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THE BRIDESMAID BRACELETS

Posted by learntobead on July 16, 2020

lMy niece Dara and her bridesmaids

For years, I fretted. I worried, and fretted, and paced up and down, and down and up. I rubbed my hands in the way that worried people rub their hands. I shouldn’t go. I would not go.

To my niece’s wedding.

My only niece.

Of my only sister.

My niece who I had hoped and prayed and prayed some more that she would never get married. Why couldn’t she just live with the guy? Why marry? Marriage is an encumbrance. It’s an outdated, middle ages kind of thing that denigrates women under the guise of “protecting them”. They sign a contract giving themselves over to the man, vowing to obey. Respect. Follow. Bear babies. Cook. Clean. Even earn a living, if he can’t.

Yet the man keeps the power. His voice to God. Her voice through his to God.

Marriage. Not for me.

And I didn’t want to go.

Too afraid I’d say something or do something to upset people.

Because they would be there.

Those cousins.

And their children.

And their children’s children.

Too many of them, and only one of me.

But my cousins had rejected me because I was gay.

And that hurt.

And then that rejection became an idea of rejection and a symbol of rejection, and I thought how often in life, from when I was very young, to when I was much, much older, — how often in life had I been rejected for some label or category or reason having nothing to do with me. Rejected as a Jew. Rejected as gay. Rejected by friends. Rejected by strangers. Rejected by family.

So toxic.

Didn’t want to deal with this.

Preferred avoidance.

Thought over and over again what excuses I could give my sister.

I thought about this when my niece was 13.

I thought about this when she was 18.

Then 20, and 23, and 24 and finally 28, when I had to make a choice.

My sister and her family were very close to these cousins, closer to them in most ways than to me. Years ago, my sister used to invite me for Thanksgiving and for Passover. And she invited all these cousins, as well. She liked to give a party.

Partying with these cousins was too toxic for me, so I made excuses. Too busy at work. Things too slow in business so couldn’t afford it. Had other things scheduled.

For me to feel comfortable, my sister’s choice would have to have been “ME”, not “THEM”. I felt bad. I felt guilty. I didn’t want to put my sister in this situation. It was easier to come up with an excuse.

But year after year, the situation took its toll. Rejection — a symbol, but painful nonetheless. Not because of the act itself, but the symbolic power of the act to affect me — Rejection — put a wedge between my sister and myself. I did not have the self-confidence, and I didn’t value myself enough, to prevent caving in before this symbolically powerful act of rejection because I was gay.

And I didn’t have to deal with this as long as I stayed hundreds of miles away from New Jersey and Maryland and Virginia and Florida. Tucked safely in middle Tennessee.

The wedding was in March.

The previous summer, I decided I would go. Not exactly sure what changed my mind, perhaps a feeling of familial obligation, perhaps putting my sense of self to the test, perhaps wanting to try out all that good food and cake and drink specially prepared for the occasion. My sister plans the best parties.

I offered to make bracelets for all the bridesmaids.

I wasn’t just being a good guy here. Jewelry and design are at the core of my identity. The jewelry I design is the result of my choices. Choices about colors. Choices about the placement of lines, shapes and forms. Choices about the clasp and how to attach it. Choices about materials and techniques.

My inner being. On display. Irrefutable.

My choices have little to nothing to do with the label “JEW”.

Nor do my choices have much to do with the label “GAY”.

They are about me. A Designer.

Reflected in my jewelry.

And would be on display.

Accept or reject my jewelry.

And you accept or reject me.

On my terms.

My own terms.

Me.

My essence.

My resonance.

My jewelry.

This was my chance to shine. I was going to create a special bead woven design for these bracelets. Something frilly and girly for a wedding, but something also indicative of my style. Something that would not take too much work, but would look very rich and substantial.

I designed what I thought would be the perfect bracelet. A mix of stitches. Great looking beads. Had movement and dimension. But I was struggling to find the perfect color palette. The bracelet was made up of 4 colors, and a 4-color color scheme is one of the most difficult to work with — especially when it comes to beads, which are not available in all colors, let alone 4 colors which could specifically work in a specific color scheme in this specific bracelet.

While I was struggling to pick colors, Dara, my niece, had been doing a little online research, as well. She found two bead-strung bracelets on Etsy that she particularly liked, and shared these with me.

No, No, No!!!

My first reaction was Horror! Oh No!, she wants something bead strung and so non-artisan looking. Making these up would not signify to my terrible cousins nor to my good cousins, who I was all about. As Jayden, my partner, said, buy all the parts and do it quick. You’re not close to your niece, so who cares. But to me, although the work involved would be minimal — it would not be enough of a gift for the wedding.

Don’t get me wrong. These two bracelets were very attractive. They were just so out of sync with everything I wanted to do, and everything I wanted to accomplish. And I had to ask myself: give Dara what she wants, or go off in a different direction?

The question was kind of rhetorical. Of course, I’d give Dara what she wanted. But what to do. How can I construe, mold, fashion, arrange the bracelet to be reflective of me? Jewelry designer Me. Bead artist Me. Worthy cousin to be awed and ooh’ed over Me.

The bracelet Dara wanted was 3 strands of 6mm round fire polish beads in two coordinating colors which matched the color of her bridesmaid dresses. The beads were staggered in a V-shape like bowling pins, each section separated by a diagonally placed 3-hole spacer bar.

Bead woven spacer bar, with right angle weave sides and flat peyote top and bottom, top embellished with Austrian crystal beads

I thought long and hard about how I could make this general design my own. A few weeks passed. And an idea came to me. I could bead weave the spacer bars. I could alternate right angle weave and flat peyote to create a stable, rectangular shape. The right angle weave sections would be the two sides, which would allow me to build in the “holes”. The flat peyote would be the top and the bottom, which would allow me to build in a shape-supporting structure. I would embellish the tops of the bars with 2mm round Austrian crystal beads, and I would create bead woven end caps on either side of the bar, to give the bars a finished and polished look. Then I would use needle and thread to string everything up.

That was my answer.

It was a good one.

So, first, I set about coming up with the bead woven pattern for my spacer bars. This did not take very long because I had a clear idea about what I wanted in my head. What was not in my head, however, was how long to make the bars and how many holes each should have. And would they work in the whole composition.

I ended up making 5 test bracelets, each requiring 11 spacer bars, and each with some variety in the design or placement of the spacer bars, and in the attachment strategy for the clasp.

Now I had three key tasks finished:
 (1) The design of the spacer bars
 (2) The construction plan for the bracelet
 (3) The construction plan for attaching the clasp

Next, selecting the right colors of beads.

First off, I wanted to use 6mm round Austrian crystal beads, instead of Czech glass.

There were images of the bridesmaid dresses on line, but the actual color skirted that area between blue teal and green teal, and not every computer screen showed the color exactly. It became critical to the choice of colors, given some limited choices available in the Swarovski line in this range, whether the dress was more on the green side or more on the blue side.

My sister said Blue.

My niece said Green.

My sister was supposed to send me a fabric sample, but she lost it.

I mocked up 3 bracelets, one all blue teal, one a mix of blue and green teal, and one more green teal.

My sister picked the green.

My niece picked the mix of blue and green.

And my gut, from looking at the computer images, was telling me it should be all blue.

Impasse.

I went with my gut, and settled on all blue, actually a mix of capri blue and Caribbean opal.

Dara’s Bracelet w/Austrian crystal beads

There were four bridesmaids. I asked my niece to get their wrist measurements. One the bridesmaids had a very, very thin wrist. Would my design work for her? I agonized over it. The sections were very rigidly organized, and I’d have to remove a whole section at a time. Luckily, this worked OK.

The only other hitch that came up had to do with the availability of the parts.

In another color palette using Czech glass

I designed the piece in September. The wedding was in March. In November, I tried to acquire enough clasps and end bars for the clasp assembly, and found out that both the clasp and end bar I had chosen were either out of stock until the following April, or no longer manufactured.

So began the desperate hunt for these parts. The end bars had to be 22mm wide, or very close to that, with 3 holes and 3 holes spaced out evenly across the bar. Most 3-hole end bars were around 15mm wide. Found some in Israel, which while no longer manufactured, the supplier had just the amount I needed left in stock. Easily found a substitute clasp.

Then there were the beads. Again, I’m in November. The capri beads were out of stock from my supplier, and 2 of my alternative suppliers, but due back by December. The Caribbean opal beads were out of stock, and not due back anytime soon. I found a supplier who charged a little bit more for these, but got enough for my needs.

Whew!

It was a few weeks before the wedding, and I was wondering if my choice to attend was the right one. Over and over and over again, I played out in my head what I would or would not say to my very prejudiced relatives. One part of me wanted me to be pleasant but distant. Another part of me wanted me to say something pointed and ugly.

I asked each of my friends, what they would do. I wanted so badly to be pointed and ugly. I was leaning in that direction. Of course, I didn’t want to upset my sister or my niece.

I thought back on the event that started it all. It was really so insignificant. An expected invitation never came. But I hadn’t planned on going. I expected to receive an invitation, however. Because everyone expected me to receive an invitation. We all had been planning vacations and things to do around this invitation. For well over a year at that point. We had been planning. All of us. When we were going to arrive, where we were going to stay, and what we were going to do. And while I didn’t plan on going, I expected the invitation.

I’m a firm believer that every few years, we each go through a life crisis. When we are babies, we have to resolve a crisis of finding out who to trust, and who not to. A few life crises later, we’re in puberty, having to resolve whether we’re still a kid, or some kind of adult. Several life crises after puberty, we go through a mother of all life crisis — what we call Mid-Life Crisis. This crisis is filled with anger, frustration, regret, disappointment, fear.

Eventually we come to terms with mid-life. That’s what I did. And then I had a sudden, almost primal, no, yes it was primal, urge to reconnect with my family. I had grown apart from my sister and father and brother. From my first cousins in Florida and those in New Jersey, New York and Maryland. And from their children, my new second cousins. And I was feeling the need to re-connect. Post mid-life I felt the need to re-connect.

And I did.

I slowly began to let everyone know I was gay. They kinda knew and suspected already. But I made it official. Pretty much everyone except my sister was supportive at some level. Eventually she got used to it.

I was invited to my cousin Michele’s oldest son’s wedding. And then, over the next few years, to some other weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs and special occasions. I re-connected. I was happy. Soon there were the occasional phone calls and emails. A few of my cousins sent out the periodic mass emails, and I was on their lists. I kept up with their newsy news and not-so-newsy news, their shared successes, their joys in life, and the every-so-often sadnesses. I felt included. Supported.

It was important to everyone, and you could tell, because they spent so much time doing it, to anticipate the next event we’d all attend. The next event was the marriage of my cousin Michele’s middle son.

It was to be a June wedding. I got a phone call sometime in April from my sister. “Did you get your invitation yet?” And a day later, from my cousin Leslie. “Did you get your invitation yet?” And obviously the answer was, No! Not yet. I kept checking the mail for several days, and then it began to dawn on me that I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t going to be invited. And if not getting invited to an event that I wasn’t planning on going to wasn’t enough of a jolt and shock, both my cousins Michele and Paulette dropped me from their almost daily mass email lists.

I was person non-grata. Why?

I asked myself, Why?

And I asked some cousins, Why?

And it became known that the Why was because I was gay.

And that was that.

Excluded again.

Of course, I wanted my sister to make the choice not to go.

She went.

And that put a wedge in our relationship that never really healed, because it was irreconcilable.

And I got very depressed for a few months afterwards.

And this what otherwise would have been a little incidental event, over the years, took on more and more negative meanings for me. I think of the event, and I also think of all times I struggled for acceptance and inclusion as a Jew. I think of my sister, and I also think of all the times I struggled for acceptance and inclusion as a Jew. I think of how my parents, in the face of all the times I struggled for acceptance and inclusion as a Jew and was physically or emotionally punished by the powers that be for trying to step outside this imposed boundary referred to as “Jew”, looking the other way. Pretending there were no issues. Telling me over and over again that I lived in a Christian world and had to accept that fact. Accept lower grades just because I was Jewish. Accept exclusion from student activities just because I was Jewish. Accept the fact that I couldn’t play with my friends who went to the local country club, accept the fact that I had difficulty getting dates with Christian girls, except when they wanted me to show up on their doorsteps and shove this “Jewish thing, monstrosity” into their parents face, even accept the fact that barely a day went by without someone accusing me of killing Christ.

And you can see where all this goes. Getting rejected as gay brought up deeper feelings of getting rejected as a Jew.

So I wasn’t invited to a wedding. So my relationship with my sister and her family never became close — at least for a long while. So I no longer kept up with my cousins and second cousins and all their offspring. So I had some issues with my parents and my school and the dominant Christian culture. That’s largely behind me. Not an obsession. But the oncoming wedding of my sister’s daughter forced me to focus on these things again.

Thank God the wedding only lasted a weekend.

True to form, my sister threw a grand event people are probably still talking about.

In the few months leading up to the wedding, I concentrated on designing the bridesmaids bracelets. As I determined how I would make the pieces my own, I got very excited. I developed a very clever and professional way to bead weave the 3-hole separator bars. I combined Right Angle Weave and Flat Peyote, using the structural and inherent properties of each in a strategic way. This allowed be to create holes in the sides through when to thread the strands, and structural support to allow the bars to keep their shape.

I kept thinking that, while the bridesmaids would find the bracelets appealing and desirable, they would never appreciate the amount of thought, work and insight involved in their construction. So, I decided I would later turn this piece into a kit and a workshop. This piece was a great example of my evolving ideas and writings about the architectural bases of bead weaving stitches.

Dara’s bracelet in Czech glass

The wedding itself was beautiful, and went off without a hitch. The food was terrific. The location romantic. The flowers and bridal gown beautiful. There were over 200 guests. And about 60 of those I was trying to avoid.

I arrived a day earlier. One of my cousins, whom I do speak with occasionally, arrived at the airport at the same time. After we checked in at our hotel, we went to lunch and unloaded about all the relatives. She and I have similar opinions about these people.

In the late afternoon, I stopped by the Bridal Suite, where they had set up to greet guests arriving early and staying at the hotel. You walked into the equivalent of a living room. Off to the left were a bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom. Off to the right were a dining room and an outdoor patio. It was in the 30’s and wet and snowy, so no one went out there.

As more and more people gathered in the Suite, I found myself talking to some folks in the dining room. And then, one by one, two by two, three by three, these cousins I wanted to avoid started filling up the center room. And I found myself backing up against the far dining room wall, seemingly pushing myself into the wall and through it, or so it felt to me. My mind left the room and merged into the wall. I desperately looked for an opening where I could run through the living room and out the door. But more and more people came flooding in. I was having trouble catching my breath, slowly going into panic.

At last, an opening. I escaped. Hyperventilating. I went up to my room, and waited until I regained some composure. My panic attack had run its course.

Twenty minutes later, I returned to the Bridal Suite, bridesmaids bracelets in hand. I had put each into its own jewelry box, with the name of the bridesmaid written on a card in each box. They were going to take the bridal pictures in the morning, and I wanted to be sure they were wearing their bracelets. And I secretly wanted a lot of these people crowding this Bridal Suite to get a glimpse of what I had made.

As I had thought, they loved the bracelets — they were beautiful — but were clueless about design. That “full” feedback is so very important to me, but often missing.

Luckily the colors of the bracelet perfectly matched the dresses.

My job was done.

Dara’s bracelet, different palette, Czech glass

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS video tutorial.

Add your name to my email list.

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