VMAA is pleased to present our grand prize-winning finalist of the JIW writing competition held in 2021. Dr. CARRIE YODANIS, PhD, is Associate Professor of Sociology at UBC. She recently developed and teaches a new undergraduate course, The Sociology of Creativity, and is the author of Getting Married: The Public Nature of Our Private Relationships (2016) and Getting Dressed: Conformity and Imitation in Clothing and Everyday Life (2018). She has been a dedicated supporter of the VMAA community over the years, fusing playful irony and handmade statement jewellery in hand-forged silver. You can view other jewellery-themed articles by Yodanis here.
“Dammit! That’s hot,” I yelled.
She didn’t seem to notice. Looming over me, pointing the flame right down on me, she was just interested in me getting hotter and hotter, until I melted.
As I became liquid, I formed into a small silver ball, curled up in the charcoal.
I pushed and pulled a little bit to try to take a more unique shape, but she really wanted me to be round, symmetrical and kept melting me down until I became as she wanted.
I wasn’t going to give in easily. I was in the clamp as she filed and sanded to remove any of my remaining imperfections. With just a slight push in one direction, I popped out, flying through the air, across the room, laughing with glee. In the distance, I could hear her curse, “Dammit!”
I hid under the leg of the chair, in the far dark corner of the studio, trying to stay still not too shiny, snickering as I watched her search all over for me. Eventually, she would find me and scoop me up and put me back into the clamp. In the end, I was put into the shape she envisioned. I became a proper ring; a predictable, proper ring.
By the spring, the attempts at perfection would come apart.
She was going out, the first day without a coat and gloves after a long dark winter.
She was walking close, her hand near, to the metal railing. I pushed, putting all of my weight into it and I hit the metal, hard enough to feel a part of me, one of my perfectly spherical balls, come loose. “Ow!,” she yelled.
Later that evening, when she was taking me off, she noticed.
She looked at me with serious concerns. She jiggled the loose part, checking to see how loose it was. She took a closer look: could it be reattached? She finally just pulled the ball off and put me down in the corner of her bench with her other works in progress. For months, she barely looked at me. I reminded her of her failings.
Then one day, she looked in my direction. She picked me up and really looked at me.
She freed me from the shank and started to make new balls of all different shapes and sizes. As she attached the new pieces to me, she didn’t try to force them into place. Rather, she let me slowly evolve, taking new form.
I heard her say to her partner, “It’s becoming what it wants to become.”
“What?,” her partner said, confused, “It’s a piece a metal. It doesn’t want to be anything.”
But I was becoming what I wanted to be, not what she wanted me to be, and she was helping me get there.
I’ve become a butterfly. I don’t look anything like a butterfly but I feel like one. I move like one. Back and forth, back and forth, I fly.
In the fall, we left our life in the city behind for a month, moving to a small town on the island. It was on impulse, after much thought.
We spent the month in the forest, just walking, escaping from the goals that we never chose or wanted. She wore me every day as we walked for hours getting lost and finding our way back through the trees. I would move freely with each step, bouncing gleefully along with her as we hiked up and down hills.
But the month ended, and we went back to the expectations, demands, small successes that no noticed, and the big failures that everyone did.
Back in the city, I stayed in the drawer, as fancier pieces were worn or life got so busy that she ran out of the house, late to a meeting, forgetting to wear a piece at all.
By spring, jokes about the virus, led to panic, and stockpiling, and then lockdown. Then, a weird kind of calm. Expectations dropped, competitive colleagues disappeared, and professional pressures ceased. Trapped inside, she felt safe, not from the virus but from the stress that was way more likely to shorten her life than any virus was.
At the end of the summer, a gallery opened after lockdown with a show featuring one of her favourite jewellers. She admired his work, always so exact in its construction, pristine in its finishing. She thought of his work often as she made her own, judging hers as lesser. But in the show, among his perfect pieces, she noticed something different, the lockdown brooch:
Kobi Bosshard, Lockdown brooch (2020), AVID Gallery, Wellington, NZ
It was chaotic, a mess. She loved it.
She took me out of the drawer and put me on. Together, we found the freedom to fly.
Dr. Carrie Yodanis, 2001