Disobedience

img_2250One of my favorite books is the Mayan Tale The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun written by Martin Prechtel.

It’s a beautiful story that depicts a young woman coveted by all of those that love her; mother and father, the extended family and even the community at large. Their need for her to remain the unique giving source that they rely upon eventually breaks the girl into a million pieces. Her lover, a calm shaman in the form of a hummingbird, gathers together every last one of the pieces and places them in an earthen pot to simmer back together. Her mother, of course, is too impatient to wait and is a source of great exasperation for the lover, who knows that the daughter will not be what the Mother desires if the pot is open too soon.

As I think about the simmering together of this girl with relationship to all of us who have change pushing us into our true form, I have to wonder what was happening to the girl as she was in the pot, if she could hear the cries of her Mother, feel the frustration of her lover and recognize her Father, the Sun, walking by the pot with such a heavy heart while so much hurt and hope weighed on his worn out self, missing his daughter dearly and regretting his part in her demise, yet still, day after day, carrying the burden of so many as all good fathers seem to do.

In the end, of course, the Mother opens the pot too early and the girl emerges very different than the memory the Mother desired. We think, “why couldn’t you wait, lady”! Somehow it’s the collective’s gut reaction to want beauty to remain the same. But nothing ever can or will. That is the beauty of being human. Had the mother waited, could a girl that broken ever emerge the same again? And should she? Shouldn’t she have the right to be more complete?

At my studio, I meet so many people who are going through life changes. I love them dearly as they explore the expressive side of their heart and mind to try to find answers that will bring them closer to their true self. I learn from them and allow their wisdom and experiences to feed me along my personal journey. I try to offer what I have in return. It appears eventually we all have to come to an understanding that we must allow for space. Not a removal of the mother and lover, the community, the father, but a belief that a gesture of openness can be enough. Knowing enough to crack open a door while you do what you need to in the other room and having the faith that at some point a face will appear peeping out at you, attracted to the loving, honest space you’ve created. This will be enough. And when that happens, the face should never look the same as you remember. My guess is that if you have developed this relationship with the idea of space, it will look even better.

Digging IN

Most of my life, the term “hippie” meant a warm kitchen with a wood stove and the sweet smell of yeast roaming amongst the rooms of a Midwestern farmhouse. Hippies were kaleidoscopes of color with big toothy grins. They were the fairground of my childhood filled with insight, love, kindness and innovative play who would hang out around a fire pit to enjoy the intellectual musings of one another; writers, musicians, engineers, teachers.  But as I grew up, their magic faded and I began to realize that maybe my little tribe hadn’t been hippies at all, just the friends of my parents who gathered together on the weekends to exhale all of the BS they had endured at the office, eat great food and hash out their fantastical ideas of engineering splendor. They were, deep down, the forefathers of what this new decade is calling a maker. They weren’t the artisans I’ve known, working from the heart and the hand, but instead a hybrid of the head and the hand. It’s an interesting shift to see this coming together of intellect and freedom, not after hours around a fire pit for mere pleasure, but through high impact imagery, international networking and lots and lots of statistical information.

So make we do. Everything from homemade pies, crusty with the caramelized fruit seeping along the edges to high-tech gadgetry that is sure to make life better, we design it and get the parts and follow the specs until we can hold it in our hands. But what I’ve discovered over the last year is that making something and building something are two very different things and as we work so diligently to make more product, or make a business, or make a living, collectively we are losing the understanding of how important it is to build.

To build a thing, you are asking of it longevity and even autonomy of function. You make a house, you build a home, you make friends, but caring for someone through the times you hardly even like them, now that is built! It takes time, patience and presence and means you’re not always hustling. When I read over the multitude of entrepreneur checklists available, I am struck by one reoccurring thought, shouldn’t we want more. With all of the resources available to us today, shouldn’t we be visionaries? Not visionary in production, we will all do that anyway, but visionary in contribution. How can we, from day one, build something that means more to people than a purchase or a job.

