Make my day

Melissa is spending lots of time underground. Today she’s up for air.

I did a strange thing on Saturday, for me anyway. I woke up with a burning desire to make jewellery.

I have a bit of a regime that I stick to from Monday to Friday. Monday I work in the studio, making jewellery. Tuesday I do paperwork, upstairs in my office. This time of year I’m busy getting my tax stuff in order, as well as the usual tasks of photographing works, making up price lists and invoices and responding to calls for entry, general emails and ordering materials and other supplies. Sometimes this spills into Wednesday mornings, but I try to keep myself on schedule.

From Wednesdays to Fridays I work in the studio. I don’t have any family where I am right now, and Turbo works long hours, so I spend fairly long days down there, uninterrupted. It’s great to have the luxury, but it is taxing. At my last studio, hours were 9am – 7pm, and 6pm on weekends. I only broke curfew a handful of times in my two years there, when a deadline for images loomed, or once or twice when leading up to exhibitions. Sticking to the hours was easy enough, since don’t like to work too late or put in too many hours when tired, because, as all jewellers know, making stuff takes it out of you. You have muscle fatigue as well as brain fatigue and sometimes eye strain added into the mix. It’s not like we’re doing keyhole surgery, but sometimes it feels pretty close. Since we’re generally dealing with dangerous equipment, toxic chemicals, sharp tools and such, I think it’s purely a matter of self preservation to be organised and to quit when you’re ahead. That’s the other thing, if I’m ever going to make a big mistake, it’s going to be the last thing I try to squeeze in at the end of a jam packed day. So I’ve learned to pack it in. Mostly. It’s a battle hard fought inside myself, since I used to be able to keep drafting to all hours and then have a wine or two with dinner (yep, that long ago, when I used to drink wine!) and go and red-line a bunch of drawings before bed. That’s fine when you’re on paper (literally) but a shitty idea in the jewellery studio.

So after a taxing week, my weekends, especially Saturdays, I rest and recuperate. Sleep in, maybe go out for brunch. Relax. Regenerate. On Sundays I used to get back into the office, like when I used to post here a lot more frequently. Sunday was a blogging and supplementary paperwork day. And a day to catch up on my reading, as I have – well what I think is at least – a formidable blog list that I try to stay on top of. And if I’m curating a show, I might lose some making time when I’m dealing with emails and writing documents during the week, so I will try to catch up with or anticipate incoming paperwork on Sundays so I can spend as much time in the studio as I can.

Lately though, my working hours have been intense, and the interruptions negligible, so I’ve had whole weekends to my ‘other’, non-jewellery-fixated, self. Time to spend and share at will, without nagging interruption from ‘work’. We have a new city to explore, and, lets face it, less buddies around to hang out with, so me and Turbo, we depend on one another more. Suffice to say, in recent times my weekend has changed shape a little. But then there was last Saturday.

I made a chain last week, one that I’d been turning over in my mind for a while. It’s a rarity for me, to the point that I think I could count the amount of proper neckpieces I’ve made on a single hand, and many of those have been for the La Geometrie series this year. Since my pendants are often big and detailed and time consuming, I had felt for a long while that in price alone, a hand-made chain would tip them over into almost unsalable territory. And as I have mentioned recently, for a long while I’ve been working of The Sieve works. This pattern lent itself to large yet complex pendants, each of them visually rich while maintaining a certain precision. With their aesthetic in mind I made the decision that any chain should reflect the strands of cable that held the works together. I used a lot of snake chain (not really a favourite, but appropriate for the work nonetheless) and a few other varieties that suited the scale of the pieces. I’ve recently been enamelling sections of the final Sieve works, and I thought that my chain idea would fit well with the last big Sieve pendant, so I finally decided to go ahead with it.

And I didn’t quite finish it, despite working til almost 8pm on Friday night. Well, I had a finished length of chain, with a stretch of links left over that I quickly turned into a pendant, but I didn’t get to attaching the main length of chain to the Sieve-pattern pendant. But I was so happy with the chain, including the five-part piece of it that I played with continually that night after it became my little pendant on a length of neoprene, that I immediately wanted to make another. Immediately. The idea had settled in my brain and would not let me go. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to get downstairs to work on the new one on the bench. I want so much to see it in red.

So on Saturday when I woke up, and Turbo asked what I wanted to do for the day, which lay as a clean slate ahead of us, I said I wanted to make jewellery. Unusual, to the point of being unheard of, but not as outlandish as suddenly deciding to, say, become a pilot… I’m a jeweller, and on my day off, I wanted to make jewellery. So I did.

It wasn’t a big working day, since some of my usual time pressure was gone, so we still went out for lunch as planned. On our walk back I didn’t mind at all waiting for the Fremont Bridge to close so that we could cross it, which I definitely would if I was there waiting on the other side of the channel on a week-day. All up, I spent a bit over six hours in the studio. I measured, saw pierced, drilled, trussed, sandblasted, enamelled, fired, cut, soldered, strung and soldered again at a great pace. It felt like a borrowed day, so I was keen and determined and absolutely no-nonsense. I had worked out how to make the piece with the first incarnation earlier in the week, so it went quicker, even with the changes I wanted to make. Once again, I didn’t quite finish. But I was satisfied just seeing the whole piece laid out, looking practically how it would once finished. I wanted to play with it, to see it move, but my first flush of curiosity had been sated, the eternal question of “how will it look?” had been answered.

I finished it yesterday and I finally got to play with it. The next question, “how will it feel?” could be experienced. I immediately I wore it. I turned its links and felt it move in my hands and around my neck.  The feedback loop had been completed and I was ready to move forward with the information gathered, so I immediately started making another. The next one currently occupies the position that the now-completed version previously took up on my bench.

I played with my neckpiece some more once I finished work, testing it, redesigning it, recolouring and restringing it in my head. Using it to design and visualise its descendants. Assessing while admiring. I like it, but I can’t wait to finish the next one because it will be better.

Man, this business is addictive.

2 thoughts on “Make my day”

  1. Hello, my good old friend! After reading this page I am really able to draw what your life there is like. I really adore your passion and intense process of working on jewellery. You made me read over my good old visual diaries including one in time of Duesseldorf. I remember those full time of working,making, finding, planning and considering jewellery.. now I am holding my little beautiful inspiration in my arms and waiting for better things coming up.. Still Have a great exploration in your life and work.. Miss you.

  2. Jin ah! Hellooooooo! Lovely to hear from you, and hope little Ara is being a Pearl as usual 😉 We’re having a good time, but I do miss you too. I understand how it would remind you of being ‘away’. Funny how time ‘away’ becomes ‘home’ so quickly, no? Please send me some new photos when you have time :*

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