In many Native American dance competitions the loss of a single bead, stone or sequin from the dancer's regalia during competition is grounds for complete disqualification -- thousands of dollars in prize money, years of practice negated by one snagged stitch or hastened finish.
It's a standard to which I sincerely aspire, but couldn't possibly achieve. But over the past decade I've learned a few hard lessons that guide all my personal jewelry production. From the simplest pair of one-bead-on-wire earrings to layered and detailed Assemblage multi-strand mega-statements with dozens of components it comes down to the essential division of duties in "wearable art."
WEARABLE + ART
If I treat it like it's wearable as I consider the materials and construction, I need for you to consider it art when you wear it. Depending on the piece , it will always be more one than the other, but if we both own our part, it will work every time.
I've done enough elegant art shows and farmer's markets with my work now to keep a straight face person picks up an a necklaces with trailing strands of silk and asks if it can be worn in the shower or if the $12 earrings made with imported artisan glass have precious metal wires. I've heard every combination of conditions, reactions and allergies possible (and have a few myself).
I respect individual needs and try to always stock pieces with no metal, alternative materials to leather, etc. But because I make everything by hand, there's no factory to call when stocks run low and priority always goes to the items that sell the best. (Or at least I'm working on that part , it still goes to the ones i simply enjoy creating... )
WEARING IT OUT
I buy my materials wholesale and have been doing this long enough to have built some wonderful relationships with individuals and companies that care about quality. But companies and suppliers change and I'm always finding new materials I want to explore. Thus, any time I've got a new base component, technique or material I wear the first item I make with it morning, noon and night to test the limits.
When I first started experimenting with making jewelry I was so excited when someone noticed a piece i was wearing I'd be thrilled to give it to them right there.
These days I offer to sell (it would be embarrassing to admit how many times I've run a credit card through the PayPal reader on my phone while waiting in a line or shopping). But i don't think people l believe me when I tell them I can't sell it yet because it's on a test drive. The couple times I have declined purchase and gave them my business card -- the look on their face told me in advance they'd never call.
Still , it's what works for me. Patinas, dyes and alcohol inks can add amazing richness to basic metals that looks great on your pendant, but hideous on your silk blouse. Until I figured out how to effectively seal the pieces to Houston summer humidity level without sacrificing the effect -- they didn't leave the studio and the test t-shirts went to recycle.
Just last week I was doing (mental) backflips waiting for the delivery of a graceful new bezel and wire combination for my Czech button earrings from a U.S. manufacturer through a long-time wholesale relationship. I had some new buttons prepped and ready for days before the new bezels arrived.
When I tore open the package they were prettier than the online photo and they sat light and easy in my earlobe. Waiting for the jeweler's clay to fully set was the adult equivalent of waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve ("Really? I have to go to sleep and not get up until tomorrow or it won't happen?" ) I wore them out to lunch the next day and fell asleep wearing them that night . In the morning the skin behind my earlobe was red and hot. The end of the elongated ear loop was OK to touch , but when pressed had an irritating rough edge. Ouch.
I smoothed it with a cup burr and tried again the next night without incident, but when you see this design online you'll note that it's not a good idea to sleep in them -- not because of the rough edge I found - that's fixed on all my stock now -- but because the bending of the extended wirere that results from the pressure of your head on the will likely shorten the life of the piece.
TRIED AND TRUE
Most of my necklace chains, cuffs and earwires are simple pieces bought in bulk from the same places and checked against the last batch. I learned quickly that if I wanted clients to experience Czech buttons and the small batch glass I love , I have to keep prices affordable (while still contributing my share to household utilities).
I have sterling earwires and make custom brass and copper wires and clasps for certain designs I but I stay with what i know works in the findings and have my fun with the Czech glass and other media.
I MEASURE, YOU CHECK
I'll provide full measurement and materials information, but trust you to read it and make your decisions accordingly. After all, we're in this together.