How's everyone coping with November in lockdown? I must say, as was to be expected, I suppose, that the #coronacoaster has me sitting back, buckling up, and holding on for the ride... It's weird how, after only doing it for one summer, I miss the weekly market buzz and getting out on the weekends. Even though, as I'll also freely admit, the sleep-ins are great and much needed, too. It's not a secret that I have always been very comfortable being at home, staying in, and quietly doing my thing, keeping my own company. What's new is the realisation how much I've gotten used to being out. I've learned to like it, actually! Maybe it's also to do with the knowledge of not being free to do what I want at any given moment. It may be a case of island rather than cabin fever. This is the longest time I have not left any one country ever! When I realised this a few days ago, I confess it threw me a bit.
Then it also got me thinking not only about actual travels (past and possibly future ones) but about my journey on a figurative level. More specifically, my jewellery journey, ie how I got from being a small girl in the Bavarian Forest with an intense love and longing for everything shiny to a (mostly) grown up woman making jewellery in her own tiny workshop. In the middle of nowhere, in West Cork, Ireland. One thing upfront: it has neither been straight forward nor particularly easy. In fact, looking back I often wonder what I was actually thinking half the time!? It's unsurprising that often people don't quite know how to place me. Especially those with a limited imagination and/or with a strong need to put people in boxes. Ah well... feck them, right?? :)
So. How did it happen? As a child, my first conscious interest was in fashion and, quite specifically, film/theatre costumes and jewellery. I started to stack up a considerable amount of (story) books with beautiful illustrations and tried to draw what I saw. With the admirable confidence of a kindergarten child I quickly moved on to drawing my own designs and then tried to make these with leftover fabrics and other bits and bobs around the house... For my cat, Barbie dolls (yes, I know), and even myself. I was never knowingly underdressed nor was my mum's jewellery box ever safe from me. My pocket money was wisely invested in the kind of jewellery that comes as freebie with chewing gum in vending machines, flea market finds (fun fact: I started trading aged five, together with my mum), and souvenirs from my family's travels.
Soon, I became aware of differences in quality and that not all of my treasures were made equally well. I started to categorise everything and, to this day, my love of boxes is a source of constant amusement to my family. I always keep the box. [Don't ask what that looks like after all this time...] By chance, having forever found and collected interesting stones, shells etc. I encountered my first minerals and semiprecious gemstones and was immediately fascinated. Nature had made this! A passion was born. Everywhere I went, I somehow managed to grow this collection, and family as well as friends supported my interest rather helpfully.
By that time, I was allowed to watch Hollywood movies, my mum being a fan of Golden Age Cinema and classic screwball comedies. The style and elegance blew my mind! My drawings became more elaborate and my collections more eclectic. My mum helped to organise and display all of this in our small house, after all I was still a child, albeit one with a very strong sense of what I wanted. Even before I became officially a teenager, I was an avid movie buff and theatre/opera/musical lover. A book lover, too, it goes without saying. This also manifested itself in my sometimes rather audacious, outlandish personal style. I didn't wait for carnival to dress up. Kudos to my parents for stoically letting me leave the house in some of my wilder outfits at the time. I'm mostly thankful that selfies and social media didn't exist yet, although I'd love to have more photos from these years, just for myself.
With teenage hood came a whole lot of self-doubt and awkwardness, my interest shifted to less theatrical, more wearable jewellery and outfits. My sense for the more dramatic still came in handy doing stage and costume design as well as makeup first at school productions, then later at university for theatre groups. I had started working early on, still doing flea markets with my mum, but also jobs after school and during the holidays, mostly in gastronomy. My CV for those years is all over the place (in every sense) but it includes jewellery shop window decoration, hospitality work at international (gem)stone fairs, working in an art supply shop as well as in a lovely jewellery shop as "Christmas angel" [don't ask]. Through my time abroad (particularly Vienna and Israel) I got more interested in diamonds and high end jewellery, too, although I couldn't afford to do much more than admire. Good thing there's meticulous window cleaning for that kind of shop where I must have left tons of nose and finger prints, while carefully being watched by security guards, who were sympathetic enough towards this young woman passing daily. They let me stare in longingly for ages as long as I didn't disturb the elegant, well-heeled clientele.
All this should have, but for many many reasons didn't result in me following my passion straight away. Instead, life happened, I got sidetracked BIG TIME. Mostly, I believe this was due to a growing lack of confidence in my own creativity in my late teens, a sense of perceived duty to my hardworking parents, and an innate pragmatism that came with my down-to-earth upbringing. No educational advantages could put that into perspective for me, at the time. It took a lot of life experience, time and personal growth to reconnect more meaningfully with that young girl dressing up her reluctant tomcat as an oriental princess. But it happened, at long last. At times, I still feel my lack of formal training as a chip on the shoulder but I'm finally comfortable with this (jewellery) journey of mine. Making, creating, writing, telling stories... all this means so much to me there actually are no words! [Yes, I'm well aware of the irony embodied in this sentence.] Either way, in times like these, my creativity is my anchor. It helps me cope with the world as I find it, as opposed to how I'd like it to be.
My journey is by no means halted or over yet, there are so many changes and projects in the literal making... Despite doubts and anxiety still nagging, instead of letting these emotions paralyse me, I use it for my creative practice and turn it into something positive and beautiful. And there you have it: my inspiration is life itself with all its ups and downs, which brings this story full circle. There and back again, in zigzag!
I sincerely hope me sharing this with you is helpful and encouraging you to look after yourself well, always. Self care comes in may forms, for me it's being creative, for you it may be something else entirely. As long as it works to keep us safe, healthy and sound, it's always worth pursuing.