Today was my first full day making jewelry after a semester of teaching. The political climate in the USA can be felt everywhere, even in the classroom. Like a pinched nerve, it nags the spirit. In the studio, I felt like a castaway on an island surrounded by treasure, not really sure if I ever wanted to be rescued. I made two collages and a couple of necklaces. The work flowed out like a long sigh. It will be several weeks before I return to teaching. Until then I will enjoy being marooned.
My Heart And I – Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning 6th and 7th verse
Tired out we are, my heart and I.
Suppose the world brought diadems
To tempt us, crusted with loose gems
Of powers and pleasures ? Let it try.
We scarcely care to look at even
A pretty child, or God’s blue heaven,
We feel so tired, my heart and I
Yet who complains ? My heart and I ?
In this abundant earth no doubt
Is little room for things worn out :
Disdain them, break them, throw them by
And if before the days grew rough
We once were loved, used, — well enough,
I think, we’ve fared, my heart and I.
When I make pieces, whether painting, jewelry or collage, the impulse comes from a reaction to the materials at hand…it’s what I see in front of me at the moment. That’s why the studio almost always looks like a bomb went off in it. The scatter of available materials lets me see, all at once, what is available to play with. When everything is tucked away neatly, inhibition sets in and I feel blocked.
Right now the studio is covered in stone beads and knotting cord.I feel an almost oppressive urge to knot stone beads (cool stone, self soothing, rhythmic movements) into long necklaces, with spiral focal pendants. The movement in the spiral symbolizes change, turbulence and transition which is something that’s pressing on my consciousness relentlessly. These are turbulent times. It’s windy out there.
The colors triggering the impulse are earthy, and subdued as if to counter the wild emotion I am witnessing in the political digital universe.
Bear with me. I suspect new themes will emerge after November 8.
I have been knotting beads on silk cord. It’s a tricky process. As the strand gets longer the potential for tangling increases. And then a knot is placed too far from the bead and has to be undone. I have found that with mounting frustration, slowing hand movements to tai chi speed helps. It also helps to spin a story about the strand you are knotting. Here are 108 beads in an order that suggests dawn, day, dusk and night. I thought about this progression at our house. The days are full of doing, followed by some relaxation before and after dinner, and then it’s time for bed. But at night it gets busy again because our little dude Remus believes that 3 am is a sporting good time to rouse us, his favorite playmates. Someone is always busy at our house.
So much of my life has been about trying again. When I was a teenager, my mom once told me that it was important to be true to oneself. I had no idea what she meant. I thought you had to fit in, work hard to get recognized. I failed at that many times. My kids now say “mom has to commit to her work”. So here I am being an artist. It’s still very hard. I’m still trying again.
No matter where I am, my eye will find small pieces of metal, old nails, screws and mysterious bits of hardware that fall off cars and trucks. Their shape, color and texture form unnoticed tiny sculptures on the road and in parking lots. I always pick them up. In thrift stores an unknown force draws me to the counter where the old jewelry is kept. Smooth pebbles and shells on the beach keep me happily hunting for hours. The thought of going to a bead store is so thrilling, that I cannot think of anything else until I actually go and spend a long time handling all the strands, seriously straining the patience of anyone who has the misfortune of accompanying me on the trip. I am not alone in this, I am part of a tribe of stone and bead lovers who have been here on this earth collecting small treasure to adorn others and ourselves ever since our index fingers and thumbs met.
I am a discerning magpie however, only stone, glass and other natural materials will do. Light refracts differently on these materials. There is a beckoning glow about them. I know it when I see it.