About the ornaments... November 07 2015
With the Christmas season just around the corner, it's about that time where I hunker down in the shop with a big pile of copper, my saw and a whole bunch of blades. For the third year now I am offering my handcut tree ornaments, both on the website and at several local craft fairs. Christmas being a sentimental time of year, it's hard not to get a bit reflective about it and so I thought I'd fill you all in on how the ornaments came to be a tradition for me, how they're made, and why I enjoy making them so much.
Around three or four years ago I had the good fortune to start a working apprenticeship with my dear friend Nina Turczyn of Paprika Design, which is what set me on this fabulous adventure that is metalsmithing. That is a whole story unto itself, oozing with serendipity and bursting with giggles, and possibly the subject of a future blog post.
During my first year, the main skill that I focused on was pierce work. That is, cutting intricate patterns in metal with a handsaw and a wee little blade. This can be frustrating when ones skills are not up to task, and wonderfully meditative and gratifying when they are. Learning to saw was a bit of a personal triumph for me that harkened back to the time that I was working on my woodworking diploma in Montreal and learning marquetry. In my classes, we used an electric scroll saw to cut patterns out of pieces of veneer and all of us students were positively floored to learn that back in the day our fussy, intricate little designs would've been cut by hand. It seemed so impossible! Like learning Icelandic, or carving miniature sculptures out of pencil leads. Or toast art. Or, or...you get the picture. So having suddenly acquired this skill was a such a surprise! As it turns out I love sawing, and I love the doors that it opens up in jewelry design and creation. And, because I tend to favour a sort of full immersion method of learning and am prone to exaggeration, cutting several hundred copper tree ornaments seemed like a perfect way to apply my fancy new sawing skills.
This all coincided with a time where my daughter was 3 years old and my partner and I were trying to form our own Christmas traditions. To be honest, we were Christmas cynics struggling with making it magical and fun for our daughter, kind of feeling like we were faking it. I have lovely memories of Christmas as a child, but as an adult I found it difficult not to hone in and be bothered by all of the commercialism, the waste (all that wrapping paper! All those superfluous, unwanted gifts!), and on the fact that Christmas can be wonderful if one is fortunate enough to be surrounded by loved ones but can be isolating and sad if one isn't. In other words, modern day Scrooge.
So, how to stamp out some meaning amidst all of that? Over the years, we've managed to cobble together our sweet little traditions and I now even look forward to the season. We bake, we make wreathes out of things we find in our lush West Coat wilderness, we spend time with our extended family when we're lucky. But in a way, the ornaments are a gateway for me. It feels good to be creating these little tokens that will be passed on and cherished. It means so much to me when people tell me who will be receiving them, about their traditions of giving their children an ornament every year which they will hold onto throughout their lives and pass onto their children one day. I'm truly honoured to have something I've made be a small part of other peoples' Christmas, and this is what makes the whole thing such a pleasure every year.
I'm also very pleased about the relatively small imprint that my production has. The sleeves that the pieces come in are made from recycled paper bags purchased from an independent seller, and the copious scraps of copper that I'm left with are passed onto other local makers and will continue to be used and crafted into other precious things. And the pieces themselves, of course, will last several lifetimes. I like to think that for every ornament I sell, a plastic Santa somewhere in the world is crying. Wishful thinking, but it's my personal way of beating back commercialized Christmas and making a bit of magic!
Wishing you all the very best this holiday season!
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