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.
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.
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.