***Flygirl Fridays***

I had the opportunity to take a course called "Flying Lessons" given by a very talented artist - Kelly Rae Roberts. It was an excellent course that covered such topics as letting go of yours fears, going after your true passion, and many other things. One of the best things about the course was, I got meet and learn about a lot of talented artists, all in on different paths, but all working towards making their dreams come true and learning to take flight. Flygirl Fridays is all about these wonderfully talented people and a little bit about them, so you can get to know them as well!

Please join me in welcoming
Rhonda Franks!

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Hi Violet! Thank you for this exciting opportunity to share a bit of my journey with your readers!

I’m Rhonda Franks, sole owner and Jewelry Artist for my company, MoonSeazenDesignz.  I specialize in OOAK Art-to-Wear pieces made primarily from gemstones and sterling silver.  But I also use pearls, crystals, found or vintage objects, and sometimes work in copper and brass. 

I design my work for the woman who knows herself, has many “facets” to her personality, and likes to show the world who she is with confidence by wearing statement jewelry.  My pieces speak to collectors desiring a timeless design that will provide them with a lifetime of enjoyment.  I have a distinctive style, but I don’t confine my designs to any one theme – I don’t like constraints! So, I do fine jewelry as well as arty pieces, Boho, ethnic, and sea-themed pieces as well.  Sometimes I do things that are just plain fun, cuz this is jewelry, after all, and “Girls just wanna have fun”, too!

After decades working in health care as a “healer”, I have transferred my energies into being a “healing artist”.  I truly believe that the world needs to have beautiful things to focus upon, and wearing something that makes you feel beautiful is invaluable to one’s health and state of mind.  It’s a fun job, and somebody needs to do it, so here I am!

What is something that you really love, and why?

I love so many things, but I would have to say that the Ocean is my greatest love (aside from my family, of course).  I’m a Pisces and naturally gravitate towards the water.  I lived on a tiny island for over 16 years where I marked my time by the moons and the tides.  That was where MoonSeazenDesignz was born.  To me, “MoonSeazen” is a state of mind.  A quiet time surrounded by nature, contemplating the stars, hearing my own inner voice and feeling peaceful contentment with who I really am.  I found that there on the island.  I also love the way the ions in the salt air transport my mind to a more peaceful space, and bring clarity to my thoughts.  And collecting what washes up on shore has been a lifelong pleasure.

I also love tropical gardening.  Being dirty and sweaty and getting exercise the good old fashioned way, all the while solving my life’s problems while my hands are doing other things is one of my great pleasures in life.

Music has always been a love of mine. I am a classical pianist, and I love just about every genre of music there is.  It is my companion during long hours in my studio, and I have favorites that zoom me right into “the zone” when I need to get down to business.

My most recent love has become collecting old Paint By Number paintings.  I fondly remember doing some as a child.  What I like most about them is how the character of each painting is dictated by the hands that painted it. No matter that the design was dictated, each person’s style, whether a shaky hand, or a crisp touch, makes each one unique.  My favorites are the old Cockatoo’s and Flamingoes – love the colors!  They also remind me of the process I went through as a surface pattern designer in the “old” days when it was done by hand and not on computer.

What would your dream project be?

Honestly, I’m living in my dream project right now! I enjoy being completely immersed in Gemstone World!  I love the way they feel, the healing energies they radiate, and how beautifully unique they are.  I love the freedom I feel to let my imagination take me where the stones want to go.  I truly “Dream of Beading”, solving design problems and coming up with great inspiration in my sleep!  A perfect day is waking up full of ideas, having a “free schedule”, getting some music playing, and starting my day at my jewelry bench.  My mind is always brimming with way more projects than my hands can possibly finish!  It gives me reason to be excited about waking up each day and creating something new.

My bigger dream is that I find an agent to successfully market my originals so I can devote my time to creating.  I would love to have more sales, not only does that help validate my work but it would ensure a steady flow of new stones needed to fuel my “need to bead”!  I love to “Bead by the Sea”…and someday hope that I can make that a daily reality.  Other than that, I would like to get published in some of my favorite jewelry publications, and be accepted into a prestigious gallery.

Where does your inspiration come from?

In retrospect, I realize that admiring all the beautiful flower, shell, feather, fiber and seed leis and jewelry created by the various island cultures where I lived and travelled had a huge impact on me.  I love seeing nature displayed in all its glory, that’s a gift we have been given.  I always visit museums wherever I go, even the tiny little ones in remote outposts.  I keep a sketchpad with me and make drawings to inspire my work.  But I had no idea at the time that I would ever be designing jewelry full time.  It was something that chose me!  When the lightbulb went off in my head, I thought it was crazy, never having made jewelry before, it was an entirely foreign medium to me.

I share the following because there are so many women I have known that find themselves at a loss in mid-or-later life as to “what is my thing?”  I heard that over and over from so many talented women who were truly saddened that there was no “Ah Ha!” moment, directing them as to what path to pursue.  It’s a natural need for us humans, artists especially, to find something that truly gives meaning to our existence through something we do or create. So it can be very frustrating when you feel lost and without direction.

I lived in that world for about 5 years, during a time when my previous career ended itself, I had relocated thousands of miles away, and it was time for me to re-invent myself, again!

I felt like a Tapestry, a “Coat of Many Colors”,  as an artist.  There were many things that technically I “could” do, but they just weren’t resonating inside me….For example, I started my college studies in the field of Fashion and Interior Design, taking retailing, advertising, marketing classes as well as fashion history courses focusing on the Art of Adornment over the years.  I bailed out of fear of starvation, changed to a healthcare field, but even though that was my bread and butter income for many decades, I never let go of my study of art.