When I crashed into my studio last year, I received two powerful, yet contradictory, pieces of advice. The first was to identify what was billable and put 100% into that activity for the first few years, more if necessary. If it isn’t billable, the answer is no. The second, to give from day one. Give to your community in a way that it will never “give back” to you, because your giving will spread outward, instead of just bouncing back. I love them both (and the unique characters who gave them) because you can’t give from an empty bucket, but you also can’t live in a heartless home.

I don’t remember a time I didn’t want help people to grow and wherever I found myself, it seemed to rise to the surface of my priorities. Sometimes it was appropriately in a classroom and sometimes it was through my mentoring approach to management, but it is undeniably who I am. As this year unfolded and my priorities began to align themselves, I struggled through design and purpose but emerged into the new year with at least the firm conviction that making will never be enough for me. What I need, and have always needed, is to build.

The art of War describes five elements that govern success, (or at least so says my cheat, who can read that thing) the Tao being one of them. Knowing your moral standing and your motivation is crucial to effective action. Simon Sinek is endorsing the same principle when he states that you must know your “WHY” for others to stand with you. It’s beautiful, isn’t it, to lay a solid foundation for all of the hard times and long nights you expect to put into your work. Your life’s work. So I ask you, with a sly grin for such a tough question, what is it you are building and why?

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Making

studio-drawing

Planning

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Sharing

Skidaway Silhouettes

A few years ago I was working on a series that explored the distortion of shapes through shadow and silhouette. I’m a nut for all things that emerge from interrupted light and can lie on the floor of my living room for quite a long time flapping my hands and arms around to make different creatures emerge and then recede along the ceiling.

In Malaysia, there is the Walung Kulit (shadow puppets) that mesmerize me beyond belief. The puppet itself is a thing of beauty, huge cutouts vibrantly painted only to be diluted through the translucent screen. The puppeteer will flap, flap, flap the flat character against the screen for a close up and then pull it away letting its’ shadow spread out until it dissipates altogether. It’s a romantic gathering, full of muffled laughter and screams as the young children see how the melodrama plays out. The evenings are warm with the salty air of the sea and there is the flicker of the candlelight and the smell of traditional foods that ease you away into a world of simple pleasures, human pleasures.

Isn’t that why a shadow pulls us in, after all? It whispers to the part of us that is primal and of the world. A tangible object boldly standing in the warmth of the sun or the glow of the moon allowing physics to do something the scientists don’t declare enough, delight and seduce us.

10 Things You Might Want to Do If You’re A Jeweler

Making jewelry is a blast, especially if you have a compadre or two in the studio with you. Here’s a list of 10 things you might want to do if you’re a jeweler and just want to smile all of the time.

If you’re a jeweler you might want to:

1. practice purring the word “perfect” after every operation. Say it with confidence and pleasure, even when it’s anything but!

2. start every day with a sacrifice to the jewelry Gods. Nothing weird!

3. have a favorite tool and a long explanation of WHY IT IS THE ULTIMATE TOOL IF YOU COULD ONLY HAVE ONE TOOL. You’ll be asked this at some point. Make it good!

4. stop and just look at the ground. Within 30 seconds the whole studio will be on their hands and knees trying to find the imaginary object.

5. completely outlaw the color green, unless it’s paper.

6. keep a bag of marshmallows on hand. S’mores never have to be more than 30 seconds away.

7. remember that just because you looked 15 times already, it doesn’t mean your tool is not right in front of you.

8. have a solid plan for when your bench is on fire.

9. learn to walk away and come back later.

10. give props. Above all give props to the people around you. Adore them and the creative companionship they bring.

The 50 Year Example

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My parents have been married fifty years. When I asked them what they wanted for their anniversary, they knocked around fancy parties and exotic trips but landed on family togetherness, all of their children and grandchildren and soon to be in-law grandchildren (is that even a thing) in one room, laughing and eating and loving each other.

