I made this necklace years ago when my oldest daughter was just about two-and-a-half. I took my first trip away from her, an over-nighter to NYC for a quick trade-show visit. I knew she’d be fine. I missed her terribly, but I also really enjoyed a take-out dinner in my hotel room and a long evening of being all alone. Of course, I always travel with beads. This is the necklace I created. The reproduction typewriter key beads say ‘nearby’ and you can probably imagine who I was thinking about.
This necklace consists of five strands of a long-link sterling chain hung with charms and beads and pendants. There is one strand with a section made of 4 mm white pearls and vermeil spacers, but the others are just chain. The long links on the chain look like paper clips and many of the charms are attached to the chain with safety pins. It clasps in the back with a large brass spring ring clasp.
This necklace is a work in progress. I wear it a lot and I love the layers that have built up. I have so many charms and special stones on this; a tiny ceramic cup, an articulated Frozen Charlotte charm from Carolyn Taylor Carpin (a button artist I really admire…she’s deceased now but her work was amazing) a glass leaf bead, carved stones, teeny labradorite briolettes, a Bob Burkett sterling crab. I’ve added items occasionally for at least two years. Someday this necklace will be really, really layered but for right now it looks good just like this.
I think of this necklace as a talisman of sorts. I wear it often when I travel because many of the beads remind me of specific places and specific people. The idea of jewelry as a talisman, as a connection to memories is really important to me. I think it is fun to make a piece that matches a new dress but I really like the sense of purpose that I get when I make and wear something that feels more enduring.
I have to remember to have my husband take my picture early in the day. Today I forgot and it’s about 10:00 pm and I am tired. I taught a class and did about 1,000 other things already today.
One thing that was good was that I wore this necklace. I love this necklace. It has Imperial Jasper, carnelian discs, vintage 1800’s green amber beads, old cloisonne, coral, wood, mother-of-pearl, you name it. I made this on a trip where I packed a bag with many ‘favorite’ beads that hadn’t been used. I intended to pack a bunch of filler items as well but somehow forgot. Over that weekend I made five go-for-broke necklaces filled with some of my very favorite beads. All just strung up; I didn’t have chain or anything else to use with the beads. Each necklace was different but they all share some common beads and they actually look good together, in a very Frieda Kahlo way.
I have just decided that this blog will sometimes include layered necklaces (meaning two or more at a time) but that when I do that at least one of the items I wear will be a ‘new’ design. That way I can show you how this looks all stacked up one day.
Right now I’m headed to sleep.
This necklace is made of olive-green Tibetian turquoise, abalone-shell discs, Toho seed beads, wood and bone all strung on #6 knotting silk. I made it many years ago in an afternoon of beading with my younger sister. I started with a big, blown-glass focal but pulled it out and added more stones, wood, seed beads. She watched me put it together and at some point said something like ‘wow, if I made that it would look really bad.’ That’s one of those compliments that you think is maybe not so much of a compliment.
But she IS my sister, so I know what she is saying.
Weird, busy, odd, layered, asymmetrical. Those things all come easily to me.
What’s hard is order. Patterns. Matching.
Making a 16″ strand of graduated pearls would drive me nuts. I don’t know if it would be boredom or just impatience. I would go crazy.
However, hand me a bunch of probably-not-matchy beads and some thread and I’ll string ’em up. I’ll add dangles and maybe a tassel. I can’t help that. Now, in my current profession, that’s pretty good. It’s okay to not be matchy. Or pattern-ish.
There is, however, another side to that coin. I can’t follow recipes. I have trouble assembling items using any kind of written directions. I space out when I’m trying to make a dress from a pattern and start thinking ‘don’t I really want a skirt?’ Because I’m so frenetic it takes me a really long time to learn from my mistakes. I will try and try again but I’m more like a squirrel than a scientist. I don’t carefully adjust one variable at a time and see what happens. I adjust seventeen variables and then throw in a new color of seed bead and see what happens.
Luckily for me, sometimes I like the result.
Today’s necklace is complex, layered and asymmetrical. I created it about six years ago. It is strung on Mastex cording, with chain, shell beads, an Elaine Ray charm or two. The head on the lower right-hand side is a Bakelite Cracker Jack charm from the early part of the 20th century. When you pull the dog’s collar it’s eyes bug out and the tongue wags. That carved ivory elephant was given to me by a Chinese bead vendor I used to work with. He spoke next to no English and we communicated mostly through calculations on an HP calculator he kept in his back pocket. One time when I visited him I told him I was pregnant (with my daughter, Cleo, now eight) by pantomiming a baby and a big belly. He laughed and dug out that elephant for me. “Good luck’ he said. Of course, I bought a big, long strand of the elephants but I saved this one for the necklace.
This necklace is an example of an unfinished object. There are long, loose strings of Mastex cording hanging down the back. There is a button and a hook for a proper closure, but I never trimmed the Mastex. I intended to add counterweight strands on the back, but the necklace isn’t really that heavy. Somehow I still can’t bring myself to trim the strands. I don’t know why. They aren’t especially attractive; actually they cause people to say ‘you have a string on your back’ at least once every time I wear the necklace. I should cut the strands or string them with beads to make the counterweights.