On Authenticity

An authentic inner value system is strong and inviolate. It makes navigation easy. There are certain things I will not compromise on, ever. Knowing that, and “walking the walk” gives me integrity. I can be trusted. To me, no means no and I won’t waver. Sometimes, this confuses people and sometimes it ticks them off. Sorry.

I look at it this way: As a teacher, artist, mother and friend, people are relying on me to be honest, behave responsibly and predictably. I’ve worked very hard at a life built on genuine exchanges and mutual respect. My sister tells me I am “brutally honest.” I have to be, because there is no other way for me. It is less stressful to be decisive at the outset than it is to mire down in murky maybe. Easy, no, but it is efficient and costs much less energy in the long run.

Relationships are sometimes difficult. When I make a friend, I hope it is for life. Sure, there are people who come and go, but many are still with me. I can tell the difference between those who are with me because of what I can do for them, and those who are with me for me. I have equal respect for both types, but once I see the truth, I do not invest in the first group. For the most part, I am unbelievably tolerant and open. It really, really takes a concentrated effort to get on my shit list, but once you are there, it is a lifetime achievement award.

One of my former bosses — Zach Stalberg, the no-nonsense Executive Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, used to end every email or memo to the newsroom employees with “This is No Bullshit.” I loved that, and wanted to believe it was true. I respected Zack, because you knew where you stood with him. I wish more people were like that.

What does all this have to do with making jewelry, you ask? That’s easy. Temet nosce, know thyself. Once you have the strength to listen — really listen — to your own inviolate inner voice, you will know what kind of work to make. Not what everyone else is making, not what you’ve seen already, not what happens to be a hot seller at this moment — you will know what kind of work you are supposed to make and what is authentic for you — because you’ll know while you are doing it if it is “right.” Trust that and don’t waver.

Today’s tip: I take lots of notes in workshops and at conferences. Once I get home, I force myself to put all of those notes and sketches into plastic sleeves in a three-ring binder. I re-read everything and make any clarifications while the workshop is fresh in my mind. Then, I stay organized, and the binder helps me find information I know I have but can’t quite remember in the heat of the moment.


About Helen Driggs

Metalsmith, Teaching Artist, Writer, Maker of things. Former Senior Editor of Lapidary Jewelry Artist Magazine View all posts by Helen Driggs

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