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January 2017

Read My Jewelry - Jewelry with a Voice and Visibility

Read-My-PinsOriginally, this post was going to be exclusively about the book, "Read My Pins" and the remarkable exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. There is much to say -- a lot more -- about how jewelry can make powerful statements for the wearer, to the viewer, or from the maker. 

As a jeweler, jewelry maker, metalsmith, jewelry collector and avid fan of all kinds of jewelry, I believe in the power of jewelry to express insights, emotions, and meaning far beyond the initial perceptions of beauty and craftsmanship.  "Read My Pins" excels in such revelations showing how Madeleine Albright used an expansive repertoire of her pins to convey diverse signals such as cooperation, dissatisfaction, special interests, sympathy, cultural awareness, or common cause throughout her career.  Much more on this amazing exhibition below.   

But let me start with a contrasting message that came to my attention this weekend to consider even more seriously the power of jewelry to convey a message.

The cover photo of the February issue of Vanity Fair Mexico shows Melania Trump "eating jewelry."  What does this say to you?  How do you think the Mexican readers should interpret the image?

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The message seems to be simply about conspicuous consumption and extravagant surplus.  Clearly, the First Lady of the United States, is pleased to show her privilege and position.  Unfortunately at the same time 50% of Mexicans live in poverty and there is a struggling U.S. middle class that is less than 4 months from economic ruin.  This image parallels an infamous historical quote, "Let them eat cake." 

Compare this to the empowering messages of jewelry in the book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The exhibition displayed pins and dramatic brooches worn my Madeline Albright during her tenure as Secretary of State.  To a feminist metalsmith I must remind myself (and anyone reading this post) that Madeline Albright was the first woman Secretary of State and the highest female official in U.S. Government at that time.

Every pin in this exhibit could initiate a conversation about the power of jewelry to communicate a message.  Madeline Albright used these pins and brooches for such purposes very effectively for years.

I loved the exhibition "Read My Pins" for many reasons. The entire exhibition was crowded with energy, enthusiasm, and thought provoking themes.  Over and over, the intrinsic value of the materials was irrelevant.  The "real" value was always based on the message and the context. 

This Atlas pin (below) holds the weight of the world -- symbolic of the United States role in many turbulent political situations in this world.  What message could be more important when worn by the U.S. Secretary of State and remains ever present in my mind during the past week.

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Atlas Pin purchased by Madeline Albright in Paris. No attribution to the maker. (Photo from the exhibition)

A brooch could represent a concept (e.g. "sting like a bee") in an international negotiation.  Quoting Madeline Albright "I believe the right symbol at the correct time can add warmth or needed edge to a relationship."
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Suffragette-pin

The pin (left) was from the Suffrage Movement. "The green, white and violet colors of the gemstones and pearls signify, respectively, hope, purity and dignity. The first letter of each word, (GWV) suggests an apt acronym: "Give Women the Vote' ." Jewelry can send an important political message empowering women to stand up and be counted in marches demanding the vote and social change. (Quotes are from the description labels from Legion of Honor exhibition.)

 

 

 

Dove-and-eagle-read-My-pinsBoth the "Read My Pins" exhibition and book provide an important insight into the voice of jewelry. Jewelry can be important in so many ways. The message can be ennobling, enabling, even empowering such as in the next pin with an eagle and dove asserting both strength and a passion for peace.


 

Madeleien-Albright-with-Yaser-ArafatJewelry represented both power and a message when worn by Madeline Albright.  The photo right shows her wearing the bee pin above while negotiating with Yasser Arafat about the Middle East. 

Jewelry with emotionJewelry can also have emotional resonance. Quoting the museum label:  "In 2006, on a visit to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, Albright was approached by a young man who gave her a small box. 'My mother loved you,' he explained, ' and she knew that you liked and wore pins. My father gave her this one for their sixtieth wedding anniversary. She died as a result of Katrina, and my father and I think she would have wanted you to have it. It would be an honor to her if you would accept it.' "

"Albright wears the Katrina pin as a reminder that jewelry's greatest value comes not from intrinsic materials or brilliant designs but from the emotions we invest in them. The most cherished attributes are not those that dazzle the eye but those that recall to mind the face and spirit of a loved one."

