two, make 100 of these new pieces. That’s a lot of pieces. And if you know anything about me, you know I am all about quality. I wasn’t going to slap something together and put my name on it. Hell no. So I tweaked my process slightly to make it a little quicker but still high quality, and I designed a necklace that could be made much faster than stringing strands of beads or labor intensive cuff bracelets, and this is what I created.

 

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.

 

I then used my “Big Project Planner” to reverse engineer my goal. I set a schedule for making the jewelry, designing and creating the display and the packaging, developing a marketing strategy, and planning the logistics. Boom. Mission accomplished.

Lesson 3: Have a detailed plan of action and work it.

 

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.
so, just go down this alley…

 

Unfortunately, the festival was not financially successful. I sold nowhere near 30% of my pieces. Closer to 3% if we’re keeping it real. It wasn’t just me, but the other sellers I spoke to also had pitiful sales. My neighbor, who was selling gorgeous handbags and accessories, told me that the previous two times she had participated in the market, the hand-made marketplace was on the main drag with the food vendors and music stages. This time, we were off in an adjacent alley that didn’t get as much foot traffic. Also, we were literally across from the trash cans, and homeless people kept coming by and rooting through the bins for recyclables. On top of that, in my opinion, the publicity for the festival focused mainly on the Craft Beer Block & selling tickets to that versus the handmade marketplace.

 

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.
Cool mural, not so cool trash cans…

 

Lesson 4: You can control some things, but not everything.

Friday night, I was super pumped. I set a goal and totally rocked it. Saturday, I was devastated. I had high hopes and they were crushed. Sunday, I woke up feeling invigorated to put everything I learned the previous day into an action plan. Besides the lessons highlighted above, I learned some pretty major stuff. I have a much deeper insight into my ideal customers’ perspective. I also learned that many women prefer to wear shorter necklaces, would probably buy earrings, and are most likely to spend $5-$10 at a festival like this one. I also realized I was offering way too many choices, creating overwhelm for shoppers.

 

Red Scorpio creates bold unique statement jewelry. 100% Handmade by richelle shadoan. Beaded bracelets and necklaces make perfect gifts for the woman in your life who has everything. How to be awesome. Step out of your comfort zone. Live an artful life. Dare to be awesome.
My vision, brought to life

 

Lesson 5: There is always a lesson to be learned.

Although I would have very much loved to have sold out of jewelry, or even sold 30% of the pieces on hand, I don’t consider my experience a failure. I am still proud of reaching my production goal. I am super happy that the display I imagined turned out so well in real life. I connected with some really cool makers, and I am taking away a wealth of knowledge that I can use to make my next experience better and more successful.