Saturday, February 4, 2012

The beginning of a love affair

I'm not entirely sure how I decided to become a jeweller, only that it happened sometime in the last 2 years.  There wasn't a single moment that I can remember. No lightbulb flashing into luminescence over my overworked head.  The clouds didn't part and halo me in a beam of light.

I saw bloggers writing lists of things to do before their next birthday (matching the numbers in the list to the numbers of their years), and 'make a piece of jewellery' was one of the first items onto mine.  Still, I hesitated.

In the midst of a leadership course, digging myself deeper still into my work in the human services and community sector, I had a handful of sessions with a career coach.  I tried to find something else to talk about, use it to 'work on my work', but inevitably it became about how I keep coming back to this feeling, of heaviness, of burnout, of not being able to carry on, of having no room left in me for other people's stories.  In the past I've alleviated it by changing jobs, by starting again.  But the gap between the new and the nosedive is shrinking.  Now I start feeling the itch after a few months.  It's so hard to stay.

I came out of the session with a list.  My goal was no longer 'stop feeling burned out', but 'I want to love my work'.  Thankfully, the coach recognised that trying to make my existing work more love-able (the usual solution proffered) would only be a temporary answer at best.

Later that month I enrolled in a silver jewellery night course at my local community college.  I trekked into the CBD to buy my supplies.  Soldering wire, sterling silver sheet, pliers with different shapes, saw blades so fine they could snap in my bag.

I remember chattering - somewhat shyly - to a salesman over a bench of pliers and solder picks and other tools I couldn't yet name, saying that I was doing this course and if it worked out, I was going to pursue a career as a jeweller.  He asked if I could boil an egg.  Confused, I said 'yes'.  He smiled and said, 'well then, you can make jewellery'.

I'm surprised I didn't figure it out sooner.  It's been there all along.  As a child I swooned over the bejewelled slippers my grandmother brought me from her international travels.  At 4 or 5 I swanned around the house in my long pink frilled nightgown, imagining I was a princess festooned with royal jewels.  I've always been fascinated by the idea of overflowing treasure chests, spilling ropes of pearls and gemstones.  At 8 and 9 I spent hours painstakingly cutting gemstones out of generic jewellery catalogues, super excited when there was a closeup of a ring so the paper gemstone would be big.

Now I have permission (my own, though I didn't know I needed it) to buy books of vintage art nouveau jewellery and huddle over them on the couch for happy hours.  To meander in bead stores gathering up tiny treasures to add to my tidy collection (better still, to use them).  To sigh lustily over stumbled-across websites of artisans specialising in jewellery techniques, like Russian filigree or mokume gane.

This will be a catalogue of my discoveries and hopes, eventually my creations, and above all a love affair with jewellery.

Edward Oakes vintage floral brooch
Victoria Landsford's 'Curves in the Right Places II'
Steve Midgett's 'Shell Form Brooch'

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