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This brooch of fused "shattered" glass (designer unknown) reflected the "shattering of a glass ceiling," a significant milestone for all women and reflecting support for another woman Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton.  Women in our country are not reaching the heights of leadership (corporate or political) in proportion to our share in the population.

Hidden-FiguresThe communication power of jewelry often aligns with social change.  In the movie, "Hidden Figures" the painful realities of discrimination against women and African-Americans -- or both -- in the early 1960's are presented in this powerful story.  In one scene, a simple pearl necklace symbolizes the growing awareness, acceptance, and empowerment of one of the female figures.

The "Read My Pins" exhibition and book are engaging, fun, educational, and thought provoking.  Each piece opened new doors or revealed new humanizing insights or highlights on topics familiar from newsreels but often distant and foreign.  I enjoyed almost every aspect.

For the contemporary craft world, I was a bit disappointed that so many of the pieces had no attribution to the maker and that so few contemporary makers were represented.

Many of the pins in the exhibition were antique or vintage collectibles, essentially manufactured costume jewelry. Lack of attribution is typical of such consumer products, but there was a significant number of obviously hand made pins purchased or given to Madeline Albright in foreign countries or purchased in the 20th century.

Many of the 20th century pins had no maker attributed to the work. What a shame? Would a painter sell their paintings without a name or initials on the front or back? To every maker reading this post, be sure to mark your jewelry (or other media) in some way.

Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver
Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver, 14k yellow gold

My second disappointment with the Madeline Albright collection is the lack of contemporary jewelry.  I am thrilled to say there were pins by Helen Shirk ( left,) Carolyn Morris Bach (below right) and  Gjis Bakker (cover of book), but not many other examples of jewelry by a contemporary hand. And even a smaller number of examples of contemporary jewelry with the maker's name. 

Get the book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box from your local library or bookstore. It has background for a good number of her pins, and it is very interesting. 

Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach
Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach (US); 18k yellow gold with 22k gold plating, silver, fossilized ivory, copper

Think about the power of jewelry and the voice that can resonate so much about our politics and social change.

Harriete

Read-My-Pins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Tax Season Is Upon Us - 2 Rules for Audit Survival

Penny-dollarI've been working to reconcile my 2016 taxes whenever a few minutes of sharp mental acuity arise.  Numbers are not my thing, but I like to have some financial awareness of the past year figured out before going too far into the new year. This year my records worked out to the penny! 

For sure, more expenses always seem to tally up than I anticipated.  Yet, the beginning of the year is when you need to know whether you made money in the last year so that you can be ready to pay income taxes while there is some money in the bank.  

I've been audited by the IRS twice in my career.  They red flag home-based businesses some times to check on abuse or sloppy records.  Fortunately, good record keeping and a few other tips allowed me to survive both times without any "extras" due.

So here are my top two super simple rules for artists and makers to keep their business accounting on the up and up -- separate your business accounts and keep receipts.  The rest of this post will explain what I mean, followed by a list of posts about accounting and my experience with the I.R.S., all written from my personal experience as an artist, not an accountant. 

 

SEPARATE-ACCOUTNS
RULE 1. Separate Accounts 

The first thing the I.R.S. will ask is if you co-mingle any personal and business money.  They do not allow any personal expenses to be written off as business expenses.  Therefore you should maintain separate credit cards for your business and personal expenses. You should also have separate bank accounts for business and personal money.  If you co-mingle personal and business accounts, the I.R.S. is going to dive much deeper into your records looking for inconsistencies in your records.

RECEIPTS-FOR-EVERY-EXPENSE
RULE 2. Receipts for every expense
The I.R.S. wants proof, not memories, of your itemized records.
 No fudge factors work here.  The I.R.S. will ask you to account for specific expenses in each category to the penny, and ask for specific receipts....such as "show me your advertising expenses for August 2016."  This is their quick way to look for sloppy records. If you don't have receipts for your records, the I.R.S. will dive deeper into your records looking for more inconsistencies in your records.

