Well, this is for kristenj and marykaykare, who requested that I tell about this.
I'm not sure when it started. Possibly it was when my friend LauraLee moved away. A bunch of us wanted to have a going-away festive gathering where we wished her good wishes, and we wanted to give her a token of our esteem. Since I had been teaching her a little bit about wireworking jewelry-making, a necklace seemed to be the right thing. We had a necklace-making ritual, and it was very very good.
Since then, I have done almost half a dozen more, and it seems to be happening more frequently. The usual set-up is that someone tells me of an event for which they would like to commission a necklace of this sort. Some people ask for one for themselves, other people do it as gifts for friends on various occasions: retirement, birthdays, beginning chemotherapy, and so on - a wide variety, indeed.
Usually we plan an event where the people who are doing the well-wishing come together and help put the necklace together. For some of them, people have each brought a bead or charm (and I always bring extras in case someone forgot or didn't get the word in time); for others, I bring all materials and they select from what I have laid out. In the upcoming one, the form of the necklace is carefully designed in advance, and people participating will hand pieces to me in the order they go onto the necklace. (This one is a very special design, and wants that.)
There seem to be two main styles of necklace developing: the charm necklace and the link necklace. The latter is built link by link, each link bearing a bead or charm, usually one brought by the participants. The former is made by measuring out a length of (usually) sterling silver chain to fit the recipient, attaching a clasp, and then attaching the items people give me in some pleasing pattern, usually balanced by color and length and weight. There have been more charm necklaces than link necklaces, but tomorrow's will be a link necklace. I'm really excited about it, too. After the ritual, I will see if I can put up a description of it.
One thing that has developed is a sense of pacing that grows out of making the necklace. At first, people talked about the symbolism of their bead or charm, and when they were done talking, they handed it to me to work with. Lately we have realized that it makes sense to give me the piece at the outset of their remarks, because their talking and my working often take just the same amount of time, and it feels good to do it that way. (Besides, then I'm not working for an hour after the ritual breaks up into snacks and chat.)
I'm learning a lot about design and balance, and it's particularly interesting doing this work as someone who rarely takes commissions. I usually tell people that I will do what I call "first refusal" rather than commissions: if I take on the task, they get first dibs on the piece, but if they don't want it, they are not obligated to buy it. If they don't take it, I can go ahead and sell it as I normally would. I wouldn't do that with a ritual piece, though, obviously -- it has a specific recipient and carries specific meaning. (And OK, I have done one or two commission pieces, like jenett's wedding jewelry present. And I don't mind if people ask, as long as they're cool if I say no.) Anyhow, the ritual jeweling is a different thing altogether, is how it feels to me: it's those things, that person, those friends, and that specific time, all connected together in a wish and a memory and a circle of affection.
Sometimes when I do it I make my labor a present; other times I accept a token payment of between fifty and two hundred dollars. It varies with what the organizers want and what their situation is and how my exchequery is doing just then, but generally I do whatever it takes to make sure the right thing can happen. If that means making a present of a lot of my work, sometimes that's the right thing to do. I've been totally satisfied, so far, and people seem to really love the necklaces and the event around creating them. I am always happy to see them being worn. They're tangible things representing good feelings from a lot of people that came together around the wearer, and I like that. I like helping there be more of that in the world.
So that's what ritual jeweling is, when I do it.
Honour Your Inner Magpie
- Ritual Jeweling