I’ve been talking about this for 25 years. I’ve been flapping my lips for 25 years. I have to stop talking and start doing.
In this interview, Monica tells the story of transitioning from full-time mother and wife to launching her own jewelry business and reclaiming her identity as an artist. She describes the ways she draws on her strengths and on her support network to pursue her calling.
Why now? What catalyzed you into action?
On a practical level, what’s made this possible is that my kids (ages 17 & 18) are getting older and I have more time to think about what I want to do. Making jewelry has always been in the plans, but I finally felt ready to make it a priority.
Also, I feel more calm internally and have more confidence than when I was younger–maybe it’s because of my age. As compared to before, I’m not as worried about what people think. I’m not worried about failing and being judged.
Tell us about your journey into making jewelry
I graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1993 with a Bachelor of Interior Design and did that work for a few years.
After a few years of working in the design field, I had the opportunity to travel to Cairo with my (now) husband while he completed his Master’s degree in architecture.
When in Cairo, I became fascinated with Bedouin jewelry and realized how much I loved jewelry and how it was a continual thread throughout my life. I have always enjoyed working with my hands (cooking, gardening, knitting…), and being on my own and in my own space. The thought of pursuing goldsmithing really excited me.
In 1996, upon my return to Canada, I started a two year Goldsmith Certificate program offered at Vancouver Community College.
Shortly after I graduated from the Goldsmithing program, I married and became pregnant. Due to the toxicity of many compounds in goldsmithing, I stuck to knitted and beaded jewelry while I was pregnant and didn’t create the jewelry I truly wanted to. Once my first child was born, the jewelry-making stopped.
In the 20 years that followed, I made my family a priority and worked closely with my husband to get his career launched and established (Measured Architecture) while also working as a property manager to keep some form of stability in the firm’s early years.
I managed to do a few jewelry ventures when the kids were young. For example, I made pieces for Danielle Laporte and Carrie McCarthy when they were starting their business and these are featured in their Style Statement book.
As the kids got older, I started spending more time in my studio and did some charity events and set up booths at small conventions. So, I managed to find ways to make jewelry in some capacity over the years.
Even though making jewelry wasn’t a big part of those 20 years, I still felt like a maker and creator because–whether it was gardening or cooking or projects with my kids–I was always creating something. I have always loved artistic voices and identified as a creator.
The difference now is that I’m focussing on my jewelry.
What has helped you most in the transition?
What has helped me most as I have transitioned and focused more on my jewelry-making and business are:
- Tapping into my inner confidence.
- The mothering-intense period of my life is over so I now feel that something else can begin. My kids are older and do not need me as much as before.
- I was part of a mastermind group and that helped me with accountability.
- Establishing studio time, i.e., “I’m going to be in the studio from noon – 4 pm”. I’m getting better at this, but still have such a hill to climb.
- Support from my husband. He has been hugely encouraging and is more a believer in me than I am.
How can your StrengthsFinder themes help you?
(Note: Monica entered into a draw for a complimentary StrengthsFinder Energizer session. She was the winner of the draw.)
My themes are: Discipline; Achiever; Responsibility; Developer; Consistency. I have seen all of these in action in my personal life and even when I was a child. I like all my strengths and want to shift where they’re applied to include my business and art. I think they can all be useful in that context.
Discipline: I want to become better at separating family time and time for my jewelry and I want to keep devoting more time to my art. I’d like to set up my structure and get to the point that I’m itching to be in my studio (I’m not there yet).
Developer: I want to be more intentional about supporting my own growth! I’ve never given myself permission to do so in the past and this may also be partly because being an artist was taboo in my family of origin. So, once I got married, I saw myself as mother, wife, and property manager first. I am ready to invest in my artist self.
Responsibility: I have always put others ahead of myself. Even if I’ve put time aside to spend time in my studio, I’ll drop everything if a friend calls in need. Now I’d like to apply more responsibility to my self and my own goals.
With respect to Consistency and Achiever, these have been really strong in my personal and family life and I now want to apply these in my artistic and business pursuits. Anything I’ve received recognition for in my life has been tied to my art. I’ve known for decades what I want to do but stifled it for many different reasons.
Monica Berdin is an artist in Vancouver, BC.
Photo of Monica by Yasmeen Strang; Photo of jewellery on model by Ori Nevares.