Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thinking about Bill

From time to time, people ask me to restring a necklace and, in the process, to redesign it - the French call this "re-looking" (the word applies to any "redo", whether clothing, furnishings, or whatever). It's something I enjoy doing, because usually the pieces are old and I get a chance to handle interesting beads from another era or culture. And because I'm working with someone specific in mind, it provides an opportunity to reflect on that person while I work.

So a friend asked me to restring a necklace that her husband Bill had made for her. The clasp was scratching her, making the necklace uncomfortable to wear. As long as I was doing that, she wanted to add some silver beads to the mix; at the same time, there were design elements, like double strands in places, that she particularly liked and wanted to keep.

Bill died two years ago. I didn't know him as much as I would have liked. I only knew him at group gatherings, where he didn't say much but didn't miss much either. I knew from things that my friend told me in passing that Bill was competent in whatever he undertook to do, that he had an artistic bent, and that he was very manual.

The necklace arrived in the mail, and I unwrapped it. Old Indian trade beads were the focus, a real treat for me, since it was the first time I had ever handled any. And what a surprise! Bill and I were kindred spirits in the design department: what I like to call a studied asymmetry. His color sense was very appealing, particularly the little touches of blue. I too liked his double strands - they added texture to the piece. Furthermore, Bill's stringing technique was excellent, and the problem with the clasp he would have fixed with just a little snip of his wire cutters if he were still alive.

After Bill died, I learned more about him. He was a real cowboy who made his own way in the world, doing construction and wood-working along the way. This led to an encounter with an artist from whom he took lessons, where he met his future wife. They were married in six weeks and were together almost 50 years when he died. During those 50 years, they developed an eclectic assortment of interests, from Indian arts to travel to poodles. I think everything they did together was an adventure shared and a richer experience because of it.

For this necklace, I wanted to leave the essence of Bill, his design, and his work, so I decided to restring it in pretty much the same way he had, simply replacing some of the beads with silver ones. I also wanted to make sure that all the original beads in the necklace were returned to my friend, because Bill chose them for her, so I used the ones I took out of the necklace to make a pair of earrings in somewhat of an Indian style, and the few that remained ended up on a small ring with fillers to use on a keychain or as an amulet or however she would like.

I can see Bill clearly in my mind: wiry, weathered, in jeans, smoking a cigarette. And under my fingers, I was able to touch a little of Bill, connecting just a bit to his artistic spirit. I couldn't do much for my friend when Bill died - there are thousands of miles between us geographically. But at least I could give her back Bill's necklace ready to wear again - I think Bill would approve of my work.

1 comment:

  1. Dearest Judy, What a lovely tribute to my Bill and how lovely the necklace looks in its newly redesigned life! I know Bill would like what you have done, and the care and love you have woven into it. I will love wearing it and will think of two people who are so dear to me. Blessings on you!