I realize that this may come as a shock, but this is not actually just a one-woman operation over here. As brilliant, talented, capable and hardworking as I may seem to appear (come on, roll with me here,) the bald truth of it is, it's all an act.
Well, you know, partially an act.
Because the truth is, I do not do all of this alone. There are limits to what I can do. I do not live in a magical alternate universe with thirty-seven hours in each day. And believe it or not -- notwithstanding my children's deeply held belief to the contrary -- I actually have only two hands.
I know. Shocker. GIve yourselves all the time you need.
What I do have, however, is the pleasure and privilege of working with one of the best people around, the one and only Esther.
Esther is the Studio Manager here at Ruth Mergi Ltd. She came into my life just over a year ago. After opening up shop on Etsy in early 2013, the ketubah orders began rolling in, and it turned out to be more work than I could handle. I'm a tough cookie, and stayed on top of things for the most part, but I knew the level of work I was putting in wasn't sustainable.
I needed help.
But here's the tricky bit: My studio is in my home, and my work is deeply personal to me. I am just a bit of a perfectionist and control freak. I like things done a certain way -- don't we all? -- and I was reluctant to let go of any bit of it.
Sharing the work was a leap into the wild unknown, and I knew from the outset that letting someone in -- to my home, to my world, to my business and to my art -- would be challenging.
But the work in the studio had become more than a one-woman job, and I saw that clearly enough. So I put out an ad.
I lifted this from Esther's FB page. Thanks, Esther!
Esther was the very first person who came to interview. I was charmed from the start. She had a good eye, an open mind, and an easy way about her. More to the point, she impressed me as creative, smart, organized, attentive to detail, and responsible. Hired!
Esther quickly became an integral part of life here in the studio. For a few months, she followed me around with a clipboard, and whenever I said, "One day, we should really...," she'd stick it on a to-do list. And then -- here's the magic -- we actually started ticking things off the list. We got things done, people. We renovated the studio. We completely re-did the website. We were able to totally streamline the way we handle orders, so that each and every client gets the quality assistance and attention they deserve, from the moment they first contact us until they receive their papercut artwork, and beyond.
Esther took charge of internet marketing and social media, client communications, inventory, order processing and shipping, and so much more. She snaps great photos and even taught me how to use Photoshop. She makes sure every order is handled with the utmost care and concern, thinks of all the things I forget, and does all of the stuff I like to do least. She covers for me when I need a vacation, or when someone gets sick.
Crucially, she is kind to my children, and never complains when the kids decide to traipse through the studio and use our workspace for an epic WWE cage match, or when they holler endlessly from the upstairs, or steal the stapler or scotch tape.
She's even nice to the dog, Chewy.
Although, in truth, what's not to like?
In return, Esther enjoys considerable perks. For one, I make sure to keep chocolate pudding in the fridge for snack breaks. Esther calls these, "yogurt." (I don't have the heart to tell her that they're actually pudding, so let's not disabuse Esther of her health-conscious fantasies, OK?)
The other perk is that I calmly and assuredly dispose of all errant insects and crawly things that mistakenly make their way into our workspace. Esther is a friend of all creatures of the earth, except those with more than four legs. So I try to keep the studio a bug-free zone. Just for Esther's sake. You're welcome.
Most importantly, she gets to hang out with me all day! One day, Esther will tell you what that's like. And you will be jealous, my friends! Oh, so jealous.
We've been working together for a year now, and working with Esther is one of the perks of my job. The studio has seen so much forward progress, and Esther is a pleasure to work with. She's still as organized and on-top-of-things as ever, yes, and she's got a great work ethic, to boot. But Esther's magic really lies in her remarkable good nature, humor, and heart.
We have so much fun, guys. We laugh. A lot.
It means a lot to me that the studio be a positive place. Call me crazy, but I can't help but think that positive energy makes its way into the creative process, and into my artwork. My hippie heart believes that energy makes its way to every client, collector, and supporter who engages our work, whether online, on their wedding day, or in their home for years to come.
I learned something about myself along the way, too. It turns out that my concerns about letting someone in -- to my world, to my business, to my art -- were, at bottom, concerns about making myself vulnerable, exposing myself to another person so fully. Everything that comes out of the studio is like a little slice of my soul; I feel like a little piece of me is flying over the Atlantic every time a ketubah ships out to a couple. Giving another person the keys to the castle, letting her see the dusty corners and even the occaisional glimpse into the deep dark dungeon -- this was scary to me.
Turns out I needn't have worried. I gave the someone the keys to the castle alright, but she's like an Enchanted Fairy Studio Manager. She spreads magical Esther dust throughout, trailing glimmers of laughter and positivity in her wake. I feel like a better artist -- a better person -- when she's around.
You will, too. When you contact us, more often than not, Esther is the first person you'll hear from -- and I'm so glad. I'm the one in the back, cutting tiny little pieces of paper. But Esther is right out there in front, and for just this once, I'm so glad to give her the due she's owed.