In the Studio · On Creativity - Art, Jewelry, Writing

On the Hidden Poetry of French Grammar

And now, a not-so-shocking confession: I’ve never been the biggest fan of French grammar. Or grammar in any language, really.

Okay, maybe that’s a little shocking, what with my whole career as a writer and all. Like many Americans my age and younger, I learned English grammar through immersion and usage, and only learned about grammar per se while studying other languages. For me that was French, in junior high school — when I hated apparently arbitrary rules even more than I do now.


In fact, I only came to own this circa 1940s handbook on French grammar because I intended to tear it up. I got it for a dollar at a thrift store, mostly because I love the feel of vintage paper, and because it has some fun olde photos of Paris.

I dug it out of my stash the other day because I’m making a small series of necklaces featuring commas. (My ambivalent feelings about grammar do not include punctuation marks, which I adore.) I thought that the mellowed color of antique paper beads would go well with brushed nickel and copper, and I like the idea of using a grammar book for this purpose. Here’s a look, in progress.


But when I started to make the beads, I was struck (and then delayed) by the phrases the authors chose to use as their pedagogical examples.

They seem to hint at some deeper meaning, like they’re fragments of a deeper life philosophy:

much money
how much coffee
less money
little bread
so much money
too much time

Or notes for a complicated French film.

the husband’s room
the children’s room
to the brother
to the brothers
at the windows

The italics are theirs, which I think  add to the effect.

Here’s one more that I especially like, hinting at a complicated (potentially gay?) romance.

Of the man
To the man. 
Of the woman
To the woman. 

So of course, I couldn’t bear to slice these particular pages into paper beads. (Where only one word is visible, thus destroying the inadvertent poetry.) Luckily there are plenty of other pages in this book that aren’t so fab, so those became the beads I needed.

I’ll make something else with these pages that will preserve these tiny mysteries. I think that last fragment wouls work well in a piece for Valentine’s Day. N’est pas?

Inspiration

Inspiration: Tree Shadows

The city is full of shadows, and I love them.

I love the shadows cast by buildings, by wrought iron balconies, and fences in parks and light posts on the streets and railings everywhere.

But most of all, I adore the shadows cast by city trees, wily survivors that grow surrounded by concrete.

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Tree shadows are the best at this time of year. The shadows cast by trees in partial and full leaf,  during the spring, summer and autumn– those are okay too. They’re gracious, they shade and cool you, they have a function.

But for me, visually, the shadows of tree leaves are a little soft on their own. They require additional backdrops, like this one from a construction site.

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To my eye, shadows cast by bare trees, against the sky, or against a building are the best because they have no function. They are what they are, and nothing more.  A dark shell of an unconscious tree, charcoal against the sky.

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I even love the shadows cast by trees outside of the city. And especially against snow, when the tree shadow is as dark as bark wet with sumi ink.

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I’m working on a necklace right now that involves the fragment of a black mussel shell I found on the beach in Rehoboth last month.  On my way to the studio yesterday, I took another photo of a tree shadow — it’s on Instagram, if you’re curious.

On my way home from the studio, I was thinking about why I reached for that particular shell in my stash.  When I looked through the photos of the day, I realized it was because the shell reminded me of a shadow.  I’ll post a photo of the necklace soon.

Alison Wonderland Jewelry · On Design & Art

The Power of Profanity: Alison Wonderland Jewelry

For the last few months — as I’ve been broadly hinting here — I’ve been working on a new venture, a jewelry business: Alison Wonderland Jewelry. I’m getting ready to formally launch my Etsy shop soon, and a Big Cartel shop. At the moment, I’ve just been tinkering with both of these sites,  but much… Continue reading The Power of Profanity: Alison Wonderland Jewelry

On Creativity - Art, Jewelry, Writing · On Design & Art

Clutter and Creativity

In last week’s Times, there was a mini-profile of designer James Draplin, with a special focus on his workspace. It’s filled with stuff he’s hoarded collected over the years, and it totally jazzed me up. For one thing, I love peeking at other creative people’s studios. (Studio porn, it’s a thing.  See: Hyperallergic’s View from… Continue reading Clutter and Creativity