Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It runs in my family

When my grandfather died, he didn't leave behind a lot of material goods. Notable to me were his lathe and several wooden rosaries. Hand turned wooden beads, put together with base metal wire or strung on a cotton cord. He was a jeweller of sorts, and I didn't know it. I thought I had nothing in common with him. I don't remember a single conversation between us - I only remember his disapproving looks and unsmiling face. When he died and this hobby that we both shared was revealed, I went to my parents' medicine cabinet where I'd stashed a small jewellery box that grampa had turned from the trunk of a young tree and painted, gifted to me one Christmas with a string of dollar store false pearl and gold tone beads. The ivory coloured paint still had a faint smell. I discarded the necklace and secreted the box away.

I started making jewellery the same way most young girls do - stringing beads, melting potato chip bags down into keychains, coiling pieces of plastic coloured electrical wire discarded by some SaskTel worker. Whatever I had on hand would do, and I still cherish the roots of that creative spirit in me, sending out feelers into the art world.

These small bracelets and keychains and neckaces were small beans compared to what my dad could do with a nickel, though. By some magical means, my dad was able to take a humble coin and hammer it into a simple ring. I remember asking him how it was done, but the answer seemed so esoteric - containing mystical machines and apparatus that I could only imagine. Metalwork was beyond the scope of my admittedly vast imagination at the time. My dad was handy with his tools - an auto body mechanic by trade, he is familiar with the way metals behave and concerned with the asthetic sense of an object, in tune with its lines and its symmetry. Why shouldn't this sense transfer to the objects which in daily life serve an exclusively decorative purpose; jewellery? My sister's grad ring was a handmade present from my dad, and I am the proud owner of a carved and polished sandstone pendant from his imagination and hands.

Last week I showed my dad some rings that I had been working on, and he inspected the workmanship and said, "well, you sure put my little nickel rings to shame, didn't you?" I remembered those days when making a nickel ring was just a fantasy, solely my dad's arcane intellectual property. I think back on the time I spent in art school learning to smith, and I wish I could have enjoyed those classes alongside my dad and grandfather.

I am always hungry for new techniques, skills and materials that will round out my artistry. Metalwork is, by far, my favourite and most rewarding technique, but I venture into woodwork, like my grandfather, and simple stone carving, like my dad. I don't have to look far for inspiration. It's in my blood.

****jewellery by Gracebourne. Click the photo to view the listing on etsy****

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