I’ve been sitting on this blog for a little over a month now, drafting posts and then not publishing them because it felt like I was starting in the middle. So here’s my attempt at a beginning, for all it may be worth.
I took my first fabrication class in…2008, maybe? I think it was 2008 because that was the year I opened my Etsy shop. It was originally called Slightly Crooked Hook, and I intended to sell knitted and crocheted items in it, but things took a sharp turn when I stumbled upon a tutorial for knitting with super-fine silver wire.
The idea that one could knit with metal blew my mind, and I began to design pretty little trinkets based on a process called Viking Knit. It was a time-consuming and meditative practice, and satisfying, but I grew tired of it rather quickly for a handful of reasons. I still had to use a lot of commercially manufactured items to finish my pieces. It was too much like wire-wrapping to be taken seriously by many lovers of handmade jewelry (there’s a similar disdain that many metalsmiths have toward wire-wrapping).
A watershed moment came the day my work was openly and loudly repudiated at a show by a man who didn’t understand how the time that went into a lovely gold-and-amethyst necklace justified the $80 price tag. “You sure are proud of your work,” he hucked. I just now made that word up, because it perfectly describes his combination of derision and nescience. “Yes, I am,” I politely replied. “I made that myself; it’s one-of-a-kind. If you want cheap, mass-produced stuff, every mall has a Claire’s.”
I’d never back-talked a potential customer before, nor have I done so since, but in that moment I felt I had to stand up–because he wasn’t just insulting me or my humble little necklace that I’d worked so hard on and was so proud to present. Based solely on the fact that he and I valued my work differently, he was insulting every artist and craftsman who believes in cultivating and mastering the processes that go into making something beautiful and unique by hand. Ultimately, I create for myself and for individuals who understand what goes into making a piece that is lovingly crafted and utterly one-of-a-kind, and this man just didn’t know how to react when confronted with a real piece of artistry that bears a price worthy of its making.
I will admit to being frustrated that day, but on a more positive note I was also yearning for new skills. I wanted primarily to learn how to bezel-set stones, but didn’t know that’s what it was called. Through some magical combination of search terms, I found an online tutorial…that featured tools, materials, and processes I knew I couldn’t attain on my own. Through another fruitful Internet search I found the Craft Guild of Dallas and signed up for my first class. We could barely afford it at the time, but I trimmed a few luxuries out of our monthly grocery budget and made it work, and slowly my work became what it has become and what it will continue to be.
In April of this year, 2014, I put in notice at my job as a Middle School Latin teacher. My plans were to focus on my family and my silver; so far I am doing both and loving it. We’re in the process of building a studio here at the house, and in the meantime I spend one or two days a week at the CG working on designs and as many moments as I can furiously sketching designs and scribbling notes in my design journal. I am making things that I love, that test the limits of my ever-growing skills, and it is a wonderful thing to be able to do.
That man at the craft show will probably never know that his flippant statement made me a better artist and silversmith, so to him I say, “Thank you. Thank you for lighting the spark within me. I took that spark and fanned it into a fire, and used it to power torches, hammers, drills, and mills; acids, and solders, and pliers and belt sanders. I used it to make beautiful things that people who appreciate hard work love to own.”
To anyone who may be reading this, I say: Always be proud of your work. Even if you don’t like it, even if it could use some tweaking–love it. And be proud.