May 19, 2012

Those Small Differences

There was a time when I would have never thought I would look for bead jewelry. It was at the financial high peak of my life (understood this not as the time when I made the most money, but when I spent the most money), and I had "graduated" from what's called "fantasy jewelry" (meaning jewelry made of lookalike metals and rhynestones), and wanted to wear only real things. My motto back then was "if it looks like emeralds, then they better be emeralds". I leaned more and gave more importance to the working of the metal then, and prefered many filigree silver jewelry, quickly taking this taste even to pieces where the metal nearly worked only as the setting of a stone. However, in that time too I also developped - in accordance to this new philosophy - a liking for jewelry made of organic materials, particularly wood, but also feathers, seeds and leather.

Then, as it happens in every working environment I've known (long enough, in Costa Rica), the office black markets and secret bazaars brought back the bead jewelry. From the daughter of a coworker, who was taking classes in jewelry making, to the niece of another who had a severe illness and in her long stays at the hospital learned to make jewelry, I got back to the beauty of the plastic and glass creations that had something many other pieces didn't: they were handmade, each based on unique creativity. From these informal artisans I started filling my jewelry box with different pieces, until I found my friend and biggest handmade jewelry dealer of all times: my friend Dragonfly. As you all know by now, she's also my master in this art, and the one to first introduce me to how to work strung jewelry, and some tricks on wired jewelry as well. Then, I attented also to a one hour free class that my bookstore in Costa Rica - Librería Internacional - had arrenged for club members.

With this knowledge I set myself to start making my own jewelry, dreaming with the day I'd be like Dragonfly, and make the night before the jewelry I would wear the next day, that would fit perfectly my clothes. (That has been the case only a couple of times, but mostly on the last days of May, when I realize I don't have enough black jewelry to wear in June. Then again, every May - and this May isn't the exception - I worry I don't have enough black clothes to wear.) However, aside from the knowledge, another important thing is needed for the jewelry making, and that's the tools and the supplies. I started the way any other woman in my position would - I took my dad's pliers - but my dad didn't have threads, beads or wire. Now, in Costa Rica there's a large beadshop chain known as Zodiac (well, I know of three of their stores, one of which I haven't visited because I don't like the place), and then there was a small beadshop in the city were I lived. With different sorts of arrangements, there's always a central shelve unit where loose beads are displayed in small boxes or compartments, from where you can take them and they'll be charged by the unit, while the walls of the place are lined from ceiling to floor with bags and strings of beads, generally arranged by color, though not necesarily following the chromatic order (meaning that all blues are together, and all reds are together, and all greens are together, but it doesn't start with the reds, follows by the oranges and goes on so, ending with the violets). (Zodiac, however, started as a New Age store, with plenty of material for the Pagans and people seeking alternative routes to traditional religion, but the bead business proved to be more profitable than the spiritual enlightening.)

In here I started buying my beads, wires, cords and clasps, and ended up giving back my dad his tools and getting my own pliers. However, it didn't matter how much I searched the shelves and bags hanging from pegs, or revolved in the small boxes and bins for the beads, I never seemed to find the type of beautiful pieces Dragonfly uses for her creations. I was certain she had another supplier, so I pressed her for more information, but she said that all she did was spend a good time looking for some worthy pieces. Eventually I  invested some time to turn around each piece looking for the best ones, though when it came to the small metalic parts, I never managed to find the polished, pretty looking ones she uses on her jewelry.

When I came to Hungary, I left behind a rather large stock of beads and supplies, but trusted I would find here proper stores. Little I knew it wouldn't be that easy at all. Yeah, Hungary has that about herself: one thing is what you see on the net, and another what you find in real life. Many of the stores advertised on the net didn't exist in real life - either because the stores had closed, or because they only sell online - and their supply isn't always what you need. One of those, for instance, had a huge supply of beads, but was short of tools, wires and threads. Now, what can I do with beads when I can't string them up or wire them?

Things became more friendly when I found my current beadshop. My only sour surprise with them was that they don't take cards, and you know I'm not what you'd call a "cash loving person". However, this is the place where I saw the bead world of Hungary. The names of the beads, the sizes, the shapes, and the colors! I had struggled so much in Costa Rica to find purple or violet beads with no avail, finding by accident  some lilac beads that stood closer to pink than to violet, but in here, filled in tubes and small packs, there were displayed many tones of purple, violet and lilac, and also brown beads of such erathy shades I had never imagined before. I noticed the lack of beads that could help me make ethnic pieces. No wood carved rose beads, not colored wood beads... two or three only with a more runic taste to them. No coconut shells, or carved wood medals, no seeds turned into beads either by coloring, carving or simply by piercing. However a world of porcelan, glass and painted beads spread before me. "Ethnic" here is different, here it's Ancient, Traditional, Old and even Pagan, in a sense different that than from the Discovery, Conquest and Colonization (known and embedded in the soul of all Americans), but rather in a sense of what we were when we had many gods and or fields were soaked in the blood of battles, attacks, wars and looting.

It's the same craft, but the techniques are different, and the magic is different too. Here, there's a different sense when you go Earthy, and primal, but even when you go more modern the feel in the making is different.

Another thing that's missing are the chains. There are not already made chains, but you are supposed to make them link by link from wire. However, there are necklace bases of thread, cord, lace and even thinner wire.

I have the pieces gathered for a couple necklaces, and am looking for inspiration for earrings as well. I haven't started any of them yet, but hopefully will have at least the black ones ready before June. Once I have them, I'll probably display them here. However, in the meanwhile, I'm happy just planning and looking around for beads and ideas and letting the magic gather up before I use it.

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