HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT The Musings Of A Jewelry Designer:
It has been three weeks since my life partner and business partner, Jayden, passed away, when I am composing this musing. She had been sick a long time. Her passing was an all-too-soon shock, but not a shock. Maggie, our maltipoo, was very close to Jayden. She has walked into Jayden’s bedroom repeatedly, every day since, whimpering for awhile, then coming over to me and getting very close. It has been three weeks.
There is a finality to jewelry design. You grieve each time you sell or give away one of your pieces. Designing a piece is an exercise in finding an emotion, getting inspired by that emotion, elaborating on that emotion, make choices about parts and stringing materials in line with that emotion, anticipating how the client will recognize that emotion and somehow make that emotion their own, as they purchase and wear the piece. Design becomes a frequent exercise in attaching then detaching from an emotion.
Grief. One of the core aspects of jewelry design. Inevitable. Unescapable. Difficult with which to cope.
One style of jewelry — aptly named Mourning Jewelry — is there to assist those in mourning. It may be used simply to signal to others that a loved one has passed away. But it also becomes a statement about how you might have felt about the deceased. Or how you want others to perceive how you might have felt about the deceased. Or perceive your status or relationship or power vis-à-vis the deceased and vis-à-vis the other people attending the funeral or sitting or wake. Designing jewelry for mourners requires a lot of situation-reading and empathy to know why it is to be worn, and how to design it accordingly.
One of my students and friends — Suzanne — designed mourning jewelry. Actually she designed wedding jewelry and sold the same pieces in black and called them mourning jewelry. The jewelry included a glove sans finger tips, various necklaces, bracelets, and rings, a tiara, shoulder jewelry, and bejeweled veil and fascinator.
She began her jewelry making career following an unusual path. She was providing some health care and social services to a prominent fantasy story novelist — Andre Norton. She was also a serious fan of…