Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone…or, Not to big to Cry.

Jewels and journeys

When was the last time you truly and honestly stepped outside your comfort zone, and undertook a whole new project or direction in life? In the past few months, I’ve done just that, and here’s the story.

In 1977 I stared my university life at a small college in St. Paul, Minnesota, far from where I was raised in Olympia, Washington. I loved everything about it, being away from home, meeting new people, college life and Minnesota. What I didn’t like at ALL, was academic life. I finished that first year and took the next year off. I then went back for a second year. I then took 3 years off and went back for a third year at a different University. Did I learn things? Yes. Did I learn to love academia? No. As a matter of fact I hated it, and could not see how a 4-year degree would fit into my “footloose, fancy free, follow the beat of my own drum” lifestyle. Suffice to say, I didn’t finish University and honestly never looked back, and have never felt I “needed” a degree to do what I’ve done in life. (Do you think a degree would have made a difference in my jewellery creations? Nope!)

Fast forward 40 years when three things happened. Covid. My beloved Mother died, and my wonderful roommate from all those years ago, also died. I cannot actually say why, but these three events got me to thinking about that long-lost Uni degree, the one unfinished circle in my life to date. I applied to the same school I had first attended, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, and after 6 long months of waiting, while the two different Uni’s dug around and tried to find my records, I was finally admitted. This was to be online and I would eventually end up with a four-year degree in Digital Marketing, a subject I am deeply interested in. (Did I mention they’re calling me a legacy student?)

Are you still with me? Because now comes the “fun part.”

This is unequivocally one of the hardest things I’ve done in my adult life. You think me melodramatic? Not even a little. First the courses are all online and more difficult and involved than anything I remember from all those years ago. I started with two classes, Business & Entrepreneurship and Organizational Behaviour. Everyone said: “Oh, Renee, you could teach those classes with your eyes shut.” Oh, I think not.

There were two hurdles to cross, one being the actual work, and there is a LOT of work. The second is the online component. Oh, and a third now that I think of it, this is a USA based school, and I live in, you know, AUSTRALIA. In one class I had a major semester long project with a team of three other classmates, one from Pennsylvania, one in Kentucky, one in Minnesota and me. The Zoom meetings were endless and the time difference brutal, but we did it.

I’m not too big to admit the online component has had me crying, frustrated, confused and despondent all at once. Trying to access and understand the digital platform has been almost harder than the work itself. Just when I thought I finished the reading, writing and papers and “discussion board” assignments for the week, I would mysteriously find another portal and whoopee, there’s more work, due in …oh, crap, past due. And when an assignment is past due online, well, try telling the computer the dog ate your paper.

I finished these first two classes and am part way through my second semester with a class called Principles of Marketing, and yes, it’s becoming more manageable. The meltdowns have become less messy and I’m able to see actual progress, but the work is still hard.

Three things help. My hubby aka Mr. Wordsmith, my precious dog Ruby who eventually gets me away from the computer and studies, and a little card taped to my desk that says: “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”

If you feel inclined or inspired to step outside your comfort zone I encourage you to. It might be messy, or hard or difficult, but that’s the process and there’s just no way around it. I’ll be writing more about this as time passes, so hang in there with me, the fun has only begun!


PS Yes, I still spend time in my studio and no the jewellery business has not suffered, because I am surrounded by good people! I am working towards a major “Pearl jewellery Extravaganza,” which should be on the website within a few months. Stay tuned!

Me at my desk, on the “first day of class.”


When I was about 12 years old, my Mom surprised me by saying I could redecorate my bedroom with the colours of my choice, and I was thrilled. I sat down with a box of crayons, and made my own colour swatches, combining a variety of colours I thought looked good together. After several days, I hit upon avocado green and orange. Possibly an odd choice for a pre-teen in 1970, but that’s what I wanted and that’s what I got! Avocado green carpet and “formal” green drapes to match. We painted the walls a medium orange, and bought a hot orange crushed velvet bedspread and throw pillows. All of my bedroom “accessories” were either orange or that unmistakable shade of green. I loved everything about it, and to this day, feel those two colours work well together.

If asked, most people have a favourite colour. I honestly can’t tell you mine at the moment, but for many years I would without hesitation say, orange. In recent years I’ve leaned towards neutrals (black, taupe, grey, cream and the like) in my wardrobe. I traveled so much before Covid, I enjoyed being able to reach for just about anything in a suitcase and it would match. In my home and furnishings I favour red, amber, burgundy and a riot of “hot” colours, also in the art that adorns my walls. As far as jewellery goes, it’s a free for all depending on my mood.

As a jewellery designer/creator, colour is at the top of my list. I don’t follow the “on trend” colours of the moment, rather I create jewellery with colour combinations that I love and would wear, or can see my customers wearing, or at times a blend that works well together.

At one point I felt I might write a book on colour, but when I started to research the topic in depth, I discovered there are volumes of great books already written on the subject. I am absolutely fascinated by the whole subject of colour. What different colours mean or represent. Why we are drawn to certain colours and not others. I was told in third grade purple and red should never be worn together, yet this colour combination is one of my favourites. In fact the incredibly popular “Red Hat Society” has these two colours for their logo & signature look-See image. Link to their page:

Likewise, convention says navy blue and black should never be worn together, when in reality these two colours were made for each other. Much of what we know about colour is learned & conditioned into us at an early age, paint the sky blue, the sun yellow, etc. And then there’s the company Pantone, the “colour trending/forecasting” leaders of the design world. Did you know they choose a colour of the year, well in advance, which is why when you go into your favourite homewares, department or boutique , you’ll suddenly see everything on offer is a particular shade of green or purple or whatever “they” have chose for YOU to like that season. Want to know more about Pantone, go here:
And in case you’re curious, the Pantone colour of the year for 2022 is called: “Very Peri”, see image below.
Personally, I like to colour outside the lines whenever possible, yet I’m often confronted by past conditioning. As a designer, it’s part of my job to break through these barriers in order to fully develop the possibilities of colour, as it relates to my jewellery creations.

I have a glorious, purpose built studio where I go on a daily basis to dream, design and create my jewellery treasures. The tables groan under the weight of buttons, beads, crystal & stones-All colour coordinated in bins and open boxes, waiting for “their turn” to become Renee Blackwell Jewellery. The studio is a kaleidoscope of colourful delights, and without fail when a visitor comes, one of their first comments is usually: “WOW!!! The colours!”

The process of marrying colours to create the desired look in a finished piece, combines intuition, years of experience and a fair amount of magic. This “magic” is what I and every other designer (whether its clothing, fabric, eye wear, home furnishing or jewellery) strive for. It’s our “secret sauce” so to speak. A great example is the 7 drop crystal earrings pictured below. This style has been a favourite of my customers for years. This combination of 7 crystals is an example of colours complimenting and blending to create a finished look. Imagine, if the top hot pink crystal was removed. The earrings would have a whole different look and feel. It’s this ability to blend seemingly disparate colours, while avoiding a clash, or being “matchy-matchy’ ie, predicable, that satisfies my design eye, and ultimately the wearer.
What’s your favourite colour? In 50 words or less, write a little story telling me what it is and why, and your name will go into a random draw the last day of March 2022 for a one of a kind Swarovski crystal love heart pendant & silver chain. See photo below.
Send entries to:

Victoria Button Collectors Club (Australia)

International Button Society (USA) Member

“Adornments From the Soul” wins international Gold!

The fifth annual International Beverly Hills Book Awards recognized “Adornments From the Soul” by Jewellery designer Renee Blackwell, as overall first place Gold winner in the category of Craft/Hobbies.

“Over All Winner” Renee Blackwell Design Cygnet Bay Jewellery Design Competition

Overall Winner-First Place Renee Blackwell

“South Sea Dreaming”

18ct Yellow Gold, Sterling Silver Featuring Cygnet Bay Pearl