Winging It

You may remember an earlier post where I talked about how making jewelry is similar to making a book: plans go awry, and accidents are revealed as miracles—or vice versa. Recently, I had another opportunity to consider this theory of mine.

My sister was getting married, and her wedding theme was Pirate Formal. I’ve been working on her wedding necklace for months—buying four colors of crystal, learning to work with new materials and techniques, and mostly just keeping my fingers crossed that my ideas would look like a real thing and not Amateur Hour at Lulu’s Jewelry Shack. Her dress had been described to me, roughly, but mostly I was flying blind.

The night before we were to head across the border, I finished putting all the bits together and sent my sister this picture:

Wood-grain background, on which sits a multi-strand necklace of red, yellow, blue, white, and green crystal, with silver winged skulls and a skeleton lady cameo as centerpiece.
What the heck / around your neck / a pirate rainbooooowww ...

Those curves of red crystal holding the skeleton cameo’s lower edge were the last things I attached, and until then I had not realized that I was arranging things in proper Roy G. Biv order. I’d thought I was making something chaotic and unpredictable, when in reality it was practically scientific. All at once the necklace became a unified thing—but precisely what kind of thing? I couldn’t seem to make sense of my own creation: all I could see were the flaws and the wires and the individual bits as I’d put them together. I couldn’t get the impact of the whole.

This is also how I feel about the first drafts of my manuscripts. But those I can fix; those can take criticism and come out better; those have no stakes for anyone but me (well, and my publisher, but that’s a little less emotionally immediate).

The bride had to like this necklace, because she was going to be the one wearing it in all her wedding photos and in front of everyone she knows and loves.

She loved it. All at once I could breathe again, though I still felt nervous. But that tenuous instinct that had gotten me through had proved true.

When the bride put on her wedding dress—which I’d never seen—and another bridesmaid draped the necklace around her neck and we shortened it to rest on her collarbone … it was perfect. And so, we danced. And toasted. And feasted. And made everyone’s grandmother take shots of the worst rum I have ever tasted in my life.

Hopefully in future I can continue to trust my instincts when flying blind.

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