I was at a gem faire the other day (yes, I said gem faire. It’s not quite a Star Trek convention, so I’ll thank you to lower your eyebrow) and I managed to restrict myself to just a few strands of pearls to throw on top of my massive stockpile of beads. Chatting with a friendly stranger in line who let us use one of her free passes to get in since we’d been robbed of all cash at the extortion window (parking kiosk) moments before, I asked, “Do you make jewelry?”, to which she replied “Everyone makes jewelry.”
I could have been taken aback by that and had my ego offended if I were a jewelry artist first and foremost. I’m primarily a visual artist who paints more than anything else, but I enjoy making jewelry sometimes too.
To be fair, that started off with a love for metal. My father’s in sheet metal, and my sister and I learned to weld as teenagers. In fact, we were the only two girls in the history of our lame ass high school to have ever taken metal shop. One of my most vivid memories from high school is the discussion I had with the course counselor about that very elective…
“Hi, yes, please sit down.”
“What’s going on?”
“I noticed you signed up for metal shop.”
“Well, I really don’t think that’s the right class for you.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“You’ll be the only girl in the class. I’ll just change it to home ec for you..” she took my sheet and moved to amend my selection.
“Hey! I picked metal shop because I want to take it. Is there a rule saying I can’t?”
“Does is conflict with any of my academic time slots?”
“What is this, some kind of after-school special on sexism? Jesus! Don’t you change that form. I’m taking that class.”
She huffed and scowled at me while I stood and walked out grumbling about being taken out of English for this. I still think fondly of Mr. Gray, our metal teacher, who turned out to be one of my favorite teachers of all time. The lack of respect shown by the counselor was made up for in spades by this gentleman craftsperson. I didn’t make much jewelry then, though Mr. Gray had taught a jewelry class as well before they cut it, but I got a great foundation for metalworking there. Later, at college, I took several jewelry classes from a few amazing women who taught meticulous attention to quality, but also encouraged creativity in any form.
I have always marveled at the fact that you can ask 30 artists to do the same thing and you’ll get 30 different results. I can’t really argue when someone says “everyone makes jewelry” because hell- a lot of people do! But I happen to like jewelry… a lot. The more the merrier, I say! Today I made two necklaces- one with atomic yellow-green clusters and the other with cascading drops of rock crystal- and a pair of earrings, wood jasper beads wrapped in silver. These puppies will be in my Etsy shop soon (assuming I don’t decide to keep them, that is), so keep an eye out. And a Happy Birthday to my Auntie Kasey, another amazing woman in my life who’s taught me much.