Saturday, July 05, 2008

More Than Just Jewelry

A few days ago, I got my first taste of jewelry-making from Robin and Heidi, my jewelry-making gurus.

Before this, I’d had all about given up on my crafting abilities.

I grew up in a home where my mom created beautiful handmade goods, including eye-crossing cross stitch projects that would rival paintings in the Louvre. Her other specialties included crochet and a designer’s eye that had our house looking like a quaint country cottage, always in season.

My aunts - Kathy, Jan, and Louise, especially - shared Mom’s uncanny decorator’s ability to make any place look amazing. And, if you ever visit my cousins Charity and Colleen’s Southern abode, you would marvel at their beautifully arranged rooms.

In our family, I’ve long been known as “the writer.” I think everyone is just being kind, in recognition of my zero crafting abilities.

(And I just heard a chorus of Rehfeldt-blooded readers saying, “I’ve never called you 'the writer.'” Yeah, yeah, I know.)

I’ve tried candle-making (we’re still finding wax on the silverware), card-making (a friend thought my card was from her 5 year old niece), and soap-making (I, um, itched in uncomfortable places for WEEKS!).

So, when Heidi and Robin suggested I try jewelry making, I was understandably skeptical. H&R were insistent I at least TRY it, even after I warned them of my previous attempts at crafting.

A week or so before the event, Heidi met me at a craft store to help me pick out the jewelry-making necessities. “You don’t need to spend a fortune. You just need some reasonably-priced beads, and you can use our supplies for everything else.”

I stared at the beautiful rows of beads in every shape and color imaginable. I felt very much like young Charlie ushered into the bubble room. Greed and desire crept up my spine like icy fingers, and I realized I wanted them ALL!

Heidi, possibly the most practical and common-sense-having among all my friends, managed to point out that buying them ALL would be impractical, and of course, I would regret bankruptcy “based on beads.”

With her help, I picked out a string of red glass beads, silver ball beads twisted delicately around black beads, and some silver spacer beads (I, at this point, had no idea what spacer beads were or why I needed them.)

As she settled her three girls back in the van, she told me why she thought I’d like making jewelry. “It’s affordable, wearable, sellable, and it’s instant gratification!”

Well, she had me there. Instant gratification is my middle name. (Hey, I’m an American!)

I ducked out of work mid-afternoon one Monday, muttering something about going to a beading/prayer group (I prayed in the car!).

Somehow, I went perpendicular on all the right streets and ended up at Heidi’s house. A few minutes later, Robin’s van pulled up, and we all made our way inside.

Heidi has three girls, and Robin has three boys.

The older boys instantly whipped out some high-tech device (I believe Robin said it was Nintendo Super….something or another) and settled in to play games. The girls grabbed their American Girl Dolls, and (much to my surprise) the three adults were free to sit down and start beading within just a couple minutes.

Now, I’m going to stop right here and say I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like jewelry-making. I was convinced (like card-making, candle-making, and soap-making) I wouldn’t have the skills, creativity, or patience to be any good at it.

And if you know me, you know I hate being mediocre. If I don’t excel at it, I don’t waste my time on it. It’s my way of protecting myself against criticism.

Anyway, in my mind, I was there for the sistership and good conversation. Heidi set up my station with beading wire while Robin walked me through the basics of beading.

She decried her abilities at teaching, but I will state right here that Robin is an excellent teacher. If I were just a little younger, I’d nominate her for a Golden Apple.

In just a few minutes, I was absorbed in creating a necklace pattern with the beads I’d chosen. As Heidi promised, I found almost instant gratification in arranging and rearranging the beads on Robin’s design board.

Meanwhile, Robin and Heidi were contentedly stringing their jewelry and answering my incessant questions. After a while, I started to string my necklace. As the three of us worked in tandem and conversation flowed, I felt something odd.

I felt the room around me melt in some kind of a whirl.

The kids running in and out of the room, asking for food or permission, playing with dolls and games. Heidi and Robin lifting their works-in-progress to ask questions. My own necklace even started to look a little blurry.

Everything was just slightly golden, almost honey-colored in tone, and I found myself realizing that this moment – the occasion itself – has most likely existed in every time in our human history.

Women gathering together to share and craft while kids run and play. The necklaces we were working on could have been quilts in the 1800’s. The Nintendo games could have been wooden soldiers controlled by sticks and strings. The American Girl Dolls could have been rag or corn husk dolls with painted-on faces.

And, in that moment, I got it. I finally understood what it was like. I understood why women do this. And the wonderful sense of sistership, family, community, (and in our case, spiritual support) it provides.

No wonder everything felt honey-colored.

Reality came rushing back in, as the kids clamored for dinner. After the small tribe was fed, the three of us sat down to Heidi’s delicious spaghetti and bread, my store-bought salad, and Robin’s so-good-they-should-be-declared-illegal homemade frosted brownies.

After dinner, I found myself with a beautiful red and black necklace. I raced to the mirror to see it on myself, and Heidi and Robin’s eyes mirrored my thrill back at me.

“Exciting, isn’t it?” Heidi asked me, no doubt remembering her first time admiring her own handiwork.

I headed out the door with a wealth of new information, just a handful of leftover beads, and a new work of Ann-Marie’s art draped around my neck.

At home, I showed Brett my new necklace. I was a little worried about starting a new hobby, and even a little more anxious telling my husband.

Brett is very supportive of all my endeavors (no doubt hoping I will someday discover my calling and make us rich beyond our wildest dreams…or at least rich enough he doesn’t have to work a 9-5 day). However, he has seen me fail at a number of crafting hobbies and has, on occasion, found wax on his silverware mid-bite.

I shouldn’t have worried. He complimented my necklace. “It looks like rubies,” he declared, sweetly. (No doubt thinking, “My lucky day! I’ll never have to buy her jewelry again!”)

Over the next few days, he cleared a working space for me. He found containers for my “tools” and my beads, and he even gave input on what colors he liked to see me wear.

And so it was, this past Thursday night, I sat at my new space stringing beads for a bracelet while my husband worked on our (ever-decreasing) checkbook.

Brett put the Read the Bible CD’s in our DVD player. He wanted to start with Revelations, but I talked him into 1st Samuel instead (lately, Hannah’s story has given me great inspiration).

So, the two of us worked quietly while God’s Word played on the airwaves above our heads.
The room went all blurry on me again. Again, I felt like Laura Ingalls working on some elaborate stitching project.

At least until the end of 1st Samuel, when we decided to settle in on the couch for a nice adventure movie from our extensive collection.

But even then, cuddled up and toasty (and yes, wearing my latest creation), I was pretty sure Laura would have understood.


October Dawn said...

You've talked me into it! I'd love to try to bead some jewelry = ) Though, I think I'm rather too clumsy and don't really have the fashion sense for it.
I hope you find many long (seemingly short) hours at your workspace pouring your creativity into beaded art.

Grandma said...

I believe you discovered the joy of old fashion quilting bees. I too have learned to enjoy beading under the guidance of my daughter in law, Elizabeth. We too just forget time when we begin beading.

Charity said...

Hey, I want to see a picture of your new jewelry. Maybe you can craft a new wedding ring! Ha Ha

Heidi said...

That sounds like Ann-Marie's initial excuse, October.
You might be surprised what you can come up with once you go to the store and look around. Only you know your own tastes.
I have sat down and used up all my green beads while watching CSI a couple of nights. Voila, two gifts completed. Such a nice thought.

a joyful nusiance said...

You are amazing!!! Just sayin

And I also love it when time melts away and it's just you talking to someone elses heart.

Juliet said...

I must say that the pieces you have shown me are b e a u t i f u l!! Can't wait for my Christmas present.

The Beard Bunch said...

Ok, that was a long post! And it was about jewelry. I guess I don't have to feel too bad on my one long post. I can figure out a way to blame it on you......Rehfeldt blood or something.

By the way, we should get to see a picture with the jewelry on.

Alice said...

Yeah, where are the photos?? Jewelry-making is fun; I just made my first pieces this year: three ankle bracelets. Once I got started, I couldn't stop.

Robin Hayes said...

It was a spectacular afternoon/evening! I am still so flattered that you think I'm a good teacher. It's a hobby that I believe in - for all the reasons mentioned in your post and comments too. I have enjoyed sharing it with several people, and it's so fun to be able to give it away as gifts, but most of all, I enjoy being able to wear it. The fellowship, as you mentioned, was wonderful. You get to know people in a whole new light when you spend time like that. And I enjoyed getting to know you better. Yay! for Brett setting up a beading area for you. That's fabulous!

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

Jewelry making IS fun. And easy. But can get expensive, indeed-y. Luckily, people buy my daughter bead sets all the time, and I use hers in the name of Daughter-Mommy bonding time. ;-)

Jennittia said...

I echo the desire to see a pic of your handiwork. Thanks for the cozy and timeless word picture of family life. What togetherness!