A few days ago I said I’d write another post about one other activity at the holiday-season meeting Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild: our charm exchange. While a charm exchange can happen any number of ways, we typically swap three at a time. Each person makes three, all of them go into a grab-bag, and then the bag (or box or hat or whatever) gets passed around the table three times, with each participant getting to select one charm each time. (If you happen to grab your own, or a duplicate of one you already got this time, you just put it back and pick a different one.)
We set up some other rules too, though we’re not at all strict about enforcing them. One of the so-called rules for this one was to make your charms follow a theme that represented some aspect of either Pittsburgh or southwestern Pennsylvania. Your choice how to implement that.
My charms, above, incorporate three ideas. First of all, the overall shape of the charm itself refers to Pittsburgh’s history as the “Steel City.” It is loosely based on a part of the logo for both US Steel (based here) and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The embellishments on one side are meant to represent the “Three Rivers” (where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio river, which flows into the Mississippi and then on to the Gulf of Mexico). Historically, that confluence was a major factor in much of the development of this area. The branching design on the other side, in one way, could be taken as reinforcing the rivers-theme but, even more, it is my way of noting the oft-repeated comparison that Pittsburgh does not always feel like a city, but more like a “big small town” in the way people connect to and interact with each other.
One of our members, Barbara, had made charms for the exchange but was at the last minute unable to join us. So we managed to let her participate in absentia, and I am holding onto the ones that were drawn for her until she can get over to pick them up.
Two of the charms Barbara got are shown above. The one that I really had trouble getting even a halfway decent shot of (because of its smooth texture and bright shine) is an adorable Pittsburgh Pieroghi that Sally made. The other, with a holiday-theme instead of Pittsburgh (see what I mean about following, or not, the rules?) is a great little Christmas tree ornament from Lois.
Both Barbara and I got one of Michelle’s charms (below, left). She didn’t actually follow the rules either, but admits that after the fact she came up with an explanation that almost works.
Michelle moved here just a few years ago from New Mexico, and still marvels at the brightness, intensity, and color range of autumn leaves in this area, so her charm with an autumn leaf and a little acorn fits that part of it (even though the majority of it is not made from some form of metal clay … which was another (unenforced) rule).
The other charm shown above is the one I got from Alice, with her impression of the Smithfield Street Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh. (Another rule was to ID your charm on the outside of its package, so people could re-choose if they got a charm from someone they’d already exchanged with. Alice, like several other participants, ID’d hers on the inside…) Even though I had earlier exchanged with Alice, I’m glad I got that one: for a number of years I worked right at the end of that bridge (for two different companies, both in the same building, between the two different times I spent in grad school), and I walked over it regularly.
The other charm I got is this amazingly detailed house by Holly Dobkin. It reminds me of the house I lived in the last time I lived in Pittsburgh … which included the time I worked next to the Smithfield Street bridge. (I keep coming and going: I’m currently on my fifth different time here.) So for me, this one matches up beautifully with Alice’s charm. And it almost goes with Michelle’s: although, for me, acorns remind me of my house when I lived in Minnesota, all of them still resonate with “home.”