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Selling A Story
Posted by Erin to Articles
I’ve previously shared my struggles to see my own work as “art”. My reasoning is partially that I’m usually just putting pretty things together to make a wearable pretty thing. I’m not making social commentary or sharing a visual narrative. Most jewelry is not inherently figurative- any story it tells is told in the abstract or through symbol. Certainly there are jewelry artists using the medium to explore, comment, and share human experience in a way that we’re more conditioned to see as ‘art’. I am not one of them.

I’ve seen a couple of jewelry artists using the term “story” to describe their work. The interesting thing to me is that I don’t see a narrative - I see something beautiful, but the story remains the artisan’s secret. There is something incredibly rich in viewing a piece through that lens. It tells me the piece was constructed with care and thought. It implies that materials and placement are deliberate choices. To me, it implies that the maker takes their craft seriously. Because it is a ‘story’, I see it as loftier. Even though I could replicate the pieces, I would rather own this ‘story’ from the artist’s own hands than make my own. And, if we’re being honest, I’d probably pay a premium for it.


What’s the point in all this?

Maybe telling a story in beads is a marketing gimmick. Maybe it’s an angle you want to explore. Maybe it’s a chance to find a new creative lens.

With this week’s fossil feature, it seemed like the perfect time to dip my own toes. I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was a little kid. They’ve always captured my imagination and sparked a child-like level of giddiness. So why not try to use these beads to tell a story.

KAMBABA JASPER


I’ll lead with my personal favorite. I call it ‘Clever Girl’. It’s in homage to a line in ‘Jurassic Park’ where a character is speaking to a Velociraptor, who has, indeed, been quite clever. In addition to the dark, reptilian green of Kambaba Jasper, the pattern is reminiscent of the close-up of the Velociraptor eye in the movie. Since Kambaba Jasper contains the fossilized remains of incredibly old algae, there’s a certain non-carnivorous irony that I enjoy. Since Velociraptors have a particularly vicious and blood-thirsty reputation, adding Blood Quartz and Garnet were an obvious pick. A little bit of Smoky Quartz evokes the prey and also keeps the red and green palette from having a Christmas vibe.

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FOSSIL CORAL


With Fossil Coral, the actual creature did the heavy lifting for me conceptually. Who doesn’t want to think of crystalline blue waters surrounding coral reefs millions of years before anything with opposable thumbs hit the planet? The other strands in the story are meant to evoke water and colorful reefs. A smidgen of African Green Jasper brings a hint of mystery, a bit of a reptilian allusion. Although Fossil Coral, like Kambaba Jasper, is thought to substantially pre-date dinosaurs, I like the inclusion of a deep green as both a nod to the algae that came before, and the creatures to come later. The darker tone also adds some depth and visual complexity, bringing the story into a dimension beyond the sand and surf colors.


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TURRITELLA AGATE


My last selection included Turritella Agate paired with more strands that evoke its oceanic origins. Since you can actually see the fossilized snails, I wanted to incorporate shapes and stone types with more movement. The vibrant orbs of color in Ocean Jasper, the swirls of Shiva Eye (also a snail) and the tiny branches of coral all contribute to a lively scene.

A couple important facts about Turritella Agate:

1) Turritella Agate rough is scarce at this time- if it’s a stone that you like to keep available, buy it in quantity now.

2) The snails preserved in the stone are actually *not* Turritella. They’re a different species. The stone was named before detailed inquiry, and the name stuck.

3) Not all rough Turritella Agate can be cut into beads. The material has to have formed completely around the fossilized snail shell. Rough material that’s good enough for beads needs to be consistent in hardness and quality.

Without having completed designs, I feel like these are less stories than outlines with lots of potential. My favorite thing about this blog was seeing how our photographer used light and shadow to help set the scene. It’s a great reminder that lifestyle shots rely on more than just placement, and that working with a really great photographer can take your vision to the next step.
- Erin, Dakota Stones

Leave a comment below
Jeanine Date 8/13/2018
I think whether or not its a "gimmick" depends on a)the cynicism of the buyer (I tend to be a cynic) and b) the sincerity of the maker. I personally think all marketing is a gimmick to make you buy something, but I also met a woman who had good "stories" about the symbolism of each bead type and talisman in her design. Some people like the symbolism, some people want to enhance their outfit.
Kenny Rogers Date 8/13/2018
Erin; On a few occasions, women have told me, "You're so talented. I wish I could be talented." I told them, "You are talented, and as proof, look at the wonderful kids you have raised. Now that's a talent!" And, Erin, from what I have seen, you are a very talented artist. As to stories in jewelry. Sometimes, an artist will incorporate very specific stones, beads and other components, that when put together, can tell a story. Each component can have a relationship to events in a person's life. Or, can represent places the person has been. Or, the components can relate to some ancient civilization or a geographical place. The most important thing is, when the person (female or male) is wearing their necklace, they know the story and feel good, and can proudly, show off their story for all to see. As I see it, a necklace is not "just a piece of jewelry", A NECKLACE IS A BEAUTIFUL FRAME FOR A BEAUTIFUL FACE. And this "frame" can tell a story.
Karen Sawdey Date 8/13/2018
I loved these photographs and really loved the narrative. Beads absolutely tell a story and you did a brilliant job of mixing the stones and telling the story that goes with them. I combine many different stones and metals in my work and they do tell a story and that story adds dimension to the jewelry that propels the pieces from craft to art, thank you
Kelly Namminga Date 8/14/2018
I make wrap bracelets, and I have considered calling them “Journey Wraps” because I have made so many that remind myself and others of trips they have taken or other things they love. I Also buy a lot of handmade jewelry because it reminds me of something from my life story - it makes for great conversations and memories! I love how the artist may have a story in mind when they create a piece!
 
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