Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Musings on What Makes a Beader Famous



‎"To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are."

(photo by Rasmus Lindersson)
I posted this quotation on my Facebook today and have been thinking about it and the subject of this blog post for a while.  What makes a beader famous among other beaders?  What makes people follow a blog?  What makes a person love another beader's designs?

I've been sort of driving myself crazy with these questions because I'm currently mentoring a young girl who wants to break into fashion design.  She's been asking these hard questions about why certain designers are flocked to, while other designers with equally, if not better work, get passed by.  She worries that unless she's in LA or New York, she'll never get anywhere.  And I don't quite know what to say to her.

What do you think it is that makes a beader "famous"?  Is it being in the public eye constantly?  Is it their actual designs?  Is it the fact that they make all their own components?

I look at what I make and realize -- it's pretty, but only on rare occasions did I make the components.  I'm just foraying into more intensive wire work.  I'm certainly not a revolutionary.

I've been published in a number of magazines but I'm not sought after.  My phone's not ringing off the hook nor is my email burning up.  That's partly my fault, because I'm not seeking out connections, either.  When I was in IT sales, that was the hardest thing for me to do, because I wasn't a good schmoozer -- I felt tongue-tangled and awkward and shy in person.  I come across much better on paper.  This is something I must work on.

The girl I'm mentoring was bemoaning not being X or Y or Z in the fashion world and that she never would be.  Inwardly, I was doing the same thing, just substituting "beading world" for "fashion world".  And then it struck me.

This is ridiculous.

Wishing I were anyone else is a total waste of time.  Not only is it almost like trying to copy someone else's life, it's overlooking what *I* have to offer.  I've done a lot of the things to be proud of, and with some pretty serious obstacles in the way.  I've been bringing up a son who is convinced that he would rather go to art school rather than college.  And along the way, I've met via email some of the nicest, kindest people I could ever hope to meet.

My point?  If you've ever felt like a small fish in a big pond, or like you'll never catch up to the famous few, take a look at yourself and take a look at your work.  I guarantee that you're much, much better than you think you are.  I guarantee you have some supportive e-friends out there.  And I guarantee that there are people out there that admire you, no matter how far up the beading ladder you've climbed.

Lori makes jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog An Artist's Year Off.  Her favorite things, besides beads, are books.


  1. I so agree with everything you said! if we could be happy as we are it would be great. I try?


  2. Great post, Lori. Always love to hear your thoughts.

  3. I love that quote. What a great post! That's something we should all remember.

  4. What a great topic for discussion. I think in this day and age - with the population being so huge and the marketplace essentially being global - that it takes more than just design talent to achieve a certain level of fame. After watching shows like "Project Runway" and "The Rachel Zoe Project", etc., I realized that there are some people who are REALLY creatively talented, but they don't have the personal skills, business skills or sometimes even common sense to be commercially successful. I think there's also something to be said for a touch of luck - getting the right design in front of the right person at the right time. Think of how many artists are famous NOW, but were totally unknown during their lifetimes. There's a reason for the term "starving artist."

  5. Excellent post! I think it is common to compare ourselves to others but to quote Mary Schmich...

    "Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself."

    I think that is so true. We only have to be the best selves we can be we don't have to be someone else.

  6. this was a wonderful post..very thought provoking.
    can an artist ever be totally happy with themselves?not sure about that.
    i don't think one has to make their own components to be recognized..but i do think networking is essential, but luck is in there too, as well as the work itself standing out.
    it's a good question to ponder..

  7. Fabulous topic! I don't necessarily want to be a famous designer, but I would like to make money at it! Yes, it is my passion, my art, etc, but if I can't pay the mortgage with my day job or set money aside for my 9 yo's education, how can I justify spending the bucks on learning new techniques, materials, and more. I am happy with my art, however, and that is what keeps me going most days...I must admit being in fairly big funk lately with how my "business" is going.

  8. woohoo! sing it sista! sooooo well said :)


  9. Great post! Something I've always wondered myself. It might be worth pointing out that there is a downside to being famous--hate mail, longer days, more pressure to produce on command . . . all hypothetically speaking, of course. :)

  10. What a thoughtful post, so true and thank you for making us all think of what really matters as we make this journey. You will make a good mentor your 'mentee' is very fortunate.

  11. Oh wonderful philosophical Lori! Such an interesting topic. Great post, and great comments too. 

  12. Here here, love that post! I know we make our demons much bigger in our own minds. You never know what other people are thinking of your work, or how many are looking at it! I'm really starting to get this myself. I think the best advice is design from the heart, you can't go wrong. Not from the head! On anything really. Great to hear you are mentoring, very healthy. Take care, Riki

  13. What a GREAT post! I've never really thought about many of the questions in your post. I guess I'm quite content where and who I am...at least for today.

  14. I love that quote, Lori...thanks for sharing :-) This is a wonderful and thought-provoking post, and I think many of us can relate to those feelings.

