Friday, 5 February 2016
Jewelry Making and the Meaning of Life
Even as a very young child, I have always been interested in gemstones and jewelry. One of my earliest memories of my paternal grandmother is of me sitting on her lap and looking at her brooch. As you can see from the photo, it was one of those vintage Aurora Borealis rhinestone pieces that were so very popular back then (1960’s). I am very fortunate to have inherited that lovely piece of jewelry as a memento of my Grandmother, and it is something I treasure very much.
I never considered myself to be a particularly creative person, especially where crafts are concerned. I read a lot about jewelry and gems, but it truly never occurred to me to try my hand at making something myself. That is until I signed up for a Metalsmithing workshop in 2012. Now, you might think that the classroom where people go to learn how to make jewelry might be all pink and fluffy with women sitting around the table smiling while putting wooden beads on a string, stopping only occasionally to hold hands and sing Kumbayah. But you would be completely wrong.
I walked into the classroom and was bombarded by hammering and sawing, the whine of some sort of sanding tool (which I found out later is called a Foredom). Everywhere were razor sharp scraps of metal and pots of caustic liquid on the counters. There were huge exhaust fans to ensure any toxic fumes didn’t reach our lungs, and myriad tools and vices on every table. A small station to the side had something that looked like a modified anvil where someone was tapping out some metal to give it texture. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My senses were completely overloaded and I felt….I felt like I had come home. The skies opened up and the birds started singing. Suddenly I felt like my whole world made sense. And one thought kept thundering through my mind. Why hadn’t I been doing this all my life?
I spent the whole day in that classroom, sawing and swearing, sanding and dapping. I learned how to string a wire-thin saw blade into a frame and to hold it just so, so that I could cut the metal to the shape I wanted. I learned how to make earring wires and simple wire wrapping loops and how to put it all together to create something new. It took an entire day of trial and error and patience and hard work (you wouldn’t believe how labour intensive metalsmithing can be!), but I persisted and I was able to finish my first ever pair of earrings. I learned a lot that day – maybe most importantly, I learned that I have something creative inside me. Something that has always been there waiting for exactly this moment to show itself.
Here’s a photo of the earrings I made (yes I am aware they look like fish hooks – not surprising considering the family I grew up in). They aren’t vintage, or expensive, but I made them. I came up with the design, bent and rolled the wire, cut, sanded and textured the metal. I started with raw materials and finished with something I made with my bare hands. I walked out of that classroom elated, exhausted, and totally surprised. It was amazing.