Sunday, January 10, 2010
My first finished piece of the new year was brought about by something I read in People magazine probably 15 or 20 years ago. Asked to describe his accessories, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards mentioned a sterling silver skull ring he wore regularly. Although skull jewelry is more usually associated with the principle of memento mori ("remember that you will die"), Richards said the ring reminded him that, "We're all the same under the skin."
Like much that I've read in People over the years (but unlike the Japanese lesson that I read only yesterday, sigh) this really stuck with me. It highlights something I find peculiarly seductive about jewelry, namely its instructive potential. While most forms of jewelry are capable of carrying a message (think slogan badges, fraternity pins, or pendants religious) rings are especially interesting because they spend so much time in the wearer's own field of vision. Say you need to remember to buy milk or pay a bill: a string tied around your finger is probably going to be a better reminder than one looped around your ankle, right?
So what do I want to be reminded of? Well, in the wake of a difficult few years, I want to keep in mind that as a rule people are kind and generous. Although my motif is admittedly heavy-handed (part claddagh, part Allstate ad) it manages to cue my memories of the innumerable people who've housed, fed, hired, supported, and encouraged me, who've taken my classes or purchased my work, who've given me a genuine smile or accurate directions. This ring also reminds me that although I may continue to depend heavily on the kindness of friends and strangers, the time to start returning those favors is now, not some fictional and far-off "good time".
[The first installment in my "repayment plan" is the photo below, which goes out to my recent and future carving students. Although I'm squeamish about showing unfinished work (I'm still not over the time someone called one of my unfinished female figures a "fattie") I think illustrates something that's crucial for any aspiring carver to know: a carving looks awful until suddenly it doesn't. Don't loose heart!]