I don’t know when my baubles box started, but I do know it flowed out of fascination with my mother’s and my grandmother’s button boxes. There was a time in my young adult life when going to a craft store to pick out a new package of little buttons or beads was exactly the treat I craved. Over time, collecting baubles morphed into the collecting of stories as well, as I began using the box as a sort of “story currency.” “Here, friend, choose a thing you will take away with you and tell me what it means to you, then I’ll tell you how it entered this box. And if you’re willing, put a small something in the box to leave behind with a story of its own.” It floored me when people chose – with intention and serious thought – something I’d collected off the sidewalk or paid pennies for, then left behind things that seemed priceless – a chunk of petrified wood found on the last trip they ever took with their father, or a personally hand crafted glass bead, or a measuring tape in the shape of a walnut from their mother’s old sewing basket. My father added punched and painted steel coins from his work for each member of our immediate family. (More meaning? Oh yeah, I love that!)
The stories stacked up, and my box became even more a repository of treasures in this way. I invited friends and nephews and sometimes pure strangers to play in the box, sorting things into piles or into other small containers. Sorting through the box was like sorting through life experiences. Why would one person choose to gather all of the tiny musical instruments and someone else find themselves drawn to gathering all of the cobalt blue? There are a million ways to do it, to do life, and being allowed to observe someone else’s process often helped me honor variety.
The box appealed to some people right off and not at all to others. I took it to a contra dance one night and sat on the front steps raking fingers through it with anyone who wanted to explore there. Those who were drawn to it were DRAWN TO IT, it often seemed, with squeals and excitement. Many others passed by without any obvious interest. Which is fine, right? Absolutely. I often thought that those who were drawn in were those with a stronger sense of their inner child than others, but who really knows?
I notice a similar dichotomy among those who seem drawn to the jewelry I make. I had a chance to participate in a bunch of local farmers’ markets in December, a whole month of some people never even glancing at what I’d created and others being drawn in with oooo’s and aaaaah’s. I’m still new at this artist thing, but this interest / non-interest began to feel – and be, thank goodness – more normal. It never occurred to me to worry when someone did not find my bauble box interesting, and yet I’ve been guilty of believing one person’s lack of interest in my art meant the art itself was lacking or unfit.
I’ve maintained all along that my bauble box had lessons to teach me, and here I find another. Relax, let those who are interested come in, and don’t worry about those who aren’t. Relax and trust.