I had a wonderful conversation today with a fabulous and talented artisan. Every time we talk, I come away energized and inspired, anxious to create things and generally brimming with ideas. Since my mentor died and I quit the gallery in 2007, I have deeply missed being among artists and the frantic creativity and possibility that surrounds them. I am grateful to have found a friend and peer who elevates me back onto that level.
She is a genius with metal, from etching to soldering to bevels. And I'm totally jealous, because I spent a year in college taking jewelry, metalwork, and 3-D sculpture, only to learn that I totally suck at it. At all of it. I simply do not think in three dimensions. Nor am I very good at following directions or doing anything that involves specific steps. Fat over lean? We into dry? 1/4t of salt?
Pshaw! I'll just wing it!
In fact, this is the very best piece that I turned out in that year of saw cuts, hammer thunks, and pickle stings.
And whaddya know? It's basically a line drawing. And it was meant to be a brooch, but the pin on the back fell off, because I suck at soldering.
So I thought I would show you guys how bad my jewelry and metalwork was. It's embarrassing, but hopefully you'll get a good laugh.
First there's this necklace, which I call:
It was made by the lost wax casting method, which means I spent hours with a ball of wax, a flame, and some dentist's tools, smoothing the wax into those three ridiculously hideous, contorted shapes. Then I laboriously cast them in sterling silver, set the two stones, hammered the links of the chain, put it all together, and did the patina.
Hours and hours. Days and weeks. All-nighters.
And it's fugly. And I was mad when I got a B.
Looking at it now, I think the teacher must have wanted in my britches, because that thing's a C- at best. Bad design. Bad execution. And it wears like a choke chain.
Then there's this monstrosity:
I made it for my friend, who had tiny fingers and took care of the mice at the pet shop where I worked. So I made her a Mouse Queen ring. And it's the lumpiest, ugliest little waste of metal. And the tube-set bezel looks like Jughead squashed a Coke can. And then she quit being my friend, because I was a sucky friend back then, so I was stuck with it.
And then the ring in the first picture. So hard to make. So poorly designed. So badly executed.
I fell in love with that opal and wanted to do something special. Something monumental.
And it is-- like one of those huge skyscrapers that are a blight on the landscape. It's the concrete block of jewelry. Don't even get me started on the bezel. If that bezel were a person, I would slap it and walk out the door.
See, I don't mind making mistakes. But I don't want to look at them forever. And with jewelry, if you make a mistake, most of the time, you're stuck with it forever.
Oh, unless it's a cup or a spoon, and then you can spend 9 hours a week hammering on it over an open forge until you have face blisters and it's a foot long and looks like a balloon on a tongue depressor.
Up up and away!
For the cups, you had to keep making them in copper until you were good enough, then you made one in silver, then you took it to the professor's house at the end of the semester and celebrated by drinking his famous mint juleps out of it, since they are historically served in silver cups.
I never got that far. My cups did not improve. I drank my julep out of a plastic UGA cup, and I was so disgruntled that my antler-knife-making redneck friend took pity on me and dragged me out to the shooting range afterwards so that I could take out my rage and shame on unsuspecting soda bottles with his .45.
I know some of you, kind souls that you are, are going, What's wrong with that stuff? It's fine! Kinda ugly, but sturdy.
But the thing is, ugly jewelry is not successful jewelry. I did this for a year, people. Every day. I thought it was my calling. And I worked for a well-known local artist and gallery owner, and I told her that I wanted to learn from her and follow in her footsteps. And she looked at my work and told me kindly that it was a tough business, and I should work harder and learn more and develop "my own style", and then talk to her in a few years if I was still sure of my career dreams.
And then I realized that jewelry-making was simply not one of my gifts. Whatever the spark is, I don't got it. I wish I'd figured that out before a year of frustration, pain, and money spent on precious metals and stones. But I'm okay with it.
So here's the checklist so far.
Things At Which I Suck:
*driving on highways
*following a sewing pattern
*seeing without my contacts/glasses
So if you were planning to stomp on my glasses and put me in a chokehold while attacking me with a crockpot full of pickle, you now know all my weaknesses.
Over my post-birthday dinner date tonight:
Dr. Krog: Dude, it looks like you're fishing for compliments on your blog today.
Me: I'm not, though. I just wanted to share my lame jewelry so we could all have a good laugh.
Dr. Krog: It's not as bad as you think it is. It looks like something a steampunk dwarf made, actually. Like, you're supposed to see the seams on purpose, like it's lumpy on purpose.
Me: Uh. Yeah. That's why it sucks. You're never supposed to see that.
Dr. Krog: But if you were a steampunk dwarf, that could work.
Thanks, Dr. Krog. You have a way of making everything better.