Writing and The Art of the Metal Scrap Pile

In addition to writing – like I have time for other pursuits – I also create jewelry. It started out a simple diversion with pretty beads, but has now grown into a monster of another color. I love rocks and stones, I like copper and silver (silver especially now that the price has plummeted.) My creations are, how do we say this? Not mainstream. It’s not exactly steampunk either. Like my writing, it’s… me. Singular, unusual, and me.

Okay, it’s more than a diversion and you twisted my arm; call me a jewelry artist. A crazed one.

Each Tuesday during the school year, I take a metals class at the local art center. This is known as three hours of ME TIME. I’m a busy woman; if I didn’t consciously manufacture time for writing, working out, gardening, cooking, or cleaning, I would not write, I’d be 300 lbs., my yard would be overgrown, I’d subsist on fast food, and you wouldn’t be able to see the floor through the cat hair. That’s why I carve out one teeny, tiny three hour niche for playing with wire (and fire).

My latest endeavor once I get to class is going through the discards box, which normally contains about 50 lbs. of copper scrap. Copper is the provided metal of choice for this studio. (Honey, if I work in silver and there are leftovers, my bits and pieces goes into my own personal scrap pile.) The failed pieces of other classes, twisted wire, sheets of fire patina flat stock, shards of cut copper triangles that are sharp enough to be used in an operating room, I scavenge through for just the perfect shade or color or twist. I especially love the wire I pull out of there; you can’t replicate the compaction and then the freed wire squiggles, even if you tried.

I take home my little gems of garbage that start out like this:


and sometimes I end up creating something like this:


It’s the same with writing.

On my computer hard drive, I have bits and pieces of creative moments. Maybe they’re not well formed stories. Maybe they’re failed stories or the beginnings of ambitious novels. Maybe they are observations or opinions or love letters or chastising treatises on the human condition. Maybe they are parts of poems or the chorus of a song that I wanted to finish once I came into close proximity to my guitar. I have a file of interesting names, places, restaurants. I might note the debris on the beach or the sway of black-eyed Susans in the wind or the roiling energy of clouds before the impending storm.

As a writer, there are always times of self-doubt and self-loathing. Unless you’re a big name author, and a super smart one at that, you’re going to find that writing is hard work. You might love your work, but someone else cuts it down. Your real life might take a turn for the worse and you may want to blow up the entire works as a result. I know of writers who delete and start over.

I’m not that type of artist. I can’t be; I’ve invested too much in my art. I don’t have a lot of free time, and I especially have little time to create anew. Besides, it’s worth it to poke around in the scrap pile. From my perspective, some of the best art can be culled from the depths of the trash heap, re-worked, re-purposed, spiffed up and shined to a glossy finish.

It is so worth the effort.