Monday, March 3, 2008

A Creative Mind and a Cluttered Studio

Why is it that creativity and chaos often seem to go hand in hand? In my case, in my jewelry studio, chaos usually reigns supreme. As I've noted in earlier posts, this often leads to serendipitous combinations that might not occur if everything had been in its place. On the rare mornings when I enter a clean studio, I dive in and start taking out trays and beads and silver and gold and, by lunch, chaos has returned. I wouldn't have even bothered cleaning my studio last week if it were not for a very aggravating and potentially very dangerous problem.

You see, my jewelry studio has a large, west-facing window. This is usually a source of pleasure for me as we tend to keep the temperature very low in our house and my studio warms up nicely on sunny days. I sometimes feel like curling up there and purring in the sun like a lazy cat. But the sun's deleterious effects include nearly blinding me. This is particularly a problem when I am working with metal and using my torch. In bright sunlight, it is difficult to tell if a torch is lit, or if the gas is just hissing out. This is not a good thing, and this is what propelled me into a major reorganization of my studio. Why don't you just get some curtains and block out the sun, you ask? Ah, you've forgotten the pleasure I get from feeling the sun!

It took me the better part of the weekend to clean up and reorganize, and now I can proudly state that my studio is clean and much much safer. I solved the problem of the sun dissolving the flame of the torch by putting my body between the two, sort of like a human eclipse. I now have three distinct working areas, two for works in progress, and one for my metalworking. I can swivel in a chair from station to station, and work much more quickly and efficiently. Safe? Quick? Efficient? That sounds more like a government-funded study on workplace methods than a creative artist's studio, but I also find that my creativity is still going full steam ahead, that is, when my cat doesn't decide to take advantage of the clean space to take a nap in the bright sun....right on top of my work in progress. See if you can spot the cat about to settle down on top of my necklace. See also the photo of the necklace set which I just finished after managing to snag it out from under a warm and furry belly. The necklace set is now available -- without cat hairs -- in my etsy shop.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sacred River Necklace

Designing a necklace can be a long and wandering process. I had a necklace lying around that I had made several years ago, in the days before I began making most necklaces adjustable. This particular necklace, I finally decided after wearing it for a year or two, was too short, so I hung it up in my studio and basically forgot about it, even though it was hanging in plain view. One day, a visitor to my studio saw it, and liked it, and asked if it were for sale. Why yes, I said, with some surprise, as I had forgotten all about it, but it was too short for me and it will be too short for you. I'll have to restring it and make it longer, I told her. So, I moved the forgotten necklace to my jewelry table...and completely forgot about it once again.

I realized one day when I couldn't ignore it anymore as it was right there, constantly getting in the way, that I was not happy with the design. I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason. All the components of the necklace were quite lovely: flat ovals and cubes of chrysocolla; beautiful faceted lapis lazuli beads and smaller heishe beads; gorgeous rounds of Peruvian opal that I had bought in Lima; and silver pumpkin beads from Burma. They were all lovely components, but they no longer excited each other. Or is it that, in the years since I had made that necklace, I had progressed in terms of my own ability to create an exciting and beautiful composition in a jewelry design?

Whatever the reason, I felt dreadful that I hadn't restrung the necklace for my visitor, so I decided to bite the bullet and sit down and work on it and see what happened. As I began playing with the beads, I realized that I had overlooked an important element: the beautiful faceted lapis beads looked like a midnight sky with golden stars twinkling down. Oho! Not silver, I thought to myself: that was one of the problems with the necklace. I was going for my gold findings, when my eye fell upon a large chrysocolla bead in my stash, and the design immediately fell into place in my mind's eye. It was perfect: it provided a focus; it tied together the green and turquoise and blue of the chrysocolla and lapis; and, what was best, it introduced a contrasting color that made the rest come to life. It even provided me with the name, which was inspired by the dark blue diagonal line which bisects the bead like a river cutting through a landscape so far away that it must be viewed from the heavens: Sacred River!

So, vision and title firmly in mind, the excitement of putting it all together kicked into high gear. Within a very short amount of time, I had the completed work. What I left out was the Burmese silver and the Peruvian opal. What I added were horn beads and hand-carved horn cones, into which the multiple strands disappeared, and copper -- lots of copper! The necklace went from uninspiring to sparkling, from forgotten to heavenly! I also made sure to add that most useful of elements -- an extender chain, which enables the wearer to adjust the length from 17-20 inches. As you can see from the photos, that makes it very versatile.