i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

On Becoming An Artist

March 3, 2008

(x-posted from

I'm currently teaching jewelry design as a part of an afterschool program here in Providence. The class started last week, and so far, it's been a lot of fun. Unlike the last jewelry design class that I taught, this one gives me complete freedom to do whatever I want. For my last class, a syllabus had already been designed by the person who was supposed to teach the class. When that person backed out at the last minute, my lucky day, I was hired two days before the class started. Despite the fact that I had no formal training in jewelry, had never been in charge of a classroom, and had very little experience with kids, it was an amazing experience! The students loved me and loved the class, and I loved them and woke up on class days brighter than I did on non-class days. Despite that, the projects that we did weren't really my style of jewelry design.

My strength in jewelry design, and in most things non-jewelry, is creative thinking. Who wants to wear the same old thing that everyone else is wearing? Not me! Each piece that I design is completely one-of-a-kind, and my skills have vastly improved in the last few months, in part, due to the skills I needed to acquire in order to do my job! I was hired to teach a bead course, but my work with beads had been minimal. I bought a pair of crimp pliers, googled instructions online, and flew by the seat of my pants.

In many respects, this new line of work feels like exactly what I'm meant to be doing. Six years ago or so, I learned how to macramé hemp necklaces. When the thrill of making the same old necklace over and over again wore off, I started imagining new ways to make hemp necklaces. I'd do double strands of hemp, and I invested in fancier beads that the plastic pony beads that got me started. I learned the macramé was a huge to-do back in the day so I found "new" knotting techniques in old books, even learned a funky lacy kind of macramé that I used to make an utterly fantastic belt, sadly a few sizes too small for me when it was finished. I experimented with colored hemp and started making my own pendants to use as focal points.

I got compliments on my jewelry on a daily basis. People started asking me where I'd got something, and I loved telling them that I made it myself. When people started offering to buy the necklaces right off my neck, I knew I'd hit on something big. My friend and I started a business, and we traveled to flea markets and craft shows to peddle our hempen wares. We both worked as waitresses and found quite a market in the food server crowd. I guess when you have to wear a uniform, you gotta add some oompf with jewelry -- worked for us! We even sold our creations on consignment in a local vintage-style clothing store and started a webpage. We probably would have continued with our venture, but things turned sour between my business partner and me when, a few months in, she decided to hook up with the man I'd been seeing. Business and pleasure don't mix, for sure, and we parted ways soon after. I'm not much for forgive and forget, I'm afraid.

A few years later, I started the CRAFT club at Seton Hill. Thanks to the sage words of our wonderful adviser, I began to think of all the crafty things I did just for fun as "art," which had always seemed to me a high-falutin' term. What I was doing wasn't art, I thought, just something fun for a rainy Sunday. It kept me busy at least, right? Once I started thinking about my "craft" as an "art," I got more into it. I went overboard, as I tend to with every new project, spending several hundred dollars on supplies in one long weekend, and I spent all my free time making cool stuff.

One day, I finally thought to myself, "Hell yeah I'm an artist!"

When I told my sister, she said, "Uh. Duh." Like she, and a lot of other people, had known something I hadn't. I'd always thought I could only be creative in one area -- like, if I was a good writer, I couldn't possibly be an artist, too. Instead, it seems the two go hand-in-hand, and negotiating the difference between the different types of creation, physical versus metaphorical, has strengthened my abilities in each.

Now here, I am, a jewelry design instructor, currently showing art work (aka my cool crafty jewelry) in not one but two different galleries, in two different states. If you had told me back when I first approached Maureen about being the CRAFT club adviser that I'd be living in Providence two years later, showing my jewelry in galleries, and teaching a course in the same, I'd have scoffed! And yet here I am. Funny how life works, eh? (P.S. Thanks, Maureen!)

Moira at 7:51 PM :: Comments (1) :: ::

I've always expected you to do interesting things, in unusual ways. Thanks for the update, Moira!

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 3, 2008 8:07 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?