    What makes a designer famous? I think personality and the ability to really get out there and sell yourself plays a huge part. It's not enough to make beautiful jewellery (or clothes). You need to sell it! Networking and making the most of every opportunity (get published, get in the media (TV, newspapers, radio, etc), enter competitions, anything that offers a chance to put your designs on the world stage) are vital. Of course, if you have the contacts in the right places, that is a huge advantage! But for the majority of us, we just have to work darn hard ;-) LOL

    And always be passionate about what you do...if you're excited about your work, that positive energy is contagious and other people will be excited about it too :-D


    P.S. I was grinning from ear-to-ear the other day when you first visited my blog, when I realised that you were THE Lori Anderson...I have an old copy of Step-by-Step Wire with one of your projects, and your name always stuck in my mind because your bio was hilarious...something about staying sane amongst all the diapers and Teletubbies LOL Being a stay-at-home mum myself now (with a one and two year old), I can totally relate! LOL

  15. Wonderful post! Life is not about your public persona and while, that is/can be important in the beading world, it's not the be all end all. I personally view you as quite sucessful. But even more than that I really like to hear what you have to say.

  16. Having always been an artist from the time I can remember, and mostly starving at that , I often question what I am doing? I NEED to create to feel good, yet not selling can be a real downer. How do we succeed without sacrificing integrity and being true to ourselves and not selling out? This is the biggest problem I have. I see the most successful ones, and sometimes I don't like what I see.
    Fab post Lori!

  17. Hi Lori. This must be the day for this type of postings. I am so glad that you gave your feelings so freely and with such passion. Hmmmm part of being famous I think.
    Your young friend will learn a lot from you. I have copied this part of your post.
    What do you think it is that makes a beader "famous"? Is it being in the public eye constantly? Is it their actual designs? Is it the fact that they make all their own components?
    I think that this is true in part. It is also who you know (the shmoosing)and if one is looking for that kind of fame.
    On the other hand you are so right about looking at our own art and seeing what and who we are as people, as artists. Fame doesn't mean much if there is no heart and soul in it. Once we find that we find ourselves and then anything is possible.

  18. Well said, Lori. And we think you are pretty darn fabulous for who YOU are! :-)

  19. Such a great post!
    "To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are." an amazing quote, very thought provoking.

  20. I learned along time ago nothing is ever as easy as it seems. People that "make it" have put a lot of time and hard work into it. I have yet to meet an "over night" sensation that in real life has not paid their dues with TONS of hard work.

    Think I'll steal your quotation....cool post.

  21. Great post, I agree with you. this is something I have to remember for myself.
    The only thing I would wish for myself is to be more confident in my own work, I feel strange even sharing my work on my blog. I find it much more comfortable to share other peoples work. Guess it's time to develop more "people skills"!

  22. Lori, what an ironic post to post today/tonight, as I was just having this almost exact conversation with my first cousin tonight and picking her brain for advice. Almost pleading for "the answer"

    Here advice was this, "People like you don't fail, ever. No many how many times you get discouraged you always prevail"

    So simply obvious, but I think it's a question that we all still,24 hours a day, deal with more than others especially in the artistic and/or creative world in which most of us come from.

    I think we sometimes don't praise our own special talents as much as we should.

  23. Great post, I so agree and a few points, first of all, I have always seen you as a famous designer, maybe that is not the way we see ourselves, so fame is relative in each person's mind...
    second, the better question is why there is such a need out in the world for so much fame, I dont mean you, but most people these days feel "less than" if they are not x, y or z in the world of whatever their passion is...this does not serve anyone well...
    increasingly we as a people have come to see fame as the ultimate goal in life, where as the goal should be to have a great, kind happy journey every step of the way, a journey that has its ups & downs, a journey that has happy & sad times, can & is a full journey...
    we need to look in to being good at what it is that we do, from loving one another to creating handmade goods, to being great friends, parents & citizens of the world...now that is some fame I like to go after everyday...

    as always I enjoy reading your thoughts & looking at your yummy art...

  24. Thank you for an excellent and thought-provoking blog. I always compare my work to that of someone I know who is a professional photographer and there are times I feel like just "chucking it in". Your post made me realise that this is a negative and dismissive attitude towards an activity that affords me such satisfaction and enjoyment and if only a handful of other people see something in my work that they might not have noticed before, well then I've achieved my goal.

  25. Lori, This is such a GREAT POST! I think so often we set benchmarks that we call "Achievement of the GOAL" and we fail to realize all the achievements that we made along the way. Each of us has unique talents and some are recognized and some aren't by others. That makes them no less of a talent. If we are happy doing what we are doing, even if we are only doing it for ourselves we are successful.

