Yesterday was my third visit to Ma-Sevana, and time for me to learn how to make Emerge jewelry. Sure, I know the product specs and generally how the pieces are put together, but I had never made one of my own. And let me tell you, it is a lot harder than it looks. I decided to make a bracelet – bracelets are the easiest piece to make – with the analogy being like using training wheels when learning to ride a bike.
First I had to decide which beads to use. We give the girls notebooks in which they keep their jewelry goals as well as detailed pictorial descriptions of how to make each piece. The pictures are important because many of the girls cannot read English, so writing out instructions would be useless.
I opened a spare notebook and stared at the image for making a bracelet. Eleven seed beads followed by alternating patterns of one and three larger accent beads. Ok, I can do this. I realized that it was important to pick out the seed bead color first, because this color will be the background of the entire bracelet. Because I was in an envious mood, I chose green. Actually I chose green because the shirt I was wearing that day had some green in it, so I wanted to make a bracelet to match.
Next I had to chose the accent beads. Nirukshi, our Bead Program Coordinator, collects leftover beads in a small clear container. Not wanting to use too many beads from the girl’s supplies, I put together my pattern from the leftovers. Immediately a collection of small, yellow beads caught my eye, and I decided that green – yellow – brown – goldish would be the design. And I make it sound like I came to this decision rather quickly, but in reality I laid out a bunch of different options on my piece of velvet and thought for fifteen minutes about what would look best. I don’t know how these girls do it so effortlessly. It seems as if to them the colors just make sense.
The hardest part of making jewelry (besides the design) is the clasp/finish. For bracelets, we use needle nose pliers to bend the beginning and end of the memory wire into circles so the beads can’t slip off. One of the girls was my tutor, and helped me by making the beginning circle. The ease and grace with which she started my bracelet for me made me think “Piece of cake.” Ha. When I tried to finish the bracelet, after all the beads were strung, I struggled with it for a good 5 minutes, trying in vain to imitate my teacher’s loop. Even the simple bracelet was giving me a hard time! I know that these girls have had much, much more practice than I have, but the process of making my own bracelet gave me a newfound respect for the pieces they produce. When I am checking their work, all the clasps and ends are almost exactly the same.
In more ways than one, I have learned as much or more from these young girls as they have from me.