Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

November 11th, 2007

Discovering A Hidden Jewel (Part 1)

Posted by christina in Web Columns

I admired Joanne’s earrings at my husband’s birthday party. Joanne is my aunt-in-law, if you want to be technically accurate about our relationship. The earrings were colorful and fun, yet stylish. They suited Joanne perfectly.

Joanne started to tell me about the designer, Mendy Marks, and Mendy’s wonderful sense of color and shape in her jewelry, but also her incredible memory about people and the earring styles that complement them. Interesting chit-chat, but I didn’t think much of it beyond that. At the time, I was not wearing any earrings since I was still in “baby mode,” meaning I had young children under the age of two in the house for the last several years and wearing earrings was not practical for ear-lobe preservation. The few times I had thought about putting earrings back on, I looked at my collection with a weary eye. All my earrings were either uninteresting or they made my lobes itch. Life was simpler without earrings.

Two days later, Joanne and her daughter Emily appeared at my door with a gift of dangly beaded earrings. Joanne said they weren’t Mendy Marks, but they were a pair that called out my name when she and Emily saw them. I politely thanked the women, who were obviously pleased with themselves. I would never have picked these earrings out for myself.

The earrings were about an inch long, with French hooks. The dominant color of the beads was chocolate brown, with olive green thrown in — colors that look good on me but that I had never worn in earrings before. The next day was Christmas and I wanted to be festive, so I put on my new earrings with a red sweater and black pants. Strangely enough, the earrings looked really good with this color combination.

The next day, I wore a purple top with jeans, and the earring chameleons looked good with that, too. For two weeks, I wore the earrings with disparate colors and they seemed to change to accommodate the ensemble of the day. I wrote Joanne and Emily an effusive thank you note for such extraordinary earrings. Joanne followed with an invitation to take me to the store where the earrings had been found. Back in polite mode, I accepted the invitation, uncertain about the success of such a shopping trip. I don’t “team shop,” like many women do. I like going solo on my shopping trips. I park the car, target a certain type of purchase and then get on with my life. I’m not big on accessory shopping and earrings seemed to me to be the ultimate accessory item. I wasn’t entirely sure earring shopping was the way I wanted to spend a Saturday morning.

We stopped in the first shop and I was immediately overwhelmed by the selection of earrings. I half-heartedly turned a couple of displays, not sure what I was looking for. That’s when Joanne gave her first bit of advice: Don’t bother to stop and look at anything that doesn’t immediately catch your eye. Basically, go with your gut, and not your head. A pair that makes you stop and take notice is likely a shape and design that matches your composition.

Huh? Composition? Like in art? What was she talking about?

Joanne then embarked on a narrated tour of the store, pointing out earrings that would look good on her because of her facial shape and size, and her short haircut. I had never considered my face shape and size as a determinant of the earrings I should wear. She then moved on to talking about earrings that would work for her daughter, Emily. These earrings were quite different from the earrings Joanne would wear. I mentally noted that Emily and Joanne were built differently and had diametrically opposed hairstyles. Indeed, they wore very different kinds of earrings.

Then Joanne stopped and turned one display until she found a pair that would be right for me — a stack of semi-precious stones in a straight line, long but not too long. I could see the similarity in their configuration to the chameleon-beaded ones. I then tried to pick another pair out by myself. Joanne smiled and suggested we go try them on in front of a mirror so I could see what they looked like. (By the way, I never knew you could try earrings on in a store.)

I put on the pair Joanne had picked for me and then I put on the pair I had picked. Hers looked a lot better. But why? She pointed to how the length of her selection fell to a point on my face that was flattering. How the visual weight of the earrings was not too great. And how the colors of the stones went with my reddish hair and pink complexion. She did note that on this Saturday I was wearing my hair in a ponytail and that her advice was based on the fact she usually saw me with my hair down.

There were a lot of details but it was starting to make sense. I quickly picked another pair out and tried them on. Joanne agreed they worked much better but urged me not to buy them. She had something else to show me.

We hopped in the car and Joanne took me across town to another store. I was feeling more comfortable now with our excursion and starting to enjoy this artistic approach to jewelry selection. Even better, the next store had all sorts of art in it, not just jewelry. It was easy to get distracted by the array of mirrors, pots, wind chimes, dishes, sculpture, and myriad other creative endeavors. But at last, we made our way to the earring displays. Once again, Joanne made small talk about this or that designer whom she did or didn’t like.

After touring the whole jewelry counter she suggested that now I pick something out. It appeared that this time she wasn’t going to help me. I was pretty sure she was testing me. My heart rate went up. My mind started spinning as I tried to remember everything she had said that morning. Had I been listening closely enough? I’m never good on the fly when it comes to application of new information. My brain likes to have time to digest data. What if I got the answer wrong ?

Trying to appear calm and confident, I pointed to the only pair of earrings in the story that actually caught my eye – a trio of diamond-shaped pieces of colored gold linked together with small loops. Longish, but not too long and visually very light. Joanne’s satisfied smile told me right away I had passed the test.

I drove home feeling like Joanne had given me the Rosetta stone of fashion. I know artists, mathematicians, scientists, and no doubt many of you see the world as a series of shapes. I never did — let alone my own face and head. I have form, composition and texture, just like art does.

Next week I’ll reveal what life is like as a walking work of art…

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