I have loved jewelry for ages. Not mass-produced jewelry, but special kinds of pieces ranging from unique antiques to modern artisanal pieces. Talking with colleagues as we staffed the Arsmiths of Pittsburgh booth at the Three Rivers Arts Festival yesterday, I noted that it’s an interest I shared with my mother. Kate said that, in contrast, she and her mother did not share that at all. Now, it’s not that my mother and I liked the same pieces: our tastes were not mere miles apart, the scale was more like galaxies. But we did both relish finding unusual pieces, and we could pretty reliably spot something that the other would just love. This was in complete contrast to clothes: we could rarely buy clothes for the other that the recipient could even tolerate. But we had great success with jewelry exchanges! And then there were further delights when, shopping for the other, we’d also find treats for ourselves….
In the 1990s, I started experimenting with making some jewelry. My earliest attempts were simple beaded creations of various sorts. I also dabbled a bit in glass-work and polymers and wood and more, but never felt the urge to go full-scale on any of those. Long before that I’d also dabbled in traditional metalsmithing and pottery: those were both far more interesting to me than later media but still had not completely grabbed me. I first heard about metal clays while I was in my beading heyday but for various reasons (including but not limited to a more-than-full-time academic post) I just wasn’t able to pursue it at all at that time. A few years later, enough had changed in my life that I could try to pursue it. I started out slowly but, eventually, I decided to kick it up a notch, moving things off the tray-table in my guest bedroom and into a full-scale studio. By then, my mother was gone and, in fact, I used a fair portion of my “inheritance” from her to set all that up. I figured, if it didn’t work, at least I’d know that I’d tried but, if it did work out, I’d have her (and my dad) to thank for it.
The thing is that now, since both my mother is gone and I’ve started seriously making more jewelry, I’ve pretty much stopped buying it for myself…. Clearly, I can wear anything I’ve made whenever I want (until I sell it), but an even bigger part of it is that I do have a fair amount already, not a whole lot, but enough that I certainly don’t need any more. I still enjoy looking at it, and I believe in helping support other artists, so I do still buy pieces now that I can give as gifts. I’ve continued to buy non-jewelry art for myself and I’ve exchanged pieces with other jewelry artists. I also make a point of taking several of my art- and jewelry-loving friends to shows where I know there will be art jewelers whose work I think they’ll like, and encourage their purchases. But I’ve bought very little jewelry for myself.
But more than zero. And today was one of those “exception” days: I bought a pendant from Ivy Woodrose (aka Ivy Solomon)! I’ve admired her work for years!! I never imagined meeting her in person but there she was, two booths up from the Artsmiths this weekend! I asked if she’d been there before and I’d somehow missed her but no, this really was her first time at Three Rivers. I went up yesterday and gushed and drooled and embarrassed her with my admiration, then went back today with some cash and, after a very lengthy and delightful discussion about techniques and products and sources with this absolutely charming artist (and her congenial husband), I actually bought a piece!
It was a difficult decision, balancing what I wanted against what I felt I could afford. The one I chose has fewer different colors than I first thought I’d pick, but I couldn’t find one with lots of colors that fit both my budget and my personal style. (One or the other, but not both…) I spent a long time debating between this and another “floral” one. That one had more, smaller flowers and thus could fit more pinks and reds and several greens (and far, far less yellow!) than this one. I listened to her talk with other customers about how she’d be happy to listen to the colors the person wanted and the budget she had, and could send her pictures of other pieces that either she had or could (re-)make to suit the person’s taste. But, having decided to get a piece, I just did not want to wait. So here’s the one I picked, and I’m thrilled to have it:
In person, the colors in this one are far brighter, more vibrant, than I was able to capture in this photo. (Sorry, Ivy!) But the image in this one is what captured my heart: the sun / sunflower at the water’s edge (which way is the viewer facing?!), with a hint of sunlight on the water and oddly-geometric constellations / clouds in the sky beyond. Though living in Pittsburgh now, I’ve spent a good third of my life so far on one coast or another, and much of the rest along lakes or streams, loving the water and sunsets (and sunrises too, though I’m less often up for those…) and gardening too. The appeal of the image in this piece, in particular, for me is the way I feel it reflects the following quote, one of my favorites from Douglas Adams (in Mostly Harmless):
“We all like to congregate … at boundary conditions …
Where land meets water. Where earth meets air.
Where body meets mind. Where space meets time.
We like to be on one side and look at the other.”
In the end, the one big problem I’ll have with this piece is that, instead of wearing it, I’ll want to be on the other side so I can look at it myself. But I’ll find a way to manage…