Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Origin of Art

When people find out I make jewelry, or see something I've made, they invariably end up asking me how I learned to do it, or what got me into it. Honestly, I have my mother to thank and to blame for my obsession with jewelry making. I remember always having beads when I was growing up. From the time I could put them on a string, I was making jewelry or sewing beads onto things.

It was always more of a hobby than anything, nothing I was especially serious about, but enjoyed doing. One day my mother came home with an issue of Bead and Button, handed it to me, and asked "Why don't you learn how to do that?" while indicating the beadwoven piece on the cover.

I had never tried my hand at beadweaving, and always considered it to be something beyond my abilities. I told her that I couldn't possibly do such a thing. My mother, never one to let me get away with saying "I can't", asked me why I couldn't.

Really, I had no answer. Obviously I did not know how to do intricate beadwork, but she'd just provided me with a magazine that had instructions on the basics. So what excuse did I have, except to try it? So I bought myself a pack of beading needles and some cheap seed beads from wal-mart. My first beadwoven piece was made with sewing thread. I didn't know how to weave the ends in, so little knots stuck out everywhere. It was too tightly woven in some places, and far too loose in others. The beads themselves were somewhat misshapen, so even where my tension was good, the beads made the piece ripple and pucker. It was an ugly thing, the little peyote purse I made, but I was so ridiculously proud of it.

I learned the basics, and then the more advanced techniques, and soon enough I could make any number of things. Then one day after flipping through an issue of Art Jewelry and wishing I could do the intricate wirework, I remembered that day when my mother brought home Bead and Button, and asked myself "Well, why not?"

I taught myself wirework through books and magazines, until eventually I knew enough to make things people would actually want to wear. Much as I loved beadwork with its hundreds of teensy sparkling beads and time consuming needlework, wirework called to me in a way that no other technique had. I was simply fascinated by the art of shaping the wire and hammering it flat, of joining pieces together and wrapping stones. I can't say that I'd have gone down this path were it not for the fact that my mother simply didn't let me shrug and say I couldn't do such a thing. Now every time I find myself wanting to learn something new, I don't hold back for fear that I won't be able to. Mom's voice is a constant in those situations, nudging me towards trying my hand at the various things that take my fancy. I'll admit that some didn't make it. Knitting, for example. I'll leave the knitting to other people, for I fear my talent does not stretch to that. But at least I tried it before I decided that it wasn't for me.

My mother gets a piece of jewelry every year for Christmas. I figure it's the least I can do, considering all that she has done for me. It's my modern day version of the crayon drawing hung carefully on the fridge, a tribute to my mommy, without whom I couldn't do half of the things I've learned.

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