"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Friday, March 30, 2012

On Making Jewelry and Keeping it Real

Making the jewelry isn’t really the issue. Keeping it real is. And by that I don’t mean using expensive gems and working in gold and silver. With the current prices of those precious metals, I can’t afford them anyway. No, I mean keeping it unique to me. That’s hard, because there are a bazillion people out there making jewelry. Just go to either Etsy or Ebay and you’ll see thousands of entries. So, how do you find your own style?

I started out trying to use mainly recycled vintage pieces I found at antique/junk stores. Or things scrounged at garage sales. Often someone would give me a piece of old costume jewelry they no longer wore, or belonged to a deceased relative. But with recycling jewelry being the new “hot” trend, it has become harder and harder for me to find pieces at affordable prices, that I can then take apart and use to make something new. When I do find bags of old costume pieces, they are either cheap plastic junk, or, more often, because of the trend, are now priced beyond what is feasible for me to pay.

This leaves me with having to buy new components, something I was mostly managing to avoid. How do you take manufactured components and turn them into pieces that don’t look like half the jewelry already out there on the market? It’s tough. Especially if you want to keep the prices down where most people can afford to buy something. Lets face it, the world is full of everything from simple beaded earrings, to worked and pounded wire, and cast precious metals and real gems. Each artist trying to come up with something unique to them. Is it possible to create something that does not reference someone else in any way. No, I don’t think so.

If you string beads, there are thousands out there doing the same thing. If you pound wire, be it copper, silver or gold, you’re in a huge group of fellow wire workers. And on and on. Yes, every so often, someone comes up with a totally new way of doing something, or a new way to make components, a new way of gluing things together. But that’s not the norm. Every time I think I’ve come up with something new to use—like old bullet casings—the next bead magazine I see will feature an artist who, isn’t it amazing, uses old bullet casings. Seems I’m always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to innovation. I figure, for me, it boils down to how I want my pieces to look, not necessarily on what I use to get that look.

I like antique, turn-of-the-century things, Edwardian being my favorite. But I also love Steampunk , Goth, and recently, worked wire pieces. I’m also fascinated by court jewelry of the Elizabethan and Italian Renaissance. And tiaras. I love and have a small collection of new and vintage tiaras. The challenge I have set myself is, how do I combine all of that into something people will like and want to wear, without the pieces becoming a mishmash of different styles that look like crap when put together? How do I keep it real, so that my pieces don’t end up looking like something spewed out of China and sold by the gross at Walmart? And how do I keep them affordable, while still doing custom work?

I still have a small stash left of vintage bits and bobs to play with. On occasions I still stumble across a baggy full of odds and ends at a price can afford. But I can no longer rely on that for inspiration. So, I am concentrating on style....on getting all the pieces, whether beaded or worked wire, to have a cohesive look. If they were all spread out on display, it would be obvious that they were all made by the same person. Me.

That’s the plan, anyway. It will always be a work in progress. Like anything you want to do well. Like life.