Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Overthinking Jewelry: some navel-gazing about text selection

Wandering off the topic of jewelry a bit...but we'll start there.

Much of the time I feature single words on pieces, for practical reasons-- the pieces are small, a single word of reasonable length is all that will fit! But I also do larger pendants sometimes, or multi-tile necklaces, and then I have more room to play. But the principle is the same-- I like to choose text the full meaning of which is somewhat open to interpretation. It may just be a phrase, but if I can (if I have room), I like fragments of narrative that invite the reader/wearer/viewer to fill in the rest of the story for themselves. This makes the meaning very subjective-- I lose some control, since you never know how people will fill in the blanks, but often the piece ends up with a very personal meaning for the viewer, a meaning I'm not privy to. I love that.

Venturing away from jewelry, I have the same approach to calligraphy. I'm always interested in the creative process of calligraphers-- do they start with a text, or with a visual image, or do the two co-evolve? I have trouble being inspired by the Words Of Wisdom so often chosen for calligraphy pieces. You know, of the form "X is Y", e.g., "Wisdom is..." or "Art is...". Not that there aren't beautiful pieces that revolve around such text, but I myself can't find that I get anywhere with an incipient artwork when starting with a quote like that. I prefer an evocative fragment, torn from the middle of a story. A landscape, a characterization....

Often I start with a piece of my decorated paper, and search for a text that will fit it best. I can delve into my own journals, into my own imagination, into my files of quotations-- sometimes coming up empty-handed, or with not enough. Lately I've come upon a different way to locate text. After staring at my blank paper for a ridiculously long period of time waiting for something to come to me, I pick a phrase-- a short snippet is all that's necessary-- and use advanced search on google to search the Project Gutenberg site. It brings up all texts containing the phrase, often in interestingly elided forms, and I browse through to find one that I like. I can use it as google delivered it, oddly truncated, or I can search through the entire file to find the complete quote (or to discover something even better in the text). It's wonderful-- if you like unusual, decontextualized text fragments as much as I do, anyway.

I did a very nice piece yesterday with this method of text location, but I can't show you-- my printer has decided to deny that it has ever had scanner capability. Grrr.

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