  26. Another really nice post. What I think what makes some beaders famous? I think it is the following:
    - consistency in beading / showing jewelry in their blogs
    - Great juicy pictures (since we can't touch the beads via the internet)
    - A personal touch to their blogs - talking about their feelings, family and private things makes them people not only shops, and I think that is what we are looking for all the time - more friends. This might be polarizing in some cases, but I can clearly say that I follow some blogs for the people and their stories and not the jewelry, since it is clearly not my style.
    And to close this comment - I think you have both - a nice (virtual I can't judge about the real one) personality AND great jewelry. Anyways - my take....

  27. Thank you for this post! I know that when I get down on my business or my work, it is very easy to start comparing myself to others and bemoaning my own successes.

    I think the most important lesson that we can learn is to keep reaching, keep pushing, and keep trying....I had a boss once, who, when I would get frustrated about this, would ask me this question:

    Him: Barbara, how do eat an elephant?

    ME: I don't know, how?

    HIM: One bite at a time, one bite at a time.....

    It's silly but I still remember it when I get frustrated!

  28. Lori, this is a great post. I think we all have this internal struggle. I do this not only with what I create but also with my shop...why can't I be more successful, what can I do to get more business. I am like you and do not actively put myself "out there". Selling yourself, not just your art or your business, is a big part of the success that people have. I try to remember that I am successful ways that cannot be measured--a good ear for listening to my friends & customers, a caring heart that hurts with my friends & customers. This is what we will be remembered for long after any other success by those who matter the most to us.
    Bead Happy!

  29. I mentor and teach many young voice teachers and singers who are constantly worrying about these same issues. I had a career in music because I simply DID the work. There was a wonderful interview recently with the female director of the movie "The Hurt Locker," where she was asked the same things. And she said, start by just doing the work. It is through the work that you will begin to define your own clear thoughts about success. Do not adopt others views. The work will inform you.

  30. I think it is important to remember to just try and be the best you can at what you love. There was once a book with a wonderful title. "Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow." I love that. It says it all. I have been a painter for many years and never got much recognition, although not for lack of trying. As far as beadwork goes, there is so much out there it can be overwhelming. I think the ones who stand out are the ones with unique designs and really perfect craftsmanship. It isn't so much whether they make their own findings, clasps etc. It is how well the ones they do choose fit their vision and design.

  31. What an awesome topic! Trying not to give a long winded answer I am going to say Although I think everyone has the desire to be famous I think I prefer to be loved by a few than admired my many!


  32. Love the post Lori.

    Art of any kind is not what it looks like, but how it makes you feel.

    It's human nature to second guess ourselves.

  33. ahhh...such kind words today, Lori. thank you for the encouragement.

    you are right, of course, in so many ways. we get blinded by popularity, and because of our media-saturated society, we think that it is the ultimate goal.

    there are much greater goals than worldwide fame - and the main one is to be who we were created to be!

    and that, of course, ultimately, pleases our Creator. That is a goal worthy of our aspirations. :)


  34. Such a great message for today, Lori. I agree. There is no real formula for success. Yes, it is true that who you know helps you go a long way in any world, not just beading or fashion, but that is not a guarantee. I think it starts with believing in yourself, first and foremost. Because when the whole world falls away, when they find the next big thing to follow, you have still got yourself to please. And comparing yourself, your style, your talents to someone else is really not necessary. I agree that seeking out work that you like can help you challenge yourself, but it is ultimately you left in the room and you need to make it work for you. And really, who is it to define success for you? If you think that the only way to be successful is to live and schmooze in NYC or LA and that is the epitome of success, you might not achieve that. But if it means that you do what you love, you work to connect yourself with those who love it too, then that can be success no matter where you are. This is thoughtful, and retrospective and very timely. Your young friend is lucky to have you for a mentor.
    Enjoy the day!

  35. This is a really excellent post. Sometimes some artists don't feel recognised or getting the attention they need or would like and the road seems or is hard. Then one day they are *discovered and the census is *where did they come from! So one never knows how things will turn out. Sometimes it seems like a bit of Russian roulette. I went to Parsons School of Design in NYC and you think you shine and are great then see people with blow away talent. It can be quite discouraging. It seems like the right recipe works..what that recipe is? It surely is talent, then sometimes fate. Then there is personality involved the wow magnetic person. But at the end of the day my thoughts are that its the Talent. The field she is persuing is a really hard one. She must be a steel strong person and be relentless in her persuit. The shoes she walks aren't easy. She must focus totally on herself.

  36. Love this post, Lori, and it's so true. It's in our nature to compare ourselves with others, but in the end, your true competition is yourself.

  37. I think that it is all in the eye of the beholder. To me you are a famous beader as your name is found in magazines but more importantly, you are approachable.

  38. you were talking to me in some parts of your post and i was shaking my head in agreement in other parts.
    this post was brilliantly written.
    and though i'm new to beading, i was able to simply change the word, beading, to "mixed media artist" - what you said works for all of us in whatever we are endeavoring to be.

    thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.




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