Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dissertation Amulet: Writing and Designing Together

It has been a long time since I last found some time to sit down and write about beading, but it has certainly been on my mind quite a lot, particularly the issue of how it relates to other aspects of my life.  Thinking about those connections recently inspired my to create a special piece commemorating a milestone, the completion of a full draft of the first chapter of my dissertation.  I titled it Dissertation Amulet and have started wearing it often.

This piece is an embodiment of the close connections between my work as a writer and as an artist over the past five years.  During this time, I have worked on jewelry design and my dissertation in the same physical, mental, and emotional spaces.  This has begun to change in some regards, as beads continue to encroach on the space of my home office, which is now primarily my studio.  In the process turning my desk on campus into my hub for writing.  While these spaces are now separate, I still carry the same energy and emotions through both processes; when my creativity dries up for a time, it usually impacts both areas of my work.

Dissertation Amulet makes these interconnections explicit.  I preserved segments of text from my newly minted chapter under glass cabochons:

I also worked to make the piece evocative of my aesthetics as a writer.  In my training as a historian, I have increasingly come to appreciate the literary elements of my craft; writing about the past is a form of storytelling that demands imagination and creativity.  These skills and my writing aesthetic translate over into many of my jewelry designs in highly abstract and deeply personal ways.  I've realized that in my writing I work to build complexity, with layers of analysis and narrative.  At the same time, I strive to balance these with sharp, incisive arguments that speak to the bigger issues at stake in understanding a given aspect of the past.  I also like to write in ways that circle back to important themes and show both changes and continuities over time.  For these reasons, I chose to combine curving elements, intricate beading, layered construction, and sharp, bold elements into the necklace design.  

This was one of the rare times in the past year that I have made a piece that is really and truly for myself, and it was a great reminder of how all the pieces of a busy life interlock, and when approached mindfully, can flow together in beautiful and rewarding ways.  Hopefully soon I will be producing another piece capturing another chapter...

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