Saturday, December 8, 2012

Taking a Stand

This was a busy week. 
I took part in the holiday shows at two local art centers.  As is typical, each art center asks that the participating artists sign up for shifts to work during the show, an effective way to provide the necessary "staffing" to make the show run as smoothly as possible. 
It's also a way for the customers to meet and talk with the different artists.
I had nice conversations with a variety of people, answering questions and explaining how I make some of my pieces.
I was talking with one woman when she noticed my bullet casing necklaces.
"Are those bullets?", she asked.
When I told her that yes, they were spent bullet casings that I had etched, she said, "That's not nice...not nice!" and walked away.
I didn't think much of it.  I never assume that anyone will like my work, and am always happy when someone does. 
I really like these necklaces. 
They let me make a statement about transforming an object with one intended use into something completely different.
For me, this speaks to the complexity of sensitive and emotionally charged issues like gun control.
Shortly after the woman walked away, one of the other artists who had been working at check-out told me that my necklaces had upset someone.
After leaving my display, the woman complained that someone (yes, that would be me) had actually used bullets to make jewelry.  She had planned to buy some items, but changed her mind because of my necklaces.
She would not support the holiday sale because of my bullet necklaces.
Wow...I was kind of stunned that someone was boycotting the show because of me. 
I absolutely respect taking a stand, and some of my work had obviously hit a nerve in this woman.
I respect that she felt strongly about an issue and voiced her upset.
I wish she had explained it to me.
It may have been an interesting conversation if I could have explained my motivation for making those necklaces.
One of the reasons that I enjoy making jewelry is that I work with beautiful materials to make beautiful pieces of adornment.
But....sometimes it's not just about beauty.
Sometimes I feel a need to say something with more substance that might be meaningful only for me, but hopefully meaningful for others as well.
That's one of the reasons that I use recycled materials which helps me to take a stand, however small, against wasteful consumption.
Sometimes I like to have nerdy fun.... with the back of this pin that I made out of the letter 'R' that I had saw cut from an old license plate. 
Sometimes, I'll hand stamp a quote, like this one from Steven Wright, because I have something on my mind that I need to express.
Sometimes, a thrift store find, like this vintage Red Cross pin, sparks an idea related to socio-economic issues.
Like my bullet necklaces, these are some of the pieces of my jewelry that satisfy my need to occasionally take a stand.
I know not everyone will like what I'm saying through my work, and that's fine...
.....and I really like my bullet necklaces.


  1. I loved your post, but can't imagine leaving a show due to one persons art. In October I was at a show and a woman was walking around with a necklace on that had a tiny baby doll in a coffin shaped glass lidded display. When I saw it I wanted to cry, it reminded me of my miscarriage over 20 years ago. I feel everyone has the right to express themselves and I didn't say a word to her but just tried to stay far far away.

    I also make jewelry out of recycled materials and one of my pieces uses a 12 gauge shotgun shell. I joke with people and always tell them that no animal or human was harmed in the discharge of these shells. My friends husband doesn't hunt anything more than clay skeet. I have had them at a few shows so far and everyone that looks at them have thought they were fun. It's always interesting how people react to art.

  2. Beadbug- I think that art can and should do many things, including sometimes pushing limits by being thought provking. I absolutely empathize with you, knowing that the necklace you saw in October stirred up raw emotions in you. It also makes me wonder what her reasons were for wearing (maybe making) a necklace that no doubt was meant to spark discussion. What you described makes me think of Jane Wynn's work. She uses a lot of surprising elements, treating them with complete respect. She has written about negative reactions that some people have to her work, but they might see it differently if they understood her inspiration.

  3. Years ago my ex-husband entered a show that had the artists repurpose handguns which had been collected and made unusable for killing. The point of the show was to suppory the programs that work to remove handguns from the streets. The point WAS NOT to glorify handguns or killing. Any time an artist uses such materials, related to guns, or waste, or found, they are transforming the unwanted, ugly, discarded parts of our world into new uses, into beauty. That 'patron' of the arts made a snap judgement without understanding the art in the work.

  4. Georgi- It's easy to imagine that the show with repurposed handguns was very interesting and that it might have made some people uncomfortable. I happen to think that being uncomfortable is sometimes a good thing- you tend to examine your thoughts on the particular issue with a little more depth than usual. It's too bad that some people will often shy away from having discussions about the uncomfortable topics because that's when perceived barriers can become a little less formidable.

  5. I use bullets in my jewelry too. I think it is a nice exercise to take something that could be used for destruction and make something happy.

  6. Still Waters- Absolutely. I think a powerful statement is made when you take something that has potentially destructive force and transform it into something new and beautiful.

    1. Hi Cynthia, great post! I am totally with you and really admire your jewelry. I seem to upset some folks with aspects of my work too. And I've come to the realization that I wont please everyone. And that's ok. We just have to follow our hearts and be ourselves. Again, I admire your work and hope you wont let what that woman did bother you one bit. Thank you for sharing! ~ Cindy

  7. Cindy- Thanks. I wasn't bothered, just disappointed that she chose to not talk to me. I would rather that some of my work be thought provoking than pedestrian and forgettable.