I am inexorably drawn back to painting. The jewelry studio will be tidied and moved aside for a time. The last jewelry market is coming soon. I feel relief at that thought. Yes, it is harder to sell paintings but it’s drawing and painting that have been channels to the heart of things, the channels to home. Here might be one of the last little ones:
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.
I found my words again although the geo-political atmosphere continues to be contaminated. Lots of shit flinging, a behavior observed in monkeys and apes, and the insane. And it’s contagious. I’d best stay clear and take a watchful position.
It appears that the heart theme has displaced the spiral theme and enameling has displaced the knotting. The colors make me feel childlike and cheery. The urge to place a heart on a piece seems to be a calling to “take heart”. Loving the clarity of Czech glass beads, too. I feel aligned with the work.
I see the path back to painting. I miss painting like I miss a lost relationship; the effort to reestablish flow is sometimes too much. But the energy is rising.
There are new options on the horizon. I hope 2017 will not be as steeped in loss as 2016 has been for so many of us. Let’s take heart and look to the future.
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.
Sometimes friends have more confidence in your abilities than you do yourself. The friend for whom I made this necklace showed me the dress she was wearing for her son’s wedding and said, something simple, with a pearl.
So I made something simple with a pearl. Interestingly, the process was not so simple and depended on a little good fortune (reticulation can be unpredictable). But it worked, and I stretched a little, and she liked it and I’m glad it’s done. Commissions always have a bit of edginess. *wipes sweat from brow*
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.
Jewelry is easier to sell than paintings. From a practical point of view, it’s clear: it’s easier to accommodate a small, affordable work than a large canvas. Someone once told me that people buy jewelry even in tough times because it can lift the spirit. I am curious about this power. How does it do that? Maybe because we like (need) eye food. Looking at, and holding jewelry is an intimate experience. A meditation of sorts, a right brain micro-holiday; and I think most of my supporters have magpie traits, too.
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.
We finally got some rain. After a couple of weeks without any, and the ground as hard as a rock, it’s welcome. But the light in the studio isn’t very good today and I’m busy getting ready for the pop-up Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market on Thursday. It would be great to see you. I just etched some silver with the text: ‘Tis a lesson you should heed: try, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed,try, try, try again; credited to William Edward Hickson. That is my new mantra.