Today I’m answering interview questions, one of which is asking why I pursued jewelry. The answer I’ll give is an honest one, but is only part of the whole answer. Does that still count as the truth? I hope so. The whole truth is far less glamorous, and not as PR snazzy.
The answer I’ll give? I love the way jewelry bookmarks events and becomes part of our life story in a way no other body adornment can. I love gold, and its warm glow and tactile properties. For those of you following along, you know this already, don’t you? I do love me some goldsmithing. Love it bad.
The rest of the answer is important, though. Especially to women, and especially to women with children. The beautiful children we bear and nurture and adore limit our ability to self-rescue; there is only so much we can do to help ourselves without harming them. Some of us are happy to always put our children’s well being ahead of our ambitions, some of us struggle with that. Some of us have no choice but to be ambitious in our pursuit of financial success, because our children’s well-being hinges upon it.
I was at a crossroads several years ago when I decided Matt needed to be temporarily homeschooled. As a wee little thing during the divorce and my illness, he’d struggled and there were some lingering issues I felt we needed to stop and address so that he could go forward and thrive. I had just finished my degree, and was working as a school district tutor while I decided where to apply to MFA Painting programs. Working as a single mother with young kids wasn’t going well. I was calling in sick a lot. The limitations motherhood would place on a career were becoming obvious.
I took a good, hard look at my little family, and decided we couldn’t do the move an MFA program would require. I couldn’t uproot these boys, settle them into a new town, start an MFA program full-time with the teaching assistant position it would surely include, and have us all thrive. I’d put a lot of time, post-divorce, into making sure the boys and I were strong and healthy, and to move us would undo so much of our progress and stability.
So what to do? How to pursue a career in art (which damn it, I’d waited so long to do and owed myself), provide the steady income a single woman with children needs, and be home when the kids were home, when they needed me? That was going to be a trick.
I decided to use the time home with Matt to switch mediums, and made a list of studio arts which could sustain a business. Of the mediums I considered, jewelry was the obvious choice; I knew I could love it and do it well. For the eighteen months I was homeschooling Matt I researched, practiced, and learned. The depth and breadth of my BFA was invaluable in my ability to quickly pick up a new medium. One of the best parts? My son did this with me; he watched closely as I made this decision and struggled to attain a new goal. At times his pride and belief in me brought me to tears, and was all that kept me from throwing up my hands in defeat; I’m keenly aware of the example I am to my boys, and quitting out of fear and frustration isn’t a model I want my children to learn.
When Matt went back to regular school I was ready to go, and gave myself six months to begin to earn an income before I would need to scrap my plans for financial reasons. It’s been a doozy of a year with high highs, and deep pits of self-doubt and worry, but it’s working. I’d like to believe the interview today is an indication that I must be doing something right.
This is the part of the answer to the reporter’s question I don’t think she’d be interested in hearing, the part that isn’t about art and creativity and glamour: I chose goldsmithing because I’m a mother, and my choices have to work for three beautiful, amazing young men, not just me.