Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why it will be so hard to stop doing special orders....

Still not sure what N's Whims will look like in the future, but I know now that special orders will no longer be a service I can provide. I love doing them, but I need to get back to playing with my finds and treasures to find my passion again. Sadly, I just don't have enough time for it all! One of my last special orders was an amazing one to end on--and I just have to share it with you. Please forgive the length of this blog, because you know I am rarely brief!

About a month ago, one of my group exercise students, Karen, approached me about doing a project for her sister. Her sister will be turning 50 the day after tomorrow, exactly 2 days after her son, Zack, would have turned 16. She should have been worrying about his first time alone behind the wheel, but instead, she will be throwing another huge party to celebrate his life without him. When Zack was just 6 years old, he died tragically when a soccer goal tipped over on him. Every year since that day, his family (and by this I mean his HUGE extended family) has thrown a party for Zack, inviting underprivileged children and having a blast in his honor. Pretty cool, huh?! 

Anyway, she wanted to do something really special for her sister--and they have done many really meaningful things over the years, like making a book with his artwork, bracelets with beads he picked out, necklaces with z on them, quilts from his clothes--you name it, they have given it. This family is incredibly thoughtful and diligent about keeping Zack a part of the family. What neat ways they have come up with to make Zack known to his younger siblings and cousins who were born after his death! So, she brought me this book of Zack's artwork, some legos that used to be his and shared several stories of him and his family. Karen told me that she would like to incorporate a lego, an angel's wing and a key (to signify that he would have been getting his license this year). We decided to use his favorite colors--orange and red--on this piece.

I can't even tell you how many times I read this book, full of the lessons Zack taught during his short time here. My girls often would sit down and read it, too. I can't tell you how many times I cried--for his family, for the loss of dreams, for all the hurt in this world. No one in our house says Zack, who? anymore. It is as if we got to know him--as much as is possible, anyway.

I have to say that often I am stumped by special orders for awhile. Especially the ones that are outside the box. I think about them A LOT, and worry that I won't be able to do them justice! This one had me especially worried--I mean first of all, it was a gift--sometimes it is hard to get a sense of the recipient's style from the person ordering. Number two, his mom has dabbled in jewelry--eek! She might have higher expectations for the jewelry she wears. Thirdly, she has received so many meaningful gifts, how can I make this one more special for her 50th? Fourth of all, I have never used a lego in jewelry--how will I do that?! And, lastly, a key and angels wing and a chunky orange pendant all in one necklace--each one could be a focal on it's own. How can I do all of this and make it pretty and wearable? I prayed more than once for the inspiration to make it all work. I did not want to fail on this project--it had become too important to me!

Two way toggle, long version
Well, I finally stopped thinking and worrying and started playing. This is what I came up with. The two-way toggle is such a great design for showcasing more than one cool piece, and it is versatile (can wear it long or short), so she might be more likely to like it. But, I had never made one before with so many large parts. I picked out some of my favorite orange and red beads (Zack and I have similar favorites, so I had many to choose from). I found a small clear square lego that was red and wrapped it in filigree--it looks like a message in an envelope to me. I decided to dangle that little message on the wing, adding a pop of color to the large antique brass wing. Many times when I was wrapping the beads, my eyes were so wet that it was hard to see what I was doing. When this piece was finished, I felt emotionally drained.

Two way toggle, short version
It was then that I realized what I will miss most about special orders. It isn't the look on the face when it is delivered and it isn't being able to pull off the challenge (don't get me wrong, those things are great--and if this piece becomes her second favorite piece next to her wedding ring, it will be icing on the cake :). It is the emotional connection I get to make with a few of you. It is you trusting me enough to be raw and vulnerable--sharing your world with me. It is me being able to be there for someone, to touch back. Simply put, it is the connection. Then, I take your stories, your pictures, your hopes and your losses and sit with them. I think about you, your hurt, your joy--whatever you shared with me, while I make that jewelry. I add my hopes--for your future, for your heart, for your dreams--and make you a little piece of jewelry with love. That is what I will truly miss.

I got a chance to meet Karen's mom on one visit as well. She, too, was so open and excited to share about Zack. On this visit, they brought me a bracelet that had broken. This bracelet had beads that were the same kinds that Zack had picked out with his mom at a bead show right before he died. His mom had recently picked up the beading hobby, so she bought more of his picks and beaded a bracelet for each of the women in their extended family. One special order became two. Karen's mom wanted me to make a second piece from her. They didn't need to match, but should both have a part of Zack.

Back-side of the bracelet
I decided that for this one, I really wanted to incorporate Zack's artwork. But, I wanted to do it in a way that was grown up--I mean, he wouldn't be a little boy anymore. I also wanted to use some of his beads. I found these little, sophisticated antique silver links in my stash. I scanned some of his artwork, shrank it, printed it, scanned, shrank and printed again to get it the right size. Then I put them on the back side of the links and set it with resin. After two days, they were ready to use in the bracelet. I went to my favorite bead stash--my czech glass beads. Knowing she likes chunkier, bolder jewelry, I chose from my hoarded large czech glass beads. I have to let you know that these beads are hard for me to use in designs. They are harder to find and it isn't that I don't want to use them, but more that I worry that the piece I add them to will not be worthy. So, I hoard them. Well, I knew they would be perfect, so with joy in my heart they were added to the design. There HAD to be one with orange and red together. And, my favorite drawing, the lizard, had green in it, so I used other czech beads with green. I hope the shell one reminds her of a time collecting seashells with Zack, his tiny hand in hers. The tiny blue and green glass beads and the Z dangling from the end were his. The hand charm says, "play" on the other side, which was the message I heard over and over again while reading his book. Take time to play! Finally, I shaped and hammered the clasp from a piece of wire.
Bracelet, the view when worn

I truly appreciate the opportunity to connect that each of you has given me when placing a special order with N's Whims. I am pretty sure that on many occasions I received more from the process than you. You have reminded me over and over what truly matters and allowed me to give with love. I know now that I will need to find another way to connect with others--maybe it is volunteering for people who are going through tough times, or even joyous times. Regardless, I will be on the hunt for "Lutes love moments" as we have coined them in our house. Times, often totally unexpected, when we can reach out to others and touch them with love in our hearts--making the world a little bit better for all of us!


  1. Beautiful post, Natasha. It's good to know your boundaries, so that you can maintain the compassion and sensitivity you have for others. These pieces you have created are gifts from the heart and they will speak to Zack's family and continue to generate the love they share for him, as well as offer comfort when needed.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement! I sure hope they do provide those things for the family--especially his mom--I can't imagine how much this loss affects her daily!