My Dad took to the maps and charted a motorcycle trip through the twists and turns of the blue ridge parkway and on Saturday morning we stuffed Mom’s infamous strawberry waffles into our mouths and geared up. While the guys shimmied their bikes through the cars and to the road, I noticed the joy on everyone’s face as they cracked little jokes and prepared their unique approach to the onset of the journey. This gang of motorcycle enthusiasts, from age 21 to 71, are a bunch of goofs. I have to wonder if my Dad ever dreamed this day would come, back when it was just him and mom in 1972, dragging two little kids to campsites and enduro races, hippied out for the weekend.

As a jeweler, I’m there for some really important moments in people’s lives. Marriage is maybe the biggest of them all, but I see beyond the excitement of the day and the fascination of the moment and instead envision a family gathered together with all of their loved ones fifty years later. That’s why I make jewelry the way I do, with care and forethought. I want to be with you, not just at 21, but at 71, when with a habitual twist of your ring, you smile, remember it all, and shout to your crew, “kickstands UP!”

– Big love to my mom and dad – they set a damn good example.

 

Beauty is Limitless

 

I’m always astounded at how much beauty is all around us if we’re willing to be present enough to see things quickly. Sometimes, I’m able to capture a lovely moment with a quick snapshot, like the photographs above. But, it’s the camera click in my mind that never takes a break. There’s so much coming at me all of the time it feels like I’m standing in a blizzard of wonder, like the mere second it took for my friends face to ignite into a smile that melted my heart just before the single minute and a half it took when the rain cleared and a triple rainbow appeared, but then disappeared only to be replaced by the mesmerizing slosh, slosh, slosh of someone’s shoe, which got in the car with the pale blue door that reflected the red of the fire hydrant on the sidewalk that. . . .well, you get the picture. Some of this beauty we catch only to release, but some of it’s held onto because it’s imperative to the work at hand.
I’ve found that these beautiful moments are limitless and for an artist, completely essential.
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Designing with Line

 

Delving into your studio and your craft should be an easy and enjoyable experience, but for many of the artists I know, it’s difficult to get started. The place we go internally to do our work is so delicate and raw yet the world around us so bullish and impatient, that our creative intent can be weakened before it’s brought to action.
For me, it’s line that can break through the apprehension I have for the world’s interruptions. If I can manage to get my paper and pencil out, to make that first line, then it never fails that as soon as I do, the world fades away and I and my little marks start to have a beautiful conversation.
If you feel the same, I urge you to find your line.

The line is an extravagant thing.
Euphoric, but existential.
Simple, and yet partnered with other lines,
It becomes an entity; a form that casts shadows and generates moods.
It’s nothing, really.
Just graphite on paper.
Wire in a ring.
It can lie there, straight, begging for more.
Or, it can twirl itself into a frenzy
Becoming a shape.
The faint edges of the fray,
Gnawing at you to pull at it like a yo-yo
And unravel the playful imp.

 

Smiling Professionals

These beauties will be a door prize at Georgia Southerns Administrative Professionals Day event http://ceps.georgiasouthern.edu/conted/adprofday.html.

I’m always amazed at the kindness of others as they help you through your day. The cup of coffee you pour without knowing who made it or that one piece of information that someone takes the time to find for you. I’m not sure who does and doesn’t qualify as an administrative professional, but I do know that I’m thankful to all of the people I work with, in all capacities, for their kindness and professionalism.

Bezel Overload

Above is a picture of in-process. I usually make twenty to thirty bezels at one time. Then I have to keep them straight as to which one fits which piece. It can be a puzzle at times. I number them as I work, but Oh No, the heat from my torch evaporates the alcohol based markers. It would seem a simple task, but some of these pieces of sea glass are so similar. In the end, it all works out and something beautiful emerges from the effort. Thank Goodness!