Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

November 18th, 2007

Discovering A Hidden Jewel (Part 2)

Posted by christina in Web Columns

Living life as a walking work of art was easy for the first couple of years. After my tutorial from Aunt Joanne in form, composition and the art and science of earring selection, people started noticing that I was wearing earrings again and I began receiving gifts. The people selecting for me had good eyes for composition, or they were members of my family and asked Joanne for help, so pretty much everything I got felt “right” when I put them in my ears. The collection became quite eclectic with so many different folks contributing.

As it turned out, only on one occasion did I choose any earrings for myself. It was an impulse buy on the Internet, and when they arrived, they were far too long for my face. I wore them often, though, because the colors went with my wardrobe. Once while wearing them, I got a comment from a friend on my “interesting” earrings. “Interesting” is not usually a compliment when it comes to art.

I may not have been picking out my own earrings, but I was learning a lot about earring designers through my own research and referrals from friends. I had always intellectually understood that jewelry making was an artform but since I was not a big jewelry-wearing person, I hadn’t understood it at an emotional level. Now that I was searching for earrings that looked and felt like a perfect fit, I was ready to have a relationship with jewelry as art.

While my husband and I were on vacation to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, our home was burglarized. They took all my jewelry, including every earring with the exception of a pair of gold studs that I hadn’t worn since my earring epiphany. By luck, fate or coincidence, I had brought the original beaded earrings from Joanne with me on my trip because their chameleon-like nature meant I could have one pair of earrings to go with every outfit I packed.

As I itemized the loss for our homeowners insurance, I relived the connection I had to each pair, remembering not only the person who gave them to me, but who had made them and how I had felt when I wore them. My initial impulse, once I received the reimbursement check from the insurance, was to use the memories of my lost earrings as a template for the new collection. One shopping trip with that frame of mind proved to be frustrating and pointless. I had gone back to one of the Oakland stores Joanne had introduced me too, but I couldn’t re-create the magic of the earrings I had lost. The lazy part of me thought I should just wait for people to start giving me earrings again. That way, I wouldn’t have to do any work, which felt overwhelming at the time. However, I had become accustomed to being a walking work of art with little bits of emotional investment hanging from my ears everyday. The impatient part of me couldn’t wait to rebuild the collection.

I needed to take a creatively different approach to mentally separate my new earrings from the memory of the old. I turned to one of my favorite Internet sites for art,, to see what the international world of jewelry-makers had to offer. Novica, in association with National Geographic, is a fair trade dealer for artisans from around the globe selling all manner of art for the home. It has a huge array of jewelry-makers displaying limitless styles and I started culling from their pages by bookmarking only the earrings that immediately caught my eye — still the first and most important rule I followed when finding earrings for myself. Although I was initially nervous about picking something from a picture, I began to feel more confident the more I looked at those bookmarked selections, seeing a pattern in the length and visual weight of the chosen ones. I hesitated on only one pair, but the colors were so pretty, I pressed the “buy” button anyway. I even threw in a necklace that caught my fancy.

Then the long wait for my seven selections began. The jewelry was being shipped from Brazil, India, Thailand, Bali and Java. Once it was crafted, I would get an email from Novica saying that my order was “beginning its journey across international waters.” I loved the drama of it all.  As the earrings started arriving at my doorstep, I grew more and more relieved to find that my selections not only were beautiful, but they suited me as well, once placed in my ears. Each pair came with a postcard written in the artist’s handwriting, wishing me well. I felt like I had taken a final exam in an art theory class and passed with the extra credit bonus of a direct communication with artists across international waters.

The only failure was the pair I had hesitated on before purchasing. I had chosen with my brain, not with my gut, and failed big time on this pair. The earrings were huge, composed of three large silver squares, which almost touched my shoulders when they were in my ears. They were impractical besides being unsuitable and I felt like an idiot for purchasing them. For some reason, returning them didn’t strike me as an option. Instead, I wondered if I could turn them into three custom pairs of earrings made by me for me.

After buying some basic French hooks, I said a quiet apology to the artist who had made the earrings before using my wire clippers to dissect them. It turned out to be a simple and short procedure with all three new pairs turning out very well. In fact, I now wear these three pairs more than any of my others. Since then, I have altered another pair that I had originally intended to wear for dress-up, but by changing the configuration a little, they became more practical for everyday wear.

My next endeavor is to leave other people’s designs alone and try to make a pair from scratch for myself. I have some very clear visions of what I’d like my custom jewelry to look like. What I never envisioned was that I would be interested in trying my hand at this art. I’m constantly reminding people to keep their eyes and ears open to the arts surrounding them, but even I never dreamed my earlobes would point me toward a hidden jewel of artistic expression.

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