Track each expense in the appropriate expense category. You MUST have a receipt for every single expense. Period. Then take your receipts and itemize each expense in the appropriate category for your records.   For example, printing business cards would go in advertising, while shop supplies has it's own expense category. It turns out that the I.R.S. has "formulas" for the total of each category in each business. 

Track your revenue exactly.  I use a separate Excel page for each revenue stream so that the totals are a lot easier to figure out. (In the past I used different columns for various revenue streams. Sure, in theory that should work, but finding an inconsistency in my numbers took hours and hours.) Now a separate page for each revenue stream seems so much easier.

I know that the I.R.S. has many more rules.... but the overarching advice is that you must "Act like a business."

Besides the usual overarching goal of making money, I try to keep my record keeping simple and straight forward.  I track my business activities on a CASH basis to record "cash out" expenses and "cash in" revenue.  I don't buy an accounting program, but use my own Excel document which I can improve and modify each year. I am not going to spend money on some "powerful" accounting program when the real work is writing in every expense and revenue item.

I know that the 2 rules above seem so obvious....but I hear stories about people making up numbers for their business, or they approximate their expenses and revenue.  These won't get you through an IRS audit.  I was scared to death when I was first audited.  Fortunately I had separate accounts and all the receipts.  The headache of regular record keeping is minor compared to having an IRS agent sift through more and more accounts due to inconsistencies.

Previous posts about accounting for artists and makers:

I Covered My Expenses” and Other Forms of Delusion & Denial 

Time, Effort, Knowledge, Recognition, Appreciation

Hobby or Business? Criteria for the I.R.S.

She Sells Wholesale. She Sells Retail. Is She Selling Wholesale at Retail?

Avoid the Red Flag of IRS Form 1099

TAX TIME, Tick Tock, The Tax Clock is Ticking

Video Workshops from the I.R.S. - Am I a Business or a Hobby? - OR - Make Your Business More Business-like!

I.R.S. sign

Morning Heartburn with the I.R.S.

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Avoid Problems and Penalties - A Final Word.

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Withdrawing Inventory Items for Personal Use? Very scary!

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Is Your Travel for Business or Leisure?

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is an Acceptable Receipt for a Business Expense?

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Cost of Goods SOLD and Jail House Orange - A Fashion Accessory Nightmare

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is Included in the Cost of Finished Good besides your best guess?

Surviving the I.R.S. - Cost of Goods Sold, Are you ready? Watch my head explode!

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - No change!

My morning coffee with the I.R.S. MAN - Tips to prevent or smooth your audit with the I.R.S.

 

 

 

 

  


When "Out to Lunch" Takes On Meaning

 

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Growing up, I worked at my father's store, starting at a young age through grade school to college doing  age appropriate work.
 During that entire time, I never saw my father go out to lunch. Some times someone brought him back a sandwich, but he always felt that his top priority was running the business, working hard for survival and success. He never went "out to lunch."

Orange-mallet-diagonal JPGSeveral months ago, I was working in another studio, recruited for my fabrication skills as a crucial deadline was days away.  Crunch time was on, "Hammertime" in action, and yet there were several people in that group who dropped what they were doing to go out to lunch as a social activity.

I watched them leave for a leisurely walk on their lunch adventure (while I continued working).  It left me mystified that they did not share the urgency to prioritize a deadline.

On other occasions, I've watched people leave keynote lectures, conferences,  or workshops for a leisurely lunch. They walk away from opportunities to connect, learn, achieve, discover, discuss, etc. to go "out to lunch." 

ViseTABLEaWe all know the phrase "out to lunch," an idiom referring to being out of touch, distracted from the task at had, or lacking good judgement.  I think this can also apply to choosing to go "out to lunch" and thereby missing out on new or longer term opportunities.  

The same principle applies whether at home or working in a studio or even at a workshop.   Giving in to the habit of a leisurely lunch inevitably foregoes so many opportunities to finish work on time.  Each hour of every day is too precious to go out for a leisurely lunch, except as a special treat. 

