|www.adam.co.nz||| endorsements||| Pauline Clarke|
In my jewelry box is an unusual ring. It is a simple circlet of silver stamped with an impression of two fish swimming in opposite directions, the immutable water sign of Pisces. Its distinction lies not in its simplicity nor its design but in the fact that I made it myself. The hammered band, the neatly sealed seam, the stamped fish, were all produced in an hour under the expert instruction of a fellow named Brian Adam from New Zealand who last summer set up a "Street Jewelry" workshop on a comer of Railroad Street in Great Barrington.
We connected in a rather roundabout way, Brian and I. My oldest son, Brendan, who has an uncanny knack for meeting people who know people who know him, met Brian first while hiking the glacier fields in New Zealand. In the evening, after they had eaten their supper and were sitting around the campfire, he and my son fell into conversation. "My wife and I are jewelers," said Brian in answer to Bren's query about occupation. "In fact, I am going to America to teach a course this summer at an art school."
"Where in America?" queried Bren and, "What art school?"
"The Interlaken School of Art," said Brim, "in Stockbridge, Massachusetts."
Bren's mouth fell open. "No way!" he cried (his favorite expression, as he is constantly being amazed by such coincidences). "My mother lives not ham an hour from there!"
A few days later there appeared this message in my email: "Met your son on a hike in New Zealand. Coming over to America. Would like to meet you, too."
There followed a flurry of emails back and forth across the wean. We finally settled on meeting for lunch one day when his classes were finished.
Over huge sandwiches in a small shop, Brian told me all about his jewelry business back home and about this new concept of making jewelry in the street so that folks could stop by and make something themselves right then and there while their interest was piqued. "No experience necessary!" he said. "Everything is supplied. All you need to bring is your enthusiasm."
It sounded like a neat idea, so I agreed to go to the street fair and look for his workshop.
Saturday dawned clear and hot. The streets of Great Barrington teemed with people. Brian was set up at the end of an alleyway, his "shop" consisting of a couple of tables, two or three chairs, and a mess of tools and stamps and silver strips glinting bright in the sun. He greeted me enthusiastically.
There were two women ahead of me already at work, carefully filing the rough edges of their ring bands.
With a string, Brian showed me how to measure my finger size. I chose a wide band over the narrower selection so that I could stamp a larger design and sat with a file of my own to soften the sharp edges of my strip. The sun beat down, the file made a muted rasping against the silver, and all the while Brian kept up a cheerful patter, telling us about silver properties, demonstrating how to cut our bands with a mimia. tun hacksaw, and how to stamp a design.
In his charming New Zealand accent he said, "Imagine! I meet this chap Brindin half way around the world and now here I am in America, teaching his Mum how to make a ring!"
He was a patient, thorough teacher. when we had an decorated our rings to our liking, we were shown how to gently and them over a cylinder and form them into circular shapes with a small rubber hammer. Round and round and round we pounded, until each band was a deftly curved circle.
Brian fired up a small torch and where the ends of each band met we soldered a fine, wire-thin piece of silver, holding the flame steady until there was a continuous circle of silver joined with a nearly invisible seam. After buffing, I was hard put to tell where the two ends of my band had been connected.
I slipped the ring on my finger and held up my hand. The band, polished and sparkling in the sunlight, its two tiny fish swimming in opposite directions, was a lovely thing. Brian beamed at me. "Well done!" he cheered and the folks who'd been standing around watching applauded and then crowded close, asking questions, wondering if they, too could try. I left Brian surrounded by potential students. I saw his arm raised in farewell above the crowd and I waggled my ringed hand at him. Last week there was another email from New Zealand in my inbox. "I'm coming back!" it said and it was signed, Brian. If you're in Great Barrington on the last weekend in June, you might look up the fellow from New Zealand who teaches jewelry-making on street corners. Book a one-hour slot. No experience necessary. All you need to bring is your enthusiasm.
©Pauline Clarke, "Berkshire Record", Massachusetts, June 22, 2001