Friday, November 9, 2012

Upward. Always.

A little over a year ago, I was at a small local show. I'd just finished setting up the booth, and was giving it a once-over. I wasn't very happy. I felt ashamed of my work. I know I go on all the time about, "Begin where you are" and I talk about the process, but I am an impatient soul. I wanted to BE there already. I felt like my current work didn't represent who I was, or who I was becoming. And I wasn't sure I'd GET to who I was wanting to become. What if I couldn't "do" it? Good design, sale-able design, is not easy. I always want my first design to be *brilliant*...and like most processes, it takes several iterations before any "brilliance" shows through.  :)

So there I was, feeling down on myself. Remember how I've talked and talked about the life of a creative? This was a trough. Eventually, I started chatting with the man in the booth across from me, who was also selling jewelry. Most of our discussion was casual, immemorable, but he said something that stuck with me. "Don't go backwards. Look up. Look forward. Always."

At the time, I felt frustrated by this advice. Looking forward was like staring into an abyss! Nothing was working. I wasn't creating what I wanted to create, and I was unsure that I could create anything worth the effort.

Well, eighteen months or so, lots of hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing, and sailor-like language later, and I might be getting there. I realized this week that my "cold work" table, where I do things like wrap beads, make wire shapes, and do other non-torch-related work, has been very neglected lately. Why? Because I am creating at the other table. The fabrication table. Where I do the metal work with the torch. And I've started to shift from colored stones being the focus of my designs, to being accents. Which means that the metal work is slowly coming to the forefront.


I've mentioned in an earlier post that when I went to Sedona for a festival a few weeks ago, I felt like  my work was too small. And I think that subconsciously, that's been an issue for me for some time now. I've always worn the largest-scaled of my own designs. And most other jewelry I own is not for the shy or subtle. So why haven't I pursued that in my own creations?

 green aventurine

Several factors, I guess, the biggest one being fear. Fear of putting too much materials cost and labor into something that might not sell. Fear of taking a big risk and losing. But you know...the way *I* shop is kind of pricey. I don't shop often, but when I do, I'm not a cheap date.  :)   I buy big, and big costs more. But I don't mind paying more because I like a statement bag. Shoe. Bracelet. You get the drift.

So I decided to take a design leap and create a design that is physically larger and more statement-y than my normal work. I started sketching a necklace which would be three pieces, separate to one another but related in their design elements. I went through my stone stash for the right sizes (note for next year's buying trip: more smaller stones!) and found three that would complement each other. And then I got to work with the torch.

I hand fabricated even the chain - in fact, everything but the clasp - and made a custom tag for the back. I used over an ounce of sterling silver in the construction of this necklace and you can feel the weight.

Peruvian blue opal
The photo above shows how thick the sterling silver border is. It's hard to see in most of the photos (best seen in the first two shots) but I cut the insides out to leave some open space, and then added additional wire and sheet elements to frame the stones. 
Here's the whole piece:

The back plate is heavily oxidized for contrast against the shiny wire and sheet metal elements, and the stones really jump out, especially that gorgeous opal. The green aventurine has the softest color, so I added more silver around it to brighten things up.

It feels good. It looks good on. The day I test-wore it, it definitely got noticed. And I learned so much while making this piece. While not everything I design will be this substantial, I think I'm addicted to making some larger designs. I'm looking, and moving, and creating, forward. Upward. Always.  :)

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