I’ve been thinking a lot about scale and texture lately. I’ve always been an “idea” person, interested in the big picture, in broad strokes. But as I study the craft of silversmithing, I am coming to deeply appreciate how important the little details are, even if you don’t notice them at first glance.
If you ever took a freshman-year writing class, your teacher probably beat it into your head that you had to balance your points with particulars, your thesis statement with specific examples. This holds true for all sorts of things. In poetry, for example, it’s not enough to write about a great and lofty idea–one like, say, LOVE. The poem needs a particular love, a face to focus on. To put it another way, there’s heaven and earth, and a piece of artwork needs both–it needs the idea and the real, the abstract and the concrete. The two give each other deeper meaning than either could have alone. Here’s a poem that comes to mind, one whose writer understands how to balance a lofty idea with concrete “things”:
by Kim Addonizio
for Aya at fifteen
Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself
upside-down across the sofa, reading,
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on.
I think they are growing gills, swimming
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl,
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours, when I lie sleepless,
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face
is the bright lure I look for, love’s hook
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.
This lesson is one I know, but somehow still have to really learn. I’m working on it. These earrings are a study:
I started with the form of these earrings, the long leaf-like shape. That was my “idea,” so to speak. But I realized when I had completed the form that something was missing. So I decided to play with texture and scale to try to add some earthy details. I gave the earrings a sort of rustic texture. Then I tried adding some large-ish semi-precious beads to the bottom, but the proportions were all wrong. So I decided to try something much smaller. Something you’d have to get up close to see. I added a tiny garnet and the smallest little slice of sterling.
I love small things, and I especially love when those small things yield up more detail upon close inspection. I love the way you could stare at a bee’s wing for a year and still feel there might be more to get.
I’ll surely never be able to make something as perfect as a bee’s wing, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge of striving towards that kind of perfection of scale and texture. It’s a kind of studying and I’m an eager student.