5,500 Jump Rings and Other Reasons to Take Care of Myself

"Beautiful yet horrifying" says the studio-mate.

I have learned so much about production jewelry over the last six months that I swear I could teach a class in small scale manufacturing. It’s excellent- I love the work, I love my clients, and I love being treated like a professional. What I didn’t count on was how hard this would be on my body. I mentioned briefly a few weeks ago an injury that had me out of a right hand for over a week. I went to an acupuncturist for the first time and instantly became a convert. I thought I might share a few things I learned over this experience.

1. The pain in my hand was associated with some long running issues in my neck and shoulder and going into my back. When my hand got better my shoulder got worse, but when my shoulder got better my back felt better and then my hip quit hurting for the first time in months. I have taken for granted that my bones and muscles all work as a team and when one thing goes wrong it doesn’t work to ignore it, other things fail down the line, too.

2. Stretching isn’t just nice in the morning before sitting down all day at my bench, it’s essential! My mom gave me a little book years ago that had yoga poses for gardeners, and she amended the title to say “Yoga for Gardeners Weavers” since it was all about working out the kinks that develop from leaning over something, kneeling, digging, and all the similar motions that I used as a craftsperson. Everything in it is just right, quick, and free.

3. When my hand flared up the stretches I was doing just seemed to make the pain more intense. Everything was already maxed out and the exercises were just continuing to engage the pieces in there that needed a rest. My acupuncturist recommended gentle massage and soaks in epsom salt- it has helped hugely while I am still healing.

4. Taking breaks. Working shorter days. Varying tasks. The hardest one for me. I have no advice, I haven’t figure this one out yet.

I thought I was taking care of myself before but I think I only recently realized that it involves work, maintenance, and an awareness that I was too lazy to bother with before. I’m a fretful person. I had a week of boredom and terror thinking about what I was going to do with my life if I couldn’t make jewelry anymore, which I now realize is a bit melodramatic! I’ve been working for the last two weeks and so far so good. I still don’t feel 100% and often cut my days much shorter than I’d like so I can give the tender parts a rest. Just another reminder that I’m not invincible. I guess I won’t be jumping off the roof with cardboard wings any time soon.

  1. Hi Caitie! I just happened upon your blog via fb. We share some jeweler friends. I’ve been following your work for a while. I’m thrilled to hear that you have heaps of holiday business. I completely empathize with your injuries. In the past, I struggled with some MAJOR stress injuries from my art practices; after the most noteworthy I couldn’t type or open doors for a series of months. From my experiences, if it’s possible, I highly highly recommend taking 2 yoga classes a week (Anusara is my favorite type of practice for injuries). My yoga practice and daily bike commute to my studio really changed my body and my life. I can now work for hours and hours, days upon days without pain. It’s AMAZING!! I’m glad to hear you are recovering too. Feel free to share your suggestions with me if you have any that you swear by. 🙂

  2. Hi Tia! I’ve been following your work, too! Thanks for the suggestions- I’m really interested in what works for others because I KNOW I can’t be the only jeweler with sore hands. I’ve actually wondered how you did it, specifically! Do you have favorite pliers for all that bending? I wish wish wish I could do as much yoga, but I haven’t been to a real class in years. It hasn’t fit into the budget, but I’m going to find some room somewhere. I’m starting to think that my improvised stretches are making things worse in more areas than just my hands. I’ve really enjoyed acupuncture and have experienced vast improvements because of it. I also just got an exercise ball to sit on at my soldering station to improve the lower back situation. I’m super relieved to hear your success story, it gives me hope!

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