Monday, October 19, 2009

What happens to jewelry after it leaves my hands?

What happens after a piece of jewelry leaves my hands and ends up in the hands of the recipient? I often wonder exactly this!

Whether it’s someone who purchased the jewelry for themselves, or someone who I gave the jewelry to, or someone who bought the jewelry as a gift for someone else, I always hope the jewelry is enjoyed and treasured. I’m no fool, though. In fact, I’m not afraid to admit that I have full knowledge that my jewelry doesn’t always stay the way I intended it.

I even have a couple of examples. I was in a show last year where I showcased some jewelry designed with beads I’d made. One woman kept eyeing a necklace, stating openly that she didn’t like the way I’d finished it (with a silk ribbon), but that she loved the focal bead so much that she might buy it anyway, and do something else with it.

While part of me wanted to impulsively grab the necklace right out of her hands and stash it in my pocket, another part of me thought, “Well, why not?”

And you know what? She did buy the necklace. I saw the look of absolute glee on her face when she gazed at that bead that I had made. How could I refuse that sale? She got something out of it. It made her happy.

And I’m sure she ripped the necklace apart as soon as she got home and re-did it however she wanted to.

I once put together a necklace made with leather and raku beads (not just beads that had been painted with raku glaze, but beads that had been fired using the raku method), as a gift for a friend. I took care to consider her favorite style and colors. I was still pretty new to making jewelry at this point, and I was really proud of the finished product. It was one of the best things I’d made at that time.

Several months after I’d given the set to my friend, I saw the exact beads I’d used in a completely different necklace on her website.

The necklace was for sale.

At first I was upset and my feelings were really hurt. I mean, how could she? This was a gift I’d crafted especially for her.

And then? I got over it.

Once I gave her the gift, it was out of my control. It was her gift to do with as she pleased. In the grand scheme of things, she could have turned around and sold the necklace as her own. She could have tossed it in a drawer and never looked at it again. She could have re-gifted it. She may have loved it but never saw herself wearing it. I have no clue, and the reality is—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I had the thought to give her the gift.

I think this works for any form of art.

What about a visual artist who sells paintings? She would expect you to frame her painting, but what if it’s more important to you have that you have that piece of art… not so much that it’s in a nice frame? So, it sits on the mantel unframed, so at least you can look at it while other things bump their way up the priority list and you never quite get around to framing the thing.

Do you think that, if the artist knew, she’d refuse sell me another of her paintings?

Well, I can’t speak for all visual artists, but we have four paintings in total from that artist… and only one of them is framed—with a store-bought frame, no less. We fully intend to have the other three framed, at some point. (What can I say? It’s been a rough few years financially.)

Beethoven wrote the famous 5th symphony. Most people only know and love the first movement. But what if the last movement is my favorite, and often the only one I ever listen to from that symphony?

If Beethoven were alive, do you think he’d really give a shit?

Of course not! He’d be thrilled that I found something in his music that touched my soul. It moved me in some way.

Or, perhaps a more relevant example—if a DJ cuts in a few samples of Beethoven’s 5th, thereby modifying his composition and indeed turning it into something completely new and different, is that a bad thing? Is it harmful? My take—it’s actually a good thing. It exposes new listeners to a tidbid of classical music, and they may inquire about the original piece. It modernizes something that many would automatically recognize, and it gives the new artist immediate credibility (which admittedly isn’t necessarily a good thing).

The point is, no matter what, as an artist you cannot have control over what happens to a piece of your art once it leaves your hands. It may be altered, destroyed, broken, painted over, re-sold, etc… and in cases where the action is done out of disrespect, perhaps it’s better that the artist doesn’t know.

I, for one, would stop creating altogether if I was ultimately so concerned about *how* my art was used by the recipient.

Life teaches us that we’re supposed to look for approval and care what others think. But what I’m learning is that what others think of me is none of my business, and in fact, it can be a serious hindrance if I get too wrapped around the axle about it.

Sure, I could have refused to sell that necklace to the woman who wanted to rip it apart—and I’ve seen that happen, too… but when I saw how much she loved the bead, it just didn’t matter anymore.

The point is… once you release your art out into the world, you truly have to let go. That’s part of the beauty of creating.

Honestly, I’d rather that my customers were upfront about wanting a piece altered in some way, so that I could do it for them. It’s something I genuinely try not to take personally. I once sold a necklace to a woman who didn’t like that it was two strands. She only wanted the one strand. I happily snipped off the second strand, and we both got what we wanted—I gained a new customer, I made a sale, and she walked away with a beautiful carnelian necklace.

At that same show last year, a woman showed me a two-strand necklace that she loved. She didn’t want the main strand that actually had the focal on it, she only wanted the secondary accent strand.

Now the interesting thing is, I’d been contemplating making that necklace into a single-strand necklace anyway, so not only did it not bother me that she wanted the second strand… it was actually just what I needed to make the change.

And that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it? Change. Acceptance and rejection. Fear of being “not good enough”.

Well, you know… I say leave all that baggage in the dirt, where it belongs.

There are necklaces I’ve had in my inventory for years, and it feels like something just isn’t quite right with them… I’ll take them out of my display inventory and put them in a bag, waiting for inspiration to redo the necklace. Yes. This happens. I have a pretty full bag of necklaces I’d like to redo, and bracelets I’d like to convert to necklaces, and other various unfinished (un-started, really) projects.

And if a customer wants something altered before buying it… I’m all too happy to do it. I want my customers to be happy with their purchases. I want them to think of me as someone who’s not afraid to push myself and make myself better… I’m only one woman—sometimes I get sick of looking at my own stuff, and if I get a fresh eye on it and someone says “Hey, I think X-Y-Z could hang this way instead of that way”, then once in a while, I may not only learn something new, but I can expand my horizons.

And as you might guess by now, I’m all for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment