Journal: Sean O’Connell
Why I love making jewellery…
(…and how it has turned me into an extraordinarily particular and finicky old man)
For me, making jewellery is a very specific and focused thing to do. My entire concentration is poured into one very small space for hours on end, and I completely forget the rest of the world. Perhaps it is myopic, perhaps I am a control-freak—I do not care—the satisfaction is immense. As I alternately coax, collaborate with, try to control, and finally come to terms with the materials I am working, there is a genuine desire to create beauty. After a great deal of concentrated effort and devotion I can sometimes, amazingly, create something perfect. It is a revelation when it happens. It is subtle, but real. To settle your attention long enough in one small place and allow materials and ideas to fully resolve—it is a rare and precious thing….
But it is of course a messy business and jewellers invariably cut their hands up in the process, and burn their fingers and hammer their thumbs—some, like me, on a daily basis. Your shoulders become hunched as you tightly grasp a saw for hours while you work away cutting links, occasionally relieving persistent cramps or aches, feeling as if your body is betraying you when it doesn’t work properly…
And it is not just physical torture—spending days alone at the bench drinking too much coffee and talking to your hammer because there is no one else, the myopia of extended concentration upon one small spot in space gradually taking its toll, the smallest things becoming all encompassing, the devil in the detail cackling as you chase ever finer scratches in the pursuit of a perfect mirror polish…. It is like a drug: sometimes you just get all tangled up and have a bad trip, becoming deeply unsettled…
So, like anything, making jewellery has its good and bad sides. I can no longer tell if I was initially suited to be a jeweller, or whether making jewellery has changed me to suit it. But there are certain things that are quite particular to it, and I am going to write about some of these over the next three posts. Each post will be about making a piece of jewellery, and also about something else in my life that is connected.
I’ll introduce you to my grandmother, who is 91 and has recently gone into a nursing home after having lived 10 years together with me, the last 9 months of which I was her full time carer. I am very close to her, and there are lots of connections to jewellery in our relationship….
In the third post I will write about the beautiful forms of plants and mushrooms, both in the wild and on my plate. Tasty. The natural world informs everything I create, as it does for many other people. From the tiny places where fungi erupt through the sand, to the new green fronds unfurling off the stalk, and the first yellow petals of a dandelion as it opens out into a cold spring morning, plants tell us all we need to know about beauty. And then, when they are cooked up for an evening meal, even better! And just because it is vego doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty—like this meal below of pine mushrooms sautéed with miso-pickled garlic, salted green beans from the garden, and a humble bowl of rice. Yum. In much the same way as I see jewellery, the flavours and textures are few, but intense, defined individual elements set off against one another….
Lastly I will bring out my favourite illustrated books – little precious gems that I keep close to my heart. Again like jewellery, they are concise, polished, perfectly formed, whole and complete, with a clear beginning and end to leave you satisfied, yet containing a profound richness and complexity of detail that grows over time to be savoured for many years. Like this page from Gregory Colbert’s stunning book, also a movie, Ashes and Snow….
It is quite indulgent talking about all the things I love, I know, but I hope to reveal the threads of intimacy, detail and connection—the same things which make jewellery so particularly compelling—within the everyday aspects of our lives.
It seems that being attuned to small details and spending one’s days as a jeweller is quite a joy and a privilege!