I so enjoy attending the East Carolina University Material Topics Symposium. Every January for the last seven years I look forward to getting out of town for a weekend full of lectures, workshops, exhibitions, and connecting with friends. The entire experience is great, and it is student run, to boot!
A favorite event during the symposium is the charm and pin swap. I will admit, some years I have been lazy in my submission, giving away a nicely finished sample or something rather simple. This year, I was inspired to construct a small brooch. For other swaps I have created small, circular brass brooches with frame like windows that expose a tactile material like cotton or sandpaper. This was my starting point.
Perhaps bubble wrap, always at my fingertips during work days when I pack and unpack jewelry and other items, was in the back of my mind. Small bubbles seemed best, right? The temptation to pop one and then another. The potential to leave someone unsatisfied at not having their fill of popped bubbles? But how could I forget about the big bubbles?! When I fitted one big bubble through the frame of the brooch and test popped it, I was simply delighted!
This was a fun, silly brooch; it was designed to be made quickly, to explore tactile sensations, and to present the option for one specific action. That action, I anticipated, was to pop the bubble. I did not expect the wearer's response, or my reaction to it that came nearly a week later. When I saw my brooch being worn, I introduced myself as the maker and learned, at least for the time being, the bubble was being protected from the maliciously poking fingers of the wearer's friends.
Late the following week, as I was considering this conversation and my intention of creating a fun piece with a simple binary choice, I realized the bubble was imbued with all the usual particulars of any piece I have made. Because it was made quickly and with the understanding of being given away, I failed to realize these connections. I had, in fact, thrown caution to the wind and presented an exposed, fragile thing to someone else. The same feelings of protection and watching over your shoulder so as to guard against outside forces that I have harbored, were instead stirred up in a perfect stranger.
It brings a wry smile to my face, the kind of smile that appears at the corner of my mouth with the slow realization that I've been outsmarted. What gets me is this: I did it, so easily, to myself.