03 March 2016

What Are smalltimores?

smalltimores are fun, lightweight, handcrafted, affordable, one-of-a-kind earrings, necklaces, cuff links, pins, and key rings featuring visually compelling images recycled from magazines and other paper items. Apart from custom work, images are used as found - never resized, manipulated, or copied.

The name smalltimores is derived from the term smalltimore, an affectionate Baltimore nickname for my beloved and sometimes provincial (for good and bad) city. The tagline Happiness Under Glass affirms that putting something under glass, particularly something small, serves to elevate its importance, and acknowledges what you've told me from the beginning - that smalltimores jewelry simply makes you happy.

13 November 2015

You Can Go Home Again

One night at the dinner table sometime in early 1973, I announced that after Western High School, where I'd start in the fall, I would attend Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). My father put down his fork and in that dead silent room he informed me that the plan was Johns Hopkins University and law school. Who knows - maybe that's how it would have gone down, but pretty much nothing went according to plan after May 1973. The only thing I could count on was macrame, knitting, sewing, terrarium-making, and any other art + craft I could get my hands on. Making things was the only bit of control I had in an insane world.

Collecting vanilla undergraduate and graduate degrees in those challenging years was eased by a most enjoyable job as a graphic designer, acquiring skills I used in a series of jobs and still use every day. Then in 1988 I created the Old Waverly History Exchange & Tea Room, crafting beautiful edible things for thirteen years - and knitting feverishly to quell the stress. After that, I liked my job at Baltimore Housing and LOVED the one at East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI). Three months after losing my sister Sharon/two hours after being laid off just days before my fiftieth birthday in July 2009 (the month of the Great Recession when the most Americans lost their jobs), a friend asked what I next wanted to do career-wise, and without hesitation I blurted "make things."

Mourning for that job and Sharon, along with an inheritance from her, plus miraculous pinch-me, who-you-know connections, fueled extensive educations in cheese making and bread baking - the intense desire to again craft beautiful food even compelling me to give away my Bolton Hill dream house and garden at the bottom of the market to further the plan for a dual facility that came thisclose to fruition. But the economy put the kibosh on that, too, and thank goodness it did, as my lower back is now often in revolt. So despite four privileged, can-this-really-be-real years of standing at the vats and benches of rock star fromage makers and wood-fired bakers, cheese and bread never happened. But after last week's trade name filing, five year old Cheese Happens LLC is finally fulfilling its elastic, wink-wink name by doing business as smalltimores, my new enterprise using graphics and photos to create jewelry almost everyone describes as happy. But the somewhat directionless final third of this six year journey has often been anything but, complete with countless comments questioning the whereabouts of my edge or what exactly was my occupation.

A year and half ago, after trying every which way to stoke the creative fire by, among other things, trying new knitting shops; writing haiku again; wearing red or purple or black glasses instead of my trademark smaller-than-John Lennon silver spex; braving the lure of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival; deeply browsing my newly shelved library and tracking down other books that had previously proven elusive; accelerating additions to my already unmanageable pile (OK - piles) of inspiration clipped from magazines; picking up my needlepoint (yarn paint-by-numbers) to free my mind; and finally FINALLY making a dent in disgorging storage unit number three, I bought some jewelry findings on Etsy with no real clue to how I'd use them. I have always recoiled from open-ended experimentation, but the entry price was low enough to fail, though, of course, there's no calculating the cost of frustration. The little box of possibilities mocked me until August 2015, when I started fiddling with sizing down Art Deco graphics to fit into annoyingly tiny half inch earring bezels. Then one day it occurred to me to marry graphics and photos from that aforementioned pile of great design to a relatively huge three quarter inch canvas. I'm famous for remembering minute details from as far back as fifty years, but I had to go to dear diary on my BlackBerry to suss out that on 8 (an endless ribbon suggesting infinity) September - the same date I bought my Old Waverly building in 1988 - I effortlessly slipped into the elusive stream of a marketable idea. No splashing, no eureka-shouting moment - it apparently was as natural as breathing because it had been with me all along.

Freakishly talented Adele says that the four year gap between albums 21 and 25 was stuffed with extraordinary doubts that more music would ever be forthcoming. I don't know a single writer or performing or visual artist supremely confident in his/her ability to keep the tide flowing. Where creativity comes from and why it sometimes dams up is the same as inquiring into the meaning of life. But I googled it anyway and quickly stumbled onto Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk where she posits that it's the very fear of creativity that represses us - circling me back to that dinnertime admonition so long ago that terrified me into missing out on MICA even when the man who forbade it was long gone.

I was verbally spanked again a few weeks ago when the friend who helped me start Nesting Baltimore eight years ago, in between those two favourite jobs, chastised I not be disappointed a new position in housing and community development never materialized because smalltimores had, and its success would require the full complement of my skills. My whole body buzzed with that remark, as it exactly echoed what I wrote in my final EBDI post. In that Mobius moment, my patchwork pile merged seamlessly with my magpie magazine mess, and with that, shiva for my EBDI gig ended. I committed "smalltimores/Happiness Under Glass/Made in Baltimore" to print and the business was officially born.

There hasn't yet been a moment I couldn't wait to get to work, as every facet of this jewelry making enterprise, headquartered at my Grandma's precious dining room table overlooking the Inner Harbor, feels like a reward, like a return to me.