SIDE HUSTLE: Lizz Jardim
Side Hustle is a series investigating the unglamorous, behind-the-scenes lifestyle of what makes creative entrepreneurs successful: hard f*cking work.
New York-based jewelry designer Lizz Jardim is no stranger to the grind. She began making jewelry in college as a way to express her style on a budget and soon branched out to making items for her friends before eventually launching her quintessentially NY cool-girl brand, L.JARDIM. Milk talked to Jardim about FOMO, working in the fashion industry, and the struggles of being a one-woman operation. After the shelter-in-place order, we caught up with her again for a quick check-in.
What was your first job?
I babysat when I was a kid, my first “on the books” job was at Subway, the art of the sandwich.
When did you realize you definitely didn’t want to have a traditional sort of job that is structured and has a salary?
It’s hard to say, there’s still something I envy about that structure (maybe the salary, too. ;)
I’ve just realized I’m happier with more flexibility between time spent working and living. Although I find it impossible to detach from work at times, and feel I should be doing something every moment. When you’re trying to get your own thing off the ground there’s literally always something that could be done. I could do it now or later — either way I have to do it. Ultimately what it comes down to is I like the freedom to do what I want, so I exercise that as much as I can.
So how did you come up with the idea to start your own jewelry line and when did you decide to go for it?
I started making jewelry in college. I had limited resources in terms of what I wanted to wear, so I started creating my own things. I’d wear the pieces I made and found myself remaking them for other people. I didn’t have a studio, but I had a dress form so I was making body harnesses. When I got proper bench space I dove into developing my silversmithing skills, and my work transitioned into pieces that were more suitable for everyday wear.
I don’t think there was ever this decisive moment, you know? Making jewelry has always been something I’ve enjoyed, and just became something I found myself sharing with others more frequently. I have this funny way of overriding my instinct with practicality at times, what’s instilled as “practical” from upbringing. In the back of my mind, I’ve always thought, “I need to have something to count on for making money.”
So I’ve always kept some sort of service jobs that were consistent, but also flexible so that I could make time to pursue my other outlets. Once I started getting frequent commissions for jewelry I began to take my work into a business perspective, which has definitely been a learning experience.
What were some of the first sacrifices you made when you started and you got your own studio space?
There have certainly been some social and financial sacrifices over the years. We all know New York isn’t cheap, with paying for an additional space came a lot of self-imposed pressure to maximize the return on my investments, more so than ever. I spend a lot of time solo in my studio, which has had an effect on my relationships. Don’t get me wrong… I couldn’t be happier than when I’m working, but I’m a pretty emotional being. I get a lot of my feel-goods and inspirations from the people around me, so finding a balance with my time has become critical in the sustainability of my work and well being.
What side hustles have you taken on in the past?
I’ve been your friendly local babysitter/ Stylist Assistant / Doorperson / Server / Host / Promoter / Jewelry repairperson / Intern / Production Assistant / “Talent”…haha the list is endless.
Whatever has paid the bills! I’ve never been too proud to put in work. You learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses when you’re given new ways to exercise them.
You were talking about how you initially were kind of nervous to put your jewelry out there. What were some of those thoughts with the creative risk? Why were you holding back?
Well, I think as with most creative people, it’s hard to tell when something is actually finished. Almost every time I make something, I want to do it again because I’ve learned another approach in the process. A piece could be great in theory, but in my experience identifying room for improvement happens in practice.
I’ve held back a lot of times because I felt pressure to have a full collection, like putting things “out there” was this iron gate that left no space for editing. I’ve since learned what works best for me is releasing pieces as they come; scrutinizing everything had me overthinking instead of acting.
I still feel nervous when I put anything out, but much less so. I think that it’s kind of dismantling the idea that there’s a “right” way to do things, and what’s right for me will be trusting my gut and adapting where I can when I falter. I’m happy with being transparent about my growth.
How do you maintain your confidence and will to keep going when things might not be going as smoothly as you want them to be going?
Gratitude. I feel like we can all be really hard on ourselves and compare ourselves to one another. If I compare myself to someone else, that is usually what sends me in one of those, “what am I doing?” kind of spirals. If I need to compare myself, it’s most constructive that it be to a different version of myself. Whether it be a month ago or a year ago, I see the personal progress and feel pretty good about it. That’s a big part of what maintains my—not necessarily confidence, maybe perseverance? I’m still confident with the work I make and where I want to go with it, though occasionally it waivers in how to navigate, I’m taking things as they come.
What has been one of the most difficult aspects of running your own business?
My head is getting heavy from trying to wear all these hats, hah. All joking aside, creating a functional system of organization has been a huge challenge. Balancing my time between administrative work, social media, and physical production often leave me feeling like I’m coming up short in some ways.
Creating content and marketing my work has been a bit of a hurdle for me. I can go to my studio everyday and create, but if people don’t see that, how would I sustain that practice? The most accessible platform is online, and though part of me resents that, it doesn’t diminish its importance. Having strong visual representation carries a lot of weight in how people will perceive my brand. In the past being out, wearing my jewelry was a platform to connect, but as more of my time is spent in the studio I am pursuing new ways to explore and convey the identity of my work.
What has been one of the most rewarding?
Making things with my hands is rewarding—period. Experiencing challenges that force me to think critically and creatively while seeing development- that’s a big part of it, too. Being a vessel to carry out tokens of sentimental value is also an aspect of my work that is so special to me.
Where do you think you would be now if you didn’t start your line?
Hard to say, I suppose it would depend on a whole alternate series of events in my life! Things have sort of guided me in this direction. I actually found my studio through a serving job. However, I’ve always liked the idea of doing creative direction, it seems like a great way to apply your aesthetic sensibilities to various mediums.
What is a piece of advice you would give to other people who would want to pursue their own creative pathway whether it be jewelry or something else?
Not to hesitate! We often talk ourselves out of things when we’re capable of so much if we just put ourselves out there more. Things can feel impossible when you have a goal and you’re imagining it in its final form, instead of seeing it as the series of smaller attainable measures it’s made of. The small things add up! When I isolate the tasks in front of me that build towards the end goal, it doesn’t feel like this huge thing. I recently found an old notebook of mine with a page that read, “the artist who hesitates makes no progress.” I don’t recall what it was from, but I think about it often lately.
What are you working on now? And what do you hope to be working on in five years?
Right now, I’m working on whatever stone projects I can since I’m finding that work especially satisfying lately. I’ve been reserving more time to explore placements and preparing some new pieces for spring.
In the future I would love to create larger works, I have some housewares in mind, as well as sculptural work. My goal is to find a happy medium between art and merchandise. Not to discern the two from one another, but at times it feels like the ideal specifications or detail put into certain works are undermined by the reality of being able to produce them. Creating a business model that allows me to live off doing what I love remains a top priority in growing my small business. Hopefully down the line, L.JARDIM will offer enough stability to pursue all the projects beyond practicality, I’m looking forward to it.
Would you ever consider hiring junior designers to work under you as long if they can execute your vision?
Absolutely, I like to keep an open mind. I wish I had more time to actually design. I’ve gotten too accustomed to doing everything on my own. It wasn’t until this past year I hired an intern, which taught me a lot about how to delegate and receive help with my workload. I’m at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the things I want to be doing creatively, so I’m open to all things that facilitate exploring these other avenues of aesthetic expression.