WHAT IS THAT IN YOUR HANDS? : REFLEXIONS OF A DIVAPRENEUR
I’ve had several people ask me just how I got into designing hand bags and jewelry. Well, like most things in life, it’s a long story. But the short version is that I was at an exhibition one day when I found myself drawn to a particular stand where hand bags were being sold. What I found really interesting was the fact that all the bags were made from cloth. You have to remember that at the time fabric hand bags were only just beginning to become popular. I ended up buying some of the bags but I felt the pricing was a bit low, so to test the market I tried to sell a few of them. I ended up reselling all of them with people asking for more. They were really beautiful and each one had a very distinct and unique style. Not long after, I travelled abroad with the hope of continuing to order bags and resell them. However, I suddenly found myself up against brick walls that I had never encountered before. Strange vocabulary like customs, duties, textile quotas, shipping and other similarly dreadful words suddenly crept into my everyday vocabulary. I soon realized that my new found “open door” had just slammed shut in my face. So I found myself at cross roads, as indeed those of us who call ourselves divapreneurs or entrepreneurs, are also at crossroads in such a situation – being whether to give in, or trudge on hopefully.
Looking at the unfolding economic scenario
Looking at the unfolding economic scenario, one doesn’t have to be Einstein to figure out what sort of impact this is having on people all over, but it does take a different sort of mindset to be able to look through to the other side and identify some of the positive spin-offs. For tough times never come empty handed; they always bring with them a basket of apples that need to be sorted: the rotten ones representing the downside of things that need to be gotten rid of, and the good ones, the positives, in the form of new opportunities, fresh ideas, etc. When I saw myself standing in front of a shut door with the bags, I eventually made up my mind to rise to the challenge and rather than just sell bags, I decided to start designing my own. That was easier said than done because I didn’t know anything about bags, and I knew even less about designing, but we won’t go there right now, cause it’ll mess up my story.
When I first began making jewelry
Anyway, that’s how I started designing bags, but when I first began making jewelry, my personal economy was in such bad shape, that it took me seven months to save the $35 I needed to pay for the class. Then it took me another six months of saving before I was able to buy the tools that I needed to actually take the class – another roughly $35. I wish I could say it ended there, but it didn’t. You see, I began by taking a very, very basic jewelry class that was so badly taught that I ended up having to take it twice before I could figure out what it was about. The first piece of jewelry I ever made was what I called ”the ugly pink and pearl necklace set”. It was so ugly, that when I got home, I hid it in one of my drawers. After a few months, common sense prevailed and I figured, it didn’t really make sense to have paid for the class, have taken it, and then not do anything with what I had learned. So I wore the necklace set to cmapus one day and a colleague of mine happened to see it and asked me where I had bought ”that beautiful necklace” (is how she had decribed it). When I told her that I had made the set myself, she asked me to show it to her boss, a college professor who just happened to be a jewelry lover. Of course I didn’t, but eventually she did mention it to her. Not only did her boss like the ugly pink and pearl necklace set that I had labelled ”rotten apples” and had thrown away, but she immediately placed an order for jewelry and subsequently became my best customer!
How Both Bags and Jewelry Evolved
Looking back now at how both bags and jewelry evolved, I realize that each began with either a challenge, a problem, or both, and it wasn’t so much the obstacles that had held me back, but the fact that I couldn’t look beyond them to recognize what I had in my hands. I came away with a very powerful lesson on how important it is to develop a mindset that matches the creativity. I learned that if I didn’t think I had something of value to offer, no one else would either. I learned that if I could think it, then I could have it – because thinking it, gets it, regardless of the challenges and obstacles and that recurring feeling of wanting to throw in the towel. But in all honesty, I have to say that I was only able to do this because I would wake up in the mornings with this nagging feeling that I had something in my hands that I wasn’t using. Sounds crazy and you can call it women’s intuition if you like, but I kept looking down at my hands and the more I looked, the more I saw nothing, until I got on the internet one day and just let my fingers do the walking. I probably spent the whole of that day surfing the web and after that, I gradually began to explore my thoughts and ideas from the keyboard of my computer. I looked at the the work of other artists and designers and studied their different styles with the hope that this would somehow help me to discover mine . At the same time I tried to learn new techniques and test new ideas for designs for both bag and jewelry, and is so doing stumbled my way into my own personal style as an artist and designer.
In hindsight, I realize that it wasn’t so much what I did right, but rather the fact that inspite of what it looked like, I just kept on walking and exploring and repeating this process until I literally stumbled and fell my way into new levels of creativity and ability that I never even knew existed. But none of that would have been possible had I not first recognized just what it was I had in my hands. And the more I walk, the more I learn. Everyday I wake up, determined to keep walking and sorting my apples, as I keep looking down at my hands and trying to discover what is hidden in them that I haven’t yet recognized. It’s a never-ending journey and I’m on mine. What about you?
Please contact Edith Nkwocha
Style Coaching & Relooking Specialist/Airbrush Makeup Artist