Aside from taking every craft class known to man, LOL!, I became a Fine Arts Major at a wonderful University where I was able to study the principles of design and color, sketching, painting, art history courses, and sculpting.  And who knew that sculpting was my favorite thing of all??? I never would have known that had I not had to do it!

After moving to CA, I had the opportunity to enroll in Zeida Rothman’s Studio of Fabric Design in Berkeley, and completed my portfolio under her tutelage.  (She has since morphed her school into the American College of Fabric Design).  I formed my own business as a freelance Surface Pattern Designer, flew to NYC by myself to check out the Surtex exhibition, carted my big Pratt Europa portfolio all over LA to various design agencies, and ended up moving to the islands and hiring an agent instead to sell my work on commission. Art being an expensive mistress, especially when painting on consignment, I found myself working 2 jobs to live and not enough time to paint on speculation.  I became a basketmaker instead!  I went into the rainforests and foraged for invasive vines whose woody stems made great basket bones, and learned to dye hemp fibers using native plants.  I loved the sculptural aspects, the physical exercise of tracking down my vines and reeds, and created some stunning things, that didn’t last because the wood beetles ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Eventually, I ended up operating our healthcare business full time for over a decade. 
Fast forward to FL, 2004 where hubbie and I landed. I didn’t want to work for someone else. I could have formed a consulting firm, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I immersed myself in Construction Project Management for our old 1940’s home, and interior design.  It was very exciting because after the deprivation of living on tiny islands for decades, everything was at my fingertips a short drive away!  And, I had done landscape design for many properties I’ve owned in the past, so I started landscaping, had many offers for jobs, I loved it but not the snakes here, so I decided not to go that route!
I began doing floral designs with silk flowers and things, and many people, my husband included, encouraged me to become a FT Floral Design artist….I enjoyed it, it felt easy and natural to me, but I still didn’t get the feeling that “this is my thing”.  I continued taking art classes of all types, acrylics, watercolors, and I quilt and weave and knit and do all sorts of needlearts….

One of my favorite things to do is go to Antique and flea markets, and I found myself in a mecca of that here…I felt pulled to do mixed media, using odd old bits of things I would find on my “junk hunts”, and suddenly I found myself staring at old brooches and jewelry, and there happened to be a Lapidary Arts shop 5 minutes from my house….That did it! Once I went in, met the artist/owner and she introduced me to the world of gemstones, I was hooked!

So, one never knows where their path will lead.  My advice to burgeoning artists who are searching for “their thing” is to keep moving, keep trying new things, learn all you can wherever you can about different techniques, and one day your thing will find you!  And when it does, all the things you have done and learned, all of your experiences will create an indelible mark on your work, making it personal, and will help you create a unique niche for yourself.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
Actually, there are 2 that had a profound effect on my work.  The first comes from a quote by Ira Glass that I keep posted over my workbench which says in part, “Do a lot of work…It’s only by going through a volume of work…that your work will be as good as your ambitions…You just gotta fight your way through.”  So true!  I virtually took apart and remade everything I created for the first 2 years.  Then I took apart about 75% of my sork the 3rd year. Last year, I was down to about 20%.  I also have a motto, “Never crimp at night” because I’ve learned that just trying to feel “finished” with something, does not a great piece make! I sleep on it, and I’ve learned to hear that little voice that says “This is not working” on some level or another.  If I’m no 100% satisfied, no one will ever see it. Period.

Secondly, I was lucky to find a very skilled mentor who was so generous in sharing her knowledge with me, and critiquing my pieces.  She found it in the goodness of her heart to help me grow despite the competitiveness in this industry and difficult economy.  Her name is Wendy.  And she taught me a biggy:  “Good Design Looks Easy.”

When I started out, I was under the mistaken impression that something had to be “hard” to be of any value (too many Russian novels under my belt, I guess! LOL!).  So I would create these intricate and complex patterns that didn’t give the eye any place to rest.  They were way too complicated!  Wendy gently redirected me, and suddenly my pieces were flowing from my fingers like water…I remember telling her that I feared if it looked too easy, no one would want to buy it because they’d be like “That looks so easy I could do it myself!”  I say this with humility, because sometimes as an artist, when something comes so naturally for you, you discount the value of your skills.  Not everyone CAN do what you do.  And if you make something that seems to sing with simplicity, it’s not an easy task!When your work flows with ease, that is a beautiful gift, and if we have that, we need to respect and honor that.

What is the biggest thing holding you back?

Hands down, it’s my lack of digital photography and photo-editing software skills.  This is probably due to my attitude (resistance!) towards taking the time to learn it, but it’s something I need to make friends with to reach my goals.  (Please have mercy with me when you look at my FB page or photos, and sadly, my Etsy shop is still empty, so please check back soon!)

What change do you think would most help your business grow?

My hubbie and I agree that the time has come for me to stop trying to learn and do everything I need to do tech-wise, social media and all, by myself.  Trying to do it all has really delayed the full launch of my business.  I need to contract with some service professionals. I want to get my blog rolling, have big plans for that, and for my online website.  I bought my domain name long ago, and it’s calling to me!

What’s the biggest thing that you took with you from Flying Lessons?
The group! I love my Tribe! It’s a community that walks the talk when saying “We all deserve to be successful. We all as artists have a place under the sun.”  And we can all genuinely and wholeheartedly support each other on our journeys, share without fear (emotional or financially based).  We’re not here to compete with each other.  We are a human ladder to our dreams…sometimes we are the rungs for others, sometimes we are their wings, and other times they are those things for us. It’s truly a beautiful thing.

Violet, this truly was a gift, asking me to ponder these questions.  We don’t often have the motivation to sit down and think through our journey, much less share it with others.  This was a wonderful opportunity! Thank you again!