If your creative energies are at odds with everything else in your life, prospects are not good for a successful expression of those creative energies. I experienced that fact to the maximum in my twenties.
They were a turbulent and difficult passage of time in which I married a Canadian and started a family in Ontario. I set aside my artwork and did the full time mother routine. I loved my children but always carried a deep sadness that I would not create work of the caliber I saw when I went to art galleries.
The marriage imploded violently when my husband’s mental problems blew out of control. An adoption breakdown resulted with the older boy we had been adopting. My ex capped the whole situation by pounding my head on the floor, nearly killing me.
Not too long after that my mother committed suicide. My father had already passed away and my brother was immersed in his own troubles. I was left on my own with a toddler, trying to recover from a severe concussion.
The one positive outcome of these events was that it became essential for my child’s well being that I pursue my artwork once again. I could support her and still be at home for her if I did.
This made an enormous difference for me as I slowly worked my way through my recovery. When I was still too ill to handle clay, I designed a line of exclusive stuffed toys I marketed to high-end toy stores.
When I was well enough, I set up my clay studio and made pots, lots of pots. The business seemed to be developing well. Unfortunately a car wreck injured my still fragile neck and ended my work on the potter’s wheel for another fourteen years.
When one door closes, another opens, and I discovered jewelry making and the lost wax process. When I saw the first examples of the process my immediate thought was that I had just saved myself ten years of searching. I had known all along I would not stay with the clay, but did not know what I would do instead.
I absorbed myself in mastering this medium with a single-minded intensity that had me commercially viable as a designer fairly rapidly. Wax, left to its own devices, likes to be blobs and drips. To control it into a precise form requires technical precision and nearly endless practice.
The medium is so demanding that most wax workers find one method of working and stick with it. I wanted to be able to do them all so that I could create whatever I wished that was physically possible in wax.
As a result I became one of the top handful of precision carving specialists in North America. I designed for the trade, meaning I would create one piece, a whole line of jewelry complete with molds, or anything in between.
I created sculptures, jewelry of every possible style, and often did custom pieces for jewelry shops. The latter became a cause of burnout.
When a shop jobs something out it is usually because it is too technically difficult for them to execute, or, worse yet, is a really bad idea they promised their customer and then discovered they had no notion how to make it work.
I found that after working so hard to become versatile and effective, a lot of my time was spent making silk purses out of sow’s ears. Poorly cut stones had to be made to look good. Bad ideas had to be made into something the customer would actually wear. I wrote in another post about the Omigod Ring, a five ounce monstrosity with diamonds and an eagle.
Along with those dismal sort of projects were more interesting ones. Have you ever thought of making a heart shaped gold padlock for a necklace? It turns out there is a reason most padlocks are rectangular. Important parts of the mechanism are in those bottom corners a heart shape does not have…
So a mechanism had to be invented that would work in a heart shape. The result was a beautiful gold padlock that opened and closed with a gold key.
Another interesting one was a project for a fossil dealer. He wanted, not a triceratops skull, but whatever the predecessor creature was, I forget the name right now. It had to be carved in three quarter relief and have a natural uncut diamond rotating in its mouth. That was both fun and challenging.
When Erte’ was still alive, Circle Fine Art began representing him. They began taking his elaborately costumed human and animal forms in his lithographs and converting them into jewelry. When they did his complex alphabet series, they could find only six of us in North America capable of rendering that level of detail. I did 12 of the letters for them.
I have won all the major Indian jewelry competitions from the Heard Museum right on down, under someone else’s name. An Indian, of course.
It was a strange business indeed. I was certainly not on the end of it where the real money making occurred, but I was a single mom and not in a position to do much about it.
Life was to take some interesting turns however, which I will cover in the next part of this series.
This article appears in Live the Power Unlimited #12, which has been a wonderful carnival indeed.
Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2008. All Rights Reserved.