Sunday, August 30, 2009

Overthinking Jewelry

Time for another installment of "Overthinking Jewelry"! I promised that I'd have a go at talking about my thoughts about text on jewelry, so here goes.

We put text on lots of stuff we wear-- T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers (worn by proxy), hats, etc...most of it is fairly direct in terms of content. Short, snappy, pithy, witty, meant to reflect fairly clearly our affiliations, views, and experiences of various sorts (I like this sports team! I like this band! I have this political view! I was at this event! I visited this place!). You can certainly do all that with text on jewelry, too. But there's also the potential of being more personal with jewelry, more vague. I want to say "more artsy", but that isn't very specific. Less direct may be what I have in mind. For example, you can put a line of poetry on a bracelet, but I don't see too many people going around with poems on T-shirts. Why? What does wearing a poem say about you? Other than that you like poetry? The reader has to make some inferences to figure out what it says about you-- it's not basically a label, like so many T-shirts are. A poetry bracelet says you're a literary type, maybe you particularly love that poet, that the words and the mood conjured by the poetry are something you'd like to remember, are relevant to your inner, spiritual life. That may be it-- jewelry can say something about one's inner life, something more private, while other forms of clothing with words are public. This may have as much to do with size as anything else.

The smaller size of jewelry makes the text less visible-- you can assume that you're not broadcasting the contents quite as widely as you are when you wear a T-shirt with something written on it. It can remain private, or can be shared with people close enough to you to notice and ask, which opens a door to an interesting conversation. With more private expression, you are freer to express things close to yourself, integral to your identity. In a public forum, sure, those things can come across too, but there's often more distance. The distance provided by irony, for example. A witty shirt with a sarcastic or ironic tone creates a certain kind of public face for the wearer. Jewelry doesn't need irony. [Though it can certainly have it, I'm not disputing that.] I realize that kind of contradicts what I said in the first paragraph about jewelry being less direct than other forms of words-to-be-worn. Maybe what I meant was 'more general, less specific', rather than 'less direct'.

I have more to say about this, but I need to think more and if I do that here, now, I'll just keep rambling. Best to keep the rambling to short episodes. But remind me to talk about (a) topic and (b) parts of speech (oh yeah! I think about grammar! You better believe it.)

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