Artist Andrew Thornton is the creator of the Inspired by Reading Book Club. I thought it would be a great creative challenge to make something inspired by reading. Also, I knew a book club would expand my reading horizons.
The February book was Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino. This was seriously expanding my horizons. I rarely read short stories; I developed an attitude about them years ago. Time for an attitude adjustment. Difficult Loves was not like reading a novel, but I stuck with it and the stories really stuck with me. They were grouped in sections: Riviera Stories, Wartime Stories, Postwar Stories and Stories of Love and Loneliness.
One story that resonated with me quite a bit was “The Enchanted Garden” about two kids visiting, literally from the other side of the tracks, a beautiful villa’s garden complete with swimming pool. As they play in the garden and admire its beauty, they feel a bit anxious and out of place. When they spy a boy who lives there, he is “…sitting there…with more anxiety and worry than their own.” Things aren’t always what they seem. I was originally going to make something based on this story, but it never quite came together.
I didn’t think I would care for Wartime Stories, but several of them really struck me including “The Crow Comes Last” and “One of the Three is Still Alive.” They were very sad. I liked that the stories were primarily told through one character, but it was always possible to see the situation from more than one perspective.
The story that inspired me to make something is from Postwar Stories. It is called “Sleeping Like Dogs.” It starts with an exhausted traveler trying to sleep under the stairs in a train station. Throughout the story, people keep joining the space to get some sleep – two women and a man who are black marketeers, a father and his two daughters from Southern Italy, two young Venetians emigrating to France, and Belmoretto, a homeless man who does business in the station selling cigarettes. The group continually rearranges itself to try to accommodate more people and be more comfortable. The story seemed a lot like life – in many ways we’re on our own, out for ourselves, but we get help along the way. I thought the Belmoretto character epitomized this. When the father gets up looking for a bathroom, Belmoretto takes him there, shares a cigarette with him, and then leads him back. Later, Belmoretto gets a mattress from his friend Mad Maria and rents it to the group, two by two, for half an hour each. He’s in it for the money, but it is still beneficial to all the people who had been dreaming of a mattress.
I have been wanting to work with tin. If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ll know I’m very slow (i.e. a big chicken) to try anything new. This story mentioned the empty tins the black marketeers carried, and I knew I had my motivation to try tin for the first time. I cut three uneven pieces for each earring and filed them smooth.
I wanted everything about the earrings to be a bit uneven and in a jumble. That is how I pictured the weary travelers – disheveled and constantly twisting and turning their bodies and limited blankets to find a comfortable configuration. The bits of ribbon represent the blankets. There is one patched area on a section of sari silk that I love. I’m sure one of the blankets was patched as well!
My original thought was just to hang the ribbon and tin mix off of ear wires. While making them, I tried a necklace that incorporated several hollow polymer clay beads by Orly Fuchs Galchen. Although the necklace did not work for me, I liked the look of the beads with the ribbon and tin bits, and this is the final product.
I love these earrings! I really feel like they capture the spirit of that story, and this was a very satisfying creative process for me. I told myself before I made anything that it did not need to be wearable, and that allowed me more freedom which felt great.
Thank you to Andrew Thornton for creating this group and allowing me to play along. Click on the names below to see what everyone else created!