I love gift-giving, especially handmade gifts made from material that my mother has saved. It allows me to be creative, but with some sort of direction.
My eyes have always been drawn to the shiny reflections on the pearls of strangers’ necklaces and the vibrancy of my friends’ colored bracelets. My childhood was surrounded by kids of established lawyers and doctors from the Upper West Side. I felt insignificant as the daughter of two immigrant parents. From the green apple prize box my elementary school teacher rewarded her students with, I would always dig for the most extravagant accessory. At home, I would shove them behind my bedroom cabinets, far from my mom’s sight. She hated it—the cheap material, the unattractive design, and the fading copper—so I hated her. She knew nothing about beauty.
I didn’t understand it before, but it made sense as I got older. It was the little things I noticed. We had a box for scrap paper, but it wasn’t just a few stacks of it. It was a hoard of old homeworks, newspapers, and magazines built up from years of collecting. And we had a drawer of plastic bags. They were red, blue, yellow, green, dusted, and torn. If you opened the door to take one out, all of the others would spill out. Every drawer in our house was filled with random trinkets, untouched for years. I nagged my mom to throw things away, but she always responded with “save for later.” My leftovers became her meal for the next day and my middle school wardrobe became her closet.
The pile of plastic beads, scraps of strings, and random charms continued to grow, but the reason to collect them changed. I began exploring what I could do with pieces that were “out of style.” I reorganized the drawer into different colored beads and different materials of strings. It was no longer a pile of jewelry, but an assortment of scraps that were ready to be used.
I love gift-giving, especially handmade gifts. It allows me to be creative, but with some sort of direction. With every person I envision in my head, I can come up with infinite possibilities of patterns, colors, and textures that suit them. It’s almost like a blank piece of coloring paper that is waiting to be reimagined.
It’s probably around 9PM. I am sitting at my desk with my lamp shining a bright light over my workspace. I look down at my spread and start brainstorming. I begin by choosing what type of jewelry my friend would wear. I cross out the option for a bracelet and ring automatically — she plays volleyball with me and they would definitely get in the way. I could do a pair of earrings? No, she wears the same pair of diamond stud earrings every day already. I grab some elastic string for her necklace and measure the length to fit around mine.
Next, I pick the design. She has always told me how much she loves personalized items. I sift out the letters in the name from the beads and place them in a bowl. I imagine her with her usual outfit and I decide what pairs best with her style. She dressed modestly, lots of earthy tones, but on rare occasions she would pull off purple corduroy pants or a brightly colored top. My best bet was to go with white, shades of blue, and silver as the base colors. She’s definitely a silver person over a gold person.
My mom no longer scolds me about wearing jewelry and she no longer needs to tell me to stop buying fake pieces. She takes pictures of my handmade jewelry and sends them to her friends, boasting about me. As a child, it was hard to understand what beauty really is. It appeared glittery and seamless, but my mom showed me that it was patience, hard work, and passion.
I don’t usually like to outline — I start by just writing whatever comes to my mind. I wrote the first two paragraphs in about an hour, and added a little each day over the next few weeks. After that, I would sort out the paragraphs and reorder them. I worked on edits with my mentor, Adrian, to smooth out details, and we worked together to tie the ending to the opening paragraphs.