Sometimes, deciding you're gonna be somebody is half the battle.
Sometimes, just START.
Sometimes, you have to just hope that your work ethic will carry you.
That you're smart and adaptable and positive.
And that's enough.
My best friend, then living in Florida and studying 'technology in the classroom', mentioned to me a site called 'Etsy'. I nodded in approval and a kind of 'oh-yea-i-totally-know' fake confidence under a 'WTF is Etsy?!' inner ocean-tidal PANIC. I had NEVER heard of this thing (that would end up completely changing my life and business) and somehow felt so immediately out-of-touch with mainstream cool-kid america. She spoke of a community and platform of artists that sold their work online, and thought I would be the perfect candidate, and really, I was. A startup jewelry artist still in school just learning her way around art and business and selling her stuff online? PERFECT FOR ETSY. I immediately went home and googled it. That was back in 2009, when Etsy had been on the scene for a few years, so I casually played it cool and opened up a shop literally the next day. I can safely say it was the singlemost important suggestion anyone has made to me regarding my business. Etsy and I have been selling together ever since that fateful google search, ten years ago.
I also, from the very beginning, had my man's unconditional support. He built me a studio. And a bench. I am so lucky for this piece of the puzzle to have come so naturally. I know it's not always the case. His faith in me has been unwavering.
(He actually is the one who named my business, back in 2009, when we had just started living together and sharing our love for very loud albums of Jack White. Jack and his then-wife Meg White wrote a song called 'Rag and Bone' about two vagabonds collecting things for their life together. It was very apropos at the time, as my business was just barely a 'thing', WE were just barely a 'thing', and we had scrounged up everything we could to make a go of my jewelry as a business. I took my work to the local farmers market with a red radio-flyer wagon and two tall sticks to hang my hand-painted sign, for YEARS. It was the best. And definitely the worst at times. I was a junk-show. And as the song goes......"You sure you don't want it, man? I could use... take it. It's just things you don't want - I can use 'em; Meg can use 'em;We can do something with 'em; we'll make something out of 'em,Make some money out of 'em at least!")
From rusty wheels, quirky rock-n'-roll, and a hand-painted sign, Rag and Stone was born.
I don't want you to think this was magic at first. Startup is painful. It's something I think we all can agree on, regardless of how glossy and refined social media paints entrepreneurs. To be clear, I worked two inside jobs and one seasonal manual-labor landscaping gig, went to school seasonally as money would allow, for FOUR years, earning a TWO year degree. It was slow and sometimes painfully so. But, I took myself and my art seriously for the first time in my life. I worked crappy shows, rainy farmers markets, pop-ups that no one came to. I made crap. I made lots of stuff that I had to repair. I made things that got lost in the mail. I re-made things because the first ones weren't what the customer was happy with. I took really bad pictures. In all, I made REALLY BAD JEWELRY.
But that's the thing about beginnings. They're not pretty, usually. Most of the time, they're raw and ugly and so-not-instagram.
In 2011, I quit my 'day jobs' and went full time with my jewelry business.
I had no idea what that meant. Or what to expect.
Or how unbelievably naive and financially irresponsible that would come to feel.
I learned to lean on the weekly farmers market and the small sales there with such gravity.
A $30 sale at the market or online could make or break my bank account, hanging in inevitable overdraft fees and the need for an occasional fish taco.
I found my lack of financial stability to be terrifying, like tight rope walking with the dragons of debt below me....
All highly motivating.
In 2012, I joined the arts council.
I graduated community college with ANOTHER 2 year arts degree, (seemingly to prove they could be useful!)
I studied the business of art under the council's guidance.
I traveled to shows out of state.
I fearfully wrung my hands. A lot.
Whether I was good enough.
Whether I was an 'Artist'.
Whether I was going to even make rent.
But one thing was for sure: I was working my ass off.
I worked like I were a graduate student doing heavy research in her field. Painfully addicted and shamelessly obsessed.
I soldered a jillion things a day. I sawed out shapes and worked at my bench pin late into the night.
I wrote business plans and budgets and learned software I would have been deathly allergic to in my earlier (much sloppier) days.
I worked through the bad designs, the weak solder joints, the poor lighting in my photos.
I cracked stones and set sapphires crooked and even crushed a supposed-diamond with my bezel pusher. Into powdery defeat.
I followed the work of young artists, professional jewelers, and some Etsy titans (See Rosy Revolver, Umber Dove, Sunny Rising, The Noisy Plume) that proved their jewelry shop updates could be very lucrative online. In fact, SOLD OUT almost instantly.
I got better. And bolder. And took notes from those that were doing what I wanted to do for a living too.
And I got a professional sign made.
I got to thinking about sustainability as a yearly thing, instead of a bill-cycle.
I got to thinking about art as balance, a cycle of one-of-a-kind and a line of work I now lovingly call 'bread n' butter'.
A way to pay my way AND give myself mental peace to create.
I got to thinking about creativity as a plant.
Always growing with the right conditions.
A little light, water, food, and love.
It was the 'food' part I needed the most.
Enter bread and butter.
For the first few years, I sold work at our local downtown farmers market. Tiny stud earrings. Ugly Beadwork.
And stack rings. LOTS of stack rings.
In fact, this ONE product has been the backbone of my existence in my early years as a full-time metalsmith.
A simple design, easily worn, and loved by everyone.
I've sold them since the beginning, and have shipped them all over the world.
They are, hands down, my most popular item.
(They are still my favorite thing to wear, and the one on my pinkie has been there for probably these last ten years!)
I could say I meant to do that.
That I scoured and researched and painfully executed their existence.
But I definitely didn't.
It was luck, friends. And a request from a dear friend.
"Make me some silver rings I can bring to Burning Man!"
And so I did.
I made 60 of them for her.
And I was hooked on making them from that day on.
I started bringing them to the farmers market weekly.
And they started selling out. Almost immediately.
Thank you for loving this set of six sterling rings so much.
They have given me SO MUCH.
Gas money when I was on empty,
They've paid for materials, snow tires, years of schooling, and my studio.
They have given me vacations.
And paid time off.
They've given me the opportunity to BE Rag and Stone.
They've given me the life of ARTIST.
I will never forget it.
This is the 3rd year I'll be offering my set-of-six stacker rings at 50% off. They're my BREAD N' BUTTER and I offer them up as love-tokens to you, for your continued support and faith in my creative life and endeavors from my jewelers bench here in this special corner of MT.
I very well could have quit, back in the radio-flyer farmers market shit-show days, and I'm so glad I didn't. I am beyond grateful for these ten years as a Jeweler. I am beyond grateful for excavating creative words and designs for you to wear in your life, where I hope they bring you some joy and some sense of purpose and some magic to your corner of the world.
I can't say it enough. YOU are the reason RAG AND STONE exists. Thank you.
Sale will run Friday February 15th through the weekend.
Forever yours, Erin
Enjoy this hilarious flash back, from the bungalito construction in 2010, my first show, that hand-painted sign, bad jewelry, and funky art-show set ups. All beginnings, no regrets, TEN YEARS, and through it all, stack rings!
Bungalito Construction February 2010
She gets a ROOF!
Walls came up inside Jesse's Dad's Quonset hut
Baby face with a nail gun
First Business Card, yellow!
When I made my earring cards by hand. From construction paper.
First 'Real' Show set up, Hockaday Arts Festival, Kalispell MT 2011
2010 Desk Chaos, newly built by Jesse
Sign painted on my current Kitchen table. Check out that orange wall!
Before we even had a front porch, we had a sign! 2010
Missoula Peoples Market, inside the Commons on campus, 2011.
Ethos Eco Boutique on Railroad, my first shop! December 2011
Farmers Market Summer 2011, note the puffy coats and windy walls.
Short hair, fresh yellow paint in the Bungalito, and new bench furnished by my now Hubs! Circa 2010
Hipstagram. Remember when that was a thing!?
First thing I ever sold on Etsy. Spinner ring. November 2009. Oohf. Don't love it.
And this cringe-worthy farmers market set up, 2010. But! If you look close, you'll see STACK RINGS!