Harriete_flattening_TINS.100This same principle applies to other modes of activity. I rarely watch professional sports, but am amazed by the levels of effort and sweat that goes into being the best of the best. When an athlete catches a ball higher in the air than you think a person can jump, or throws a ball across the court further and more accurately than one thinks is humanly possible, they have not been "out to lunch." All of these superior athletes work their butts off practicing, training, and preparing for that potential opportunity to excel in a crucial situation.  

Influencer-The-New-Science-Leading-ChangeMany want to find the secret to success and there are many ways to be successful. The book the Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change says, "People need to learn that effort, persistence, and resiliency are eventually rewarded with success."

There are many ingredients for success, but one sticks out in my mind as clear as day. As I renew my professional efforts for the new year,  one thing is certain, you can not be "out to lunch" and expect to succeed.  

My opinion may be controversial, but for me enjoying life is creating opportunities for achievement, not relaxing. What do you think? Enter your views or opinions in the comments below. 

Harriete

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Misstress of the Home Trapped by Modern Convenience

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Many years ago (actually in another century), I made a sculpture (shown above) titled: "Misstress of the Home Bound to Modern Convenience."  Memories of this piece have been echoing in my mind for months while preparing for New Year's Day 2017 -- a self-imposed deadline to launch new digital content and update my online presence.   

Are we trapped, bound or benefiting by"Modern Convenience?"  This has been seven months of virtual housekeeping efforts at the risk of getting swept away by Google as an obsolete version. Technology is convenient, yes, but the effort to re-organize, improve access, and reduce expenses comes at a price. 

Mistresshome_frontB

After 7 months of effort, I have two new websites, an artist website and separate website for my silver repair business.

With the new website is a new email address.  I would be glad to share it with you to stay in touch. Here's how...

Email me directly
by clicking on the envelope (in the upper left column of this blog) or contact me through my website form  or copy from the image (below right).   I'm not printing the email here in order to avoid getting spammed. 

Misstress of the Home Bound to Modern Convenience (the upright vacuum featured in this post) is 27" in height. It is not a found object but fabricated in 1982 to look like a real appliance. This is a very real and personal metaphor. "Harriete" means "mistress of the home."  At the time I was commenting on many of the cultural expectations placed on women and the demands of modern living.

Misstress is purposely spelled "miss" as in the confinement of the idealized stereotype of "Miss America" beauty contests. 
Misstress_side-old-new-email 2
A new website also means eliminating my old website and the email
associated with it.
 Very scary indeed! A thirteen year old web identity has been swept away. My old email @harriete-estel-berman.info will be gone.....nada...no more.....   If this email was the only email you had for me..... it is disappearing.  

It has been a huge effort to update all my "log in" information and newsletters.  If... I have missed your updates...email me at my new address. When was the last time you look at every social network that includes your work?  

More legacy costs are being swept away ..... 

For 28 years I had a studio phone for my studio and silver repair business. I grew up with the yellow pages at my fingertips, but who uses the yellow pages any more? My realization is that a business phone listing  in the yellow pages is archaic. 
Let-Your-Fingers-Do-The-Walking-Pencils-sh

I was spending $720 a year to have a listing in the yellow pages for my silver repair business, however,  my new website for Berman Fine Silverwork was bringing in all the work.  An update on my website and online presence like  YELP and Facebook was just another example of "house cleaning" for the 21st century. Most of my customers contact me by email anyway. My cell phone will now fill every role, every day, studio and business.

Speaking of cell phones. The upside is that my both of my new websites are now mobile friendly, a mandated requirement by Google for being ranked in search results. Is your website "mobile-friendly?

The Professional Guidelines  are now completely available on line also. Every word in every document is completely searchable on the web in addition to a downloadable PDF document. The Consignment Contract, Exhibition Contract, and Model Release Form are available as Word documents so they can be edited to suit your needs.   

So my new year is a new me, new website, new email, new ways to get in touch. This Everready Working Woman is cleaning house.

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Everready Working Woman from 1984 meets the 21st century in 2017. 

Harriete