a few weeks ago, i received an email from one of my regular readers - with some thought provoking questions that have led, ultimately, to this post. in the letter, she said "You don't have to answer this if you don't have time. I'll wait patiently for you. I have tried making things. And for some reason they don't look right to me. I'm not sure what that is about. So, this is what I want to know: Is there any part of the process I should plan, like colors and choice of items? Or is it better to go with the flow--just pick up things that move me and figure how to incorporate? Can you tell me what you would do if you were just beginning to create? I don't want to copy others. I want to find my own style. Thank you." i pondered for a while - wrote back an abbreviated response - which wasn't nearly enough of an explanation of how i operate, when making art. last week the weather, i think i said, was off and on - very blustery with fits of rain, then sun, then rain again. cold, warm, windy, warm, cold. rain. lots of rain. a little snow, in the night. a friend brought back some lovely acrylic leaf branches for me from her trip to lake tahoe, and i walked outside the next morning to snap a photograph of the light shining through both clouds and leaves, while wind blew and temperatures plummeted from warm to a chill that soaked to the bone. i played with the image, as i can't help from doing these days, and loved the look the photograph conveyed. it captured, i think, the late winter's indecision of which way to go. of waiting. of searching for sunny spots in the house where i could sit. of watching clouds roll up and over the mountain across the way. over this past weekend, on a quiet saturday afternoon, i looked at the photographs you see above, and walked into the studio to begin pulling out stones that might suggest a feeling of blue sky, that might suggest emotional responses that blue sky might bring: hope. peace. calm. security. i have a basket of antique lace that i keep at hand right there in the studio, within grabbing reach when i am in the throes of creating jewelry or book work. the basket is one of those creaky little straw and silk hinged lid things from long ago - small in size, octagonally shaped, well loved and worn, found in a wonderful antique shop somewhere in a rural community of wisconsin a few years ago. the basket itself brings back a lot of pleasant memories; the lace, gathered for the past thirty years, has been added to with gifts from friends and makes me feel good just seeing the various textures of handmade trimmings all mixed together, like an old fashioned cotton and silk and linen stew.
what you see there, something i'm trying NOT to do these days, is bits of findings and already-wired beads and buttons from two separate pieces of jewelry, two completely different projects that are not completed. this is where i get myself into trouble - when i don't put things back at day's end that i did not use, when i don't clear the table so that i can have a fresh start the next morning. (i'm making a mental note to walk in there when i'm done here and clear the little disorder that has begun to clutter the table. small steps - but important ones, to me). this time, though, i've enjoyed having the lace and ribbon left out, to perhaps carry from one project to the next; the lace reminds me of clouds, of course, even though i will not likely use it for the blustery blue sky piece that will be coming together this week. at any rate, i thought of the photograph, with its one bit of blue sky showing from underneath all those rolling, grey and white clouds, and began pulling out the beads i thought would work for what i want to do. african opals have a sweet, soft blue to them, and look beautiful with white pearls; blue and white, when combined, always say blue sky to me. and then, i began pulling out random bits and pieces that are still in the plastic craft box that i carried with me to colorado; i associate these special trinkets, pulled from stacks of trays and plates on that disastrous studio table of last late summer/early fall, with the lovely experience i had while working as a resident artist in the heart of the rocky mountains back in september. from this jumble of stashed treasures, i pulled out what might work for a piece in which i speak of nature. the resin-filled bezel is one i made back in 1995; it's lasted that long, through three separate moves, and i love the image of the cropped binoculars. there is a cast sterling charm, the original piece made to my specifications from another jeweler friend so that i could have it cast into multiples and hammered with whatever words i choose to use (this piece? and i'm chuckling here, this piece with the word "dream" was being drilled, back in the summer, when it flew out of my hand and into that black hole of a studio. it surfaced when i cleaned to the core, in november). the fine silver flower charm was made and given to me by another artist friend, a few years ago, and the sterling button is one that i had cast from an antique one of mother of pearl. i may use one or two of these pieces; i may not use a single thing. it just depends on where my mood takes me when i get to the point of assembly. what i want to focus on for this piece, though, is how i wished to spend my quiet pockets of time this past weekend, what few pockets there were to sit and work on something like this: yesterday morning blossomed bright and sweet, a quiet time to sit with my cup of coffee and watch Sunday Morning on cbs. this makes me think of daddy; we used to watch it together every sunday morning, without fail, whenever i was visiting. i've been a little obsessed lately with the notion of taking time to embroider - something, anything - and know i'm serious when i actually enjoy pulling out needle and thread to finally repair a torn spot in a favorite flannel camp blanket. there were the inevitable weekend chores to do - laundry, house cleaning, cooking, walking with walter - but for a couple of hours it was a lovely respite to sit in my ancient worn flannel pajamas with clouds on them and embroider some old linen with sky blue thread. i want to do another few of the jewelry designs i made some years back, incorporating antique mother of pearl buckles (this, a gift from a beloved friend). it is no easy feat; as i drill and cut under water, i'm always afraid that the thing, old and fragile, will shatter. taking the central bar out, though, creates a beautiful iridescent frame for fabric and embroidery. looking at the completed embroidery in this morning light, however, magnified for all to see here on this bigger screen, i'm wincing at my irregular stitching, with spaces of linen unintentionally showing between those tiny little threads of blue. no matter. when i look at the work, i remember the time i spent beside the inadequate light of my reading lamp, watching a repeat of downton abbey's season finale, i remember weeping a little over the show's cherished characters while curled up on my linen sofa and feeling peaceful and serene. i remember all of this, the pleasant act of pulling thread with a needle up through old linen, then sending it back down under again, and up and down, over and around. i remember the dark of the night when it was completed, the cramping in my hands, the feeling of hard work and of bliss. i remember all of this. and now, begins the artistic license of assemblage. do i use the little binoculars piece, which would be lovely with the brown of blooming branches? there will be one of my sterling birds, this much i know, and the blue of african opal, the white of small freshwater pearls, perhaps the clear blue of peruvian topaz. there are some treasured white heishi pearls as well, a sweet gift from another artist friend, that when stacked together remind me of wispy cirrus clouds. i will use the word i ran across in a little bag of saved text snippets there on the studio table - "remembered" - attached to the soft white antique leather from a very old opera glove. remembered, a word that seemed appropriate because we all have special days when all seemed good, when the sky was blue and the wind was just right and everything was just, in our own world. i just don't know how this piece will unfold, after this; that is one of the joys of spontaneous creation, and that is how i always operate - no plan, no vision of a piece from start to completion - only the emotions that i've felt when seeing a bit of nature dancing before my eyes, only the way i want my work to speak to those who hold it, who wear it, who understand why i am compelled to connect my art with the natural world that gently, quietly surrounds me. that is how my life unfolds. that is how i live. and now, i see a spot of blue peeking out from behind the morning's clouds, and there is a pup who would dearly love a walk through the waiting woods....xo (thank you, my friend, for asking these questions, for prompting me these weeks later to write down how i've worked and fumbled my way through a particular design. xxx)