Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences is a term used in the social sciences and popularised by sociologist Robert K Merton in the twentieth century to describe 'outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action'.

We get them in beading circles in the twenty-first century too! Usually they appear in the form of a face, alien or otherwise. Occasionally the consequences are more dire and other parts of the human anatomy materialise out of the bead work in question! Frustratingly their presence is never apparent until said bead work is COMPLETELY finished and often not even then. Perhaps not until ones vision is focused through the lens of a camera...

Precisely what happened to me when I tried to photograph this piece. No need to tell you which part of the human anatomy accidentally made its way into this collar! How did I not see that the whole time I worked on it? Of course once I'd seen IT there was no unseeing it.

Many of you would have seen it too. I posted photos of it on social media where it got a lot of comment and garnered some good natured teasing. Despite its unfortunate resemblance many people liked it, and said that I should still put it into the gallery where I sell my work and market it as a fertility piece. Advice that I did consider because despite the appendage I really quite liked it myself. In the end I decided against it, mostly because the gallery is in the heart of Sydney's historic centre and many of our visitors come from overseas, from countries with more modest and conservative views, whom I did not want to offend.

So I put it away, intending to one day wear it myself with an LBD and a knowing smile. However both the right occasion and the right dress failed to present themselves, and because there were still a lot of things like the use of cane toad leather, the colours and the contrast of the rounded natural jaspers with the rectilinear geometry of the rest of the bead work (which is some of the neatest beading I've ever done!) that I liked about the collar I decided to rework it. This proved to be a much more difficult task than I anticipated. I'd used a lot of glue to adhere the various layers, there was no way to separate them without damaging the bead work so ultimately the alterations were limited to what I could cut off and re-edge, resulting in this:

I called it Calliope, after the gender switching central character in Jeffrey Eugenides' prize winning novel Middlesex and delivered it for sale to the gallery. To be honest I was a little indifferent about the end result - I think I liked the original better, but it taught me some very valuable lessons that I recall every time I make a new piece: I always check my layout at the design stage for resemblance to faces and body parts and when I glue my backing and/or stabilizer to my foundation I use a very thin layer of glue and keep it well away from the edges in the event that I need to separate them later. Also, if I'm unsure about the end result I'm mindful of making a quick decision because as time elapses the bond becomes stronger and stronger until it resembles concrete and the only way of getting the backing off is with a wrecking ball.

I also learnt, not for the first time, that even though a piece did not live up to my original vision of it, others would still find it worthy. And so it was... on the weekend Calliope was sold to a beautiful young lady visiting from Yunnan Province, China who very kindly agreed to pose for a picture. I love that my work gets to go home with someone with so much style and confidence. I'm guessing she's wearing traditional regional clothing but I think that skirt is really cool! Actually the whole outfit is...