My Detailed Jewelry Story ~ Chapter One
I have written many polished art bios for show applications, articles and websites, but I have never told my 'detailed jewelry story'. I am fascinated by other people's stories and experiences, so I thought it was time that I told mine...or at least, the jewelry part, for now. This jewelry story explains how I got on the path to make jewelry and it includes the major shifts on my 25 year jewelry exploration.
I am sharing this detailed version, because it may help you or another see that the career of an artist is full of an unexpected turns and u-turns. The u-turns may be your biggest gift. With an accepting attitude, the embraced shift could propel you forward just where you need to be. Also, I just thought it would be interesting to share with my customers, many whom have become friends over the years ...
In 1987, a few months after graduating high school, I started working at at Du-It Wheelchair Control Systems Group. I thought I could save money for college for myself at this job, while deciding where I wanted to go for my education. Yes, I should have had this fund before college age, but I found out very late that my parents couldn't help me with tuition. So, I was at square one with making college plans at 18 and and I had been an honor student all four years. Not one to rest on my laurels, I set out to find a well-paying job to build my savings and it was this one.
The shop was located off a dirt road 3 miles from the village of Shreve, Ohio. The 8 employee company built highly-specialized wheelchair power systems for people who had the use of 2 limbs or none.
I started out with basic jobs like building & drilling circuit boards from paper diagrams to building and testing complete systems. Between those 2 points, I was taught to solder. I loved watching and steering the solder to the right spot. I loved seeing the shiny boards after I had cleaned them. And, making a useable cable/board connection was always a mini triumph for me!
I found that I really enjoyed working with my hands and my imagination carried me away, while soldering cables to circuit boards. I saw something much more interesting than soldered wires. Funnily, this enhanced imagination could have been from the poor exhaust systems, while we worked with lead solder! But, I have always been easily carried away by my imagination, so it really was probably from my own mind wandering.
Then, a friend, showed me her sister's hand-fabricated sterling jewelry work that she had made during a college class and I was mesmerized... Ignited and inspired, I didn't want to wait to sign up for a class. A couple weeks later, I took that fire and let it flow out through my own hands and from my mind. I didn't read or follow any 'how to' books on metalworking or jewelry-making, I just followed my instincts and experimented. In fact, I wouldn't take my first jewelry class until 16 years later! And I am so thankful for that delay, as I built style before learning technique. In the end, your personal style is what will customers and viewers will remember.
So, that November, I borrowed my father's soldering iron and made 25 'cage' pendants. The pieces held polished stones that I bought at a store in Coventry, a Cleveland suburb. I made flowing nets around the stones with picture wire and solder. And I gave them all away as Christmas presents.
At work, my mind was wandering a little too much and I was 'let go'. It didn't help that I was staying up into the wee hours, dancing at underground Cleveland clubs a couple days a week. Was it only a few hours sleep or the fumes that was making my head drop into my work? I worked there almost 2 years and had gained a lot of skill at handling wire and solder. This job was a very necessary step on my path, as it was inspired me to work with metals, so no regrets for losing it...or the late-night dancing!
Since I have been creating my pieces for a quarter of a century!, there is much more story to unfurl...Check back for the next chapter of my development through jewelry-making! If you are curious, I will post blogs on the 1st and 15th of the month for upcoming segments.