by Jenny Ashley.
My name is Jenny and I have been a jewelry artist for about 4 years. I am also someone who has had severely debilitating health issues, including ongoing chronic pain and an upcoming back surgery.
My journey started back in 2009 when during an emergency room visit it was discovered I had a fist-sized benign tumor sitting under my breastbone. I could never have imagined that this would be the beginning of a different kind of life for me! I am 33 years old and had been working as a physical therapist assistant for over 10 years when the tumor was discovered.
Due to the severity of my health issues I had to stop working in the career I loved and choose a different path in life. While I was in the process of recovering and going through more surgery I decided I wasn’t satisfied with just wasting my days sitting in front of the TV. So I had a friend show me how to make a simple single stranded necklace.
This was the start to my passion for making jewelry.
I started to realize that making jewelry was more than just a fun hobby, it was also something that gave me purpose throughout my recovery and made me feel like I had some direction in life. I started to see just how important this “hobby” had become. It has helped me to keep my sanity in dealing with the chaotic barrage of doctor appointments and bad pain days.
Once I became more immersed in becoming an artist, I recognized the difficulties my disabilities would present and how they could interfere in my jewelry making. I couldn’t let my pain be an obstacle to doing what I love.
So I started to come up with ways around these so-called obstacles in order to transform them into mere challenges. One of the biggest problems I deal with is having so many pain days in a row that I am unable to finish a project, or am unable to even start a new one.
The following are some suggestions to my fellow disabled artists that you can put in place to ensure your being able to continue working with jewelry design.
1). Conserve Your Energy
This is number one on my list of what helps me.
Basically this means balancing out how much time is spent on a project. It’s so tempting to work as long as you can on good days but as you may have noticed that always makes your bad days worse and they last longer.
Instead, you can limit the time you work on jewelry on your good days and then maybe do just a little bit on your bad days. You will get more done overall.
Try not to be too rigid on where you actually make your jewelry. Although I currently have a studio room set up, I sometimes need to be lying down or at least be near a place to lie down. So on those days I might put up a TV tray next to the couch and work on a smaller project from there.
2). Organization is Important
The less time you have to put into finding the materials you need and gathering them, the more time you can actually spend working. And don’t be afraid to package a partially completed project into a resealable bag to continue later. Doing this saves you from having to gather all of the supplies again. You can also organize the materials you use most often within easy reach so you’re not bending, twisting, or reaching as much.
3). Invest in an Ergonomic Chair
Have a really good solid supportive office or wheeled chair for your studio. It’s easier on the tush and it’s got wheels so you don’t have to get up as much. You can’t beat that!
4). Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
You would be surprised to find who is willing to help if only you would ask. I recommend joining an online forum of those who share similar circumstances. I personally have been involved in developing an online community of other disabled artists like myself called The Physically Challenged Artists Support Group at Big Tent.com. It’s invaluable to have the support of others who share your issues and also your passion.
Jenny Ashley Designs